Style and Substance

In Wiscasset, fashion veteran Jan Haedrich designs chic handbags and accessories that evoke classic European luxury

Her office, dubbed the “Napoleon room,” is filled with antiques found in Maine, Boston, and Atlanta.
Current offerings include the Staffordshire tote, the green crocodile Bank handbag, and the Mini Break tote.
Another selection of handbags—from woven to leather to canvas—are displayed in the “Louis XIV room.”

Handbag and accessories designer Jan Haedrich has been cultivating her classic style for decades, from studying in France and England to working for fashion brands JOOP! in Germany, Hermès in Paris, and Ralph Lauren in New York. In 2001 Haedrich took her experience in scarf and handbag design—as well as her knowledge of the business side of the industry—and set out on her own. “I come from a creative family and grew up sketching,” says Haedrich. “And I’ve always been a handbag aficionado. To my husband’s dismay, I once cut up a Gucci tote that he had bought me in order to understand how it’s constructed. I eventually started making my own bags, and everywhere I went people would ask where I got them. That’s when I knew I had something that might work.”

In 2019, after stints heading up two lifestyle companies, the Boston-based designer debuted her third and current brand, MME.MINK, inspired in part by the historic waterfront home in Wiscasset that she and her husband restored as an escape from the city. The ten-bedroom, three-story Federal-style manse—which, according to Haedrich, was the tallest structure north of Boston when it was built in 1811— had been abandoned by the time the couple happened upon it 15 years ago. “It’s an ongoing project, but it’s grand and glorious, and it alludes to the lifestyle I’ve always adored. And that lifestyle is an important element of the brand.”

Designed in Haedrich’s Wiscasset home studio and produced in Italy, MME.MINK (the name is a combination of the French abbreviation for “madame” and the acronym for “the many individual niceties we keep”) is centered around quality handbags in a range of materials, including leather, felt, canvas, and handwoven grass. The wool-felt totes came first, gaining popularity among Haedrich’s customers for the material’s sustainability and biodegradable qualities, not to mention its strength (one bag can carry up to 300 pounds). “I refer to it as a ‘chic-stainable’ approach,” says Haedrich. “I wanted to show people that something can be special while also being eco-friendly.” For her more traditional handbags, Haedrich taps the same leather supplier as Prada and Gucci. Meanwhile, during the summer months, her handwoven-grass handbags and basket-style totes with colorful ribbon detailing are sure crowd-pleasers. There’s even a whimsical Palm Beach−inspired tote adorned with turf grass that’s cleverly dubbed “The Hedge Fund.” This sense of spirit is a theme that runs throughout the entire line: classic shapes such as clutches and totes are jazzed up with a fun-yet-sophisticated palette that includes cornflower blue, burnt orange, moss, and a rosy pink. “I think of my client as playful, social, and discerning,” explains Haedrich. Each handbag comes complete with its own charm engraved with a number (only a certain quantity of each style is produced) and either a name or initials if the customer chooses.

In addition to bags, there is always a variety of patterned silk scarves as well as seasonal items such as sunglasses, jewelry, straw hats, swimsuits, and poolside dresses for the summer months. “For the fall, I’ll add some very real-looking faux fur to the mix for some texture,” notes the designer. “The collection is meant to be a curation of my whims and fancies at the moment. It’s everything I adore and would select myself to create a complete outfit.” And, despite having launched not long before the pandemic hit, the designer has made the most of the past year, transforming a couple rooms of her home into a mock showroom for virtual events and interviews. “This time has allowed me to grow the business in an organic way that feels very intimate,” explains Haedrich. Having already garnered some chic supporters, including Aerin Lauder and Nicky Hilton, the collection is an homage to classic European heirloom and heritage pieces “that stand the test of time,” notes Haedrich, who cites C.Z. Guest and Lee Radziwill among her top style influences. “My hope is that people will pass down these items for generations.”

Styling 101

Keep it simple.
“I love wearing easy, classic pieces, like jeans and a tee with a great bag,” says designer Jan Haedrich. “That one key element can pull it all together.”

A woven handbag is a summer essential.
“Woven pieces are so versatile, as they can be tossed in the backseat during the day, taken to the country club, or worn at a cocktail party in the evening,” says Haedrich.

Invest in classic jewelry.
“Look for items that will never go out of style,” says the designer. “One good piece that you know you can wear now and ten years from now is really where it’s at.”

Easy does it when it comes to summer accessorizing.
A woven bag, sunglasses, and a brimmed sun hat are Haedrich’s go-tos. “Especially since we’re coming out of a pandemic, my advice is to choose anything that feels easy, luxurious, and glamorous,” she says.

Play with trends in a subtle manner.
Haedrich recommends referencing the look in a small way—even something as simple as choosing a particular shade of color. “Grandmillennial style, for example, is so popular right now. We gave a nod to this in a few of our handbag designs by incorporating cornflower blue.”

Find someone whose style you admire.
“If I could be C.Z. Guest, I would,” says Haedrich. “Her taste and grandeur are so inspiring. In my opinion, anyone who can stand in the garden wearing a long dress and white gloves like she did is incredible!”