Redondo Beach, CA

“I have always been fascinated by exceptional outcomes. The very things that rise above the ordinary, provide inspiration, influence our lives and, every so often, transform our collective experience.” – Jay McGoodwin, Founder, Virgil James

When the “Cool Cat No. 8” handbag first caught my eye, all I could think about was an exceptional outcome: Me … and that bag!

It was last summer that I was scrolling through Instagram. I couldn’t help but stop and stare when I came across a new brand that hit my radar, Virgil James. The images were so beautiful, colorful, and vibrantly alive that they practically jumped right off the page! I tend to get lost in a gallery as exquisite as Virgil James, one that feels as if it belongs in a museum. I was so deeply moved that I whipped off a thoughtful email to the Virgil James team to let them know how much I adored their gorgeous designs. It wasn’t long before I received one of the most heartfelt responses from Jay McGoodwin, the owner and founder. Shortly after that, we managed to coordinate our schedules for a personal face to face meeting over a lovely dinner to deepen our newly formed connection. That alone should tell you a little bit about Jay and Virgil James. The brand is unique in so many ways – from the deeply, personal connection to the highest level of integrity. It’s a brand that takes craftsmanship to an entirely new stratosphere – old world craftsmanship made modern for the 21st century and beyond.

And then, Covid-19 hits and stops the world! The health risks are considerable for me and it’s put me into  strict isolation. It’s interesting how much we learn about ourselves during times like this – self discovery on steroids?!? I’ve really missed my friends. The introvert in me has had her fill of quiet time! I’ve also missed getting dressed up, especially for photo shoots. Not just any photo shoots – photo shoots with Miss Jacqueline Depaul. Lucky for me, I have the best modeling partner in the world. Jacqueline is the brilliant creative behind Yellow Brick Runway. If you’re going to have a blogging buddy, it may as well be a top model, one who just so happens to strut her stuff (and can she ever strut!) on the Paris Fashion Week Runway. She’s also over 50 (yes, I know, ageless wonder!) and one of the kindest and brightest lights on the planet. I had to have her involved in shooting Virgil James’ bags!

It’s hard to believe how much life has changed since meeting up with Jay last summer. Honestly, it feels like a lifetime ago! Yes, Covid and quarantine have turned our lives upside down. It’s also had a devastating impact on the entire fashion industry, especially luxury fashion – fashion which includes Virgil James. We’re watching the world evolve before our very eyes. Revolution sparking evolution. Younger generations are in the process of being forever shaped by their experiences today. It’s hard to imagine life ever going back to the way it was before the pandemic. I suppose it’s time to use our imaginations to create a new vision for our world. 

One of the biggest evolutions in the fashion arena is being accelerated by current events – the move toward sustainability and away from fast fashion. Now, that’s a move I’m absolutely getting behind! Less is more. Quality over quantity. Vintage, classic and investment pieces to be handed down to future generations. That’s what I LOVE about Virgil James: quality that’s made to last. Jay likes to call it “Engineered Luxury.” When it comes to engineers, my favorite partner in crime, Jacqueline Depaul, just so happens to be a geeky engineer by day and a supermodel by night. What better modeling buddy to have for a Virgil James shoot?!? Certainly, no one I can think of! With that, we were off making plans to get together. After all, we’ve both been safely in quarantine since early March!

Jacqueline and I have been holding off shooting for months. We had plans to shoot for several brands back in February. Then, the s#*t hit the fan and we immediately placed everything on the back burner. We finally teamed up recently to shoot for another luxury brand, Ala Von Auersperg. We decided to take the opportunity to share the gifts Jay had sent our way. To be totally transparent, this shoot is not sponsored in any way. These beautiful Virgil James, out of this world, bags were a rare and astonishing gift from Jay. Yes, a gift with no strings attached! We couldn’t believe it either! That should tell you everything you need to know about Virgil James. 

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Jay is a pretty cool human. He lives to make this world a more beautiful place. There’s an interesting story behind the making of Virgil James. Jay is retired or, more like it, rewired. He’s a hugely successful entrepreneur who’s in the midst of his very own Modern Midlife Reinvention. He has a passion for fine craftsmanship, an eye for exceptional detail and a wildly creative imagination. The birth of Virgil James was completely organic. Jay loves to travel. He travels all over the world. Well, he did pre-Covid! As a teenager filled with wanderlust, Jay’s love of travel began early while only intensifying over the decades. His global adventures began with a simple backpack as a teen. As a student, he soon developed a passion for briefcases. Remember briefcases?!? Oh, how I loved my very first buttery leather briefcase.  

Briefcases seemed to have a similar effect on Jay while also sparking a lifelong quest to perfect the art of luxury leather goods. Here’s a bit more of Jay’s story with Virgil James: “Our ambition was to simply make a better bag. We couldn’t find what we wanted ‑ a creative blend of exceptional quality, personal style, and everyday functionality ‑ so we decided to make the ultimate carry‑on for an audience of one. Obviously, that led to a lot more. Now, we happily share our obsession for exceptional Engineered Luxury by offering limited‑edition and one‑of‑a‑kind bags known for their artisanal creativity, extraordinary quality and everyday usability.”

So, what is “Engineered Luxury?” Think of it as form meets function or beauty meets utility. Jay’s philosophy is simple. His belief lies in designing bags that are independent of seasons or trends – valued because of their quality, usability, and uniquely personal style – exceptional quality that’s timeless and sustainable. I would have to say there is a bit of divine timing in Jay’s prophetic philosophy. 

Virgil James is a world unto itself. They take luxury craftsmanship to a level I’ve rarely seen before. There is so much that goes into a Virgil James bag. The truth is you can actually feel it in the bags themselves. It’s not simply a handbag. It’s an experience, one that’s magical. Like a painting or couture dress, every one  of Jay’s exquisite bags is unique, individually numbered as part of a limited‑edition series, with handcrafted artisanal elements, or literally one‑of‑a‑kind. The devil is in the details from handcrafted bronze hardware to original art panels and cashmere felt. Jay and the artisans at Virgil James are on a continual quest to perfect their craft to ensure the optimal experience for their customer.

When I first saw the “Cool Cat Number 8” bag, (Perfect for all of you Cool Cats & Kittens!) I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat. It was, and remains, love at first sight. Given my nickname of “Cat,” it felt like a match made in heaven. Virgil James designs include 4 exclusive collections: Reykjavik, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires and The Originals. The Cool Cat bag is part of The Originals Collection. This particular handbag is crafted with the finest available calfskin and custom components. It features an exotic removable panel of short-haired calfskin. Rather than purchasing multiple handbags, Jay’s idea was to keep things simple. Purchase one quality piece with optional interchangeable panels in a variety of styles that can be purchased separately. Now, that is innovative design made to last!

Jacqueline was also blessed to receive some beautiful gifts from Jay. Her “Modern Peacock Clutch” somehow perfectly combines minimalism with elegance. It’s bold design centers around a beautiful splash of art on a removable panel. The panels are ingenious! There’s a gorgeous variety of interchangeable panels that allow you to switch up your look in an instant. This particular bag is from The “Reykjavik Art Collection.” As Jay likes to say, “Go bold and don’t look back.” We love going bold! Her second bag is a classic crossbody from the “Buenos Aires” Art Collection. She chose a colorful teal-abstract panel that is one of a kind. There’s a multitude of panel options on the website that runs the gamut from leopard and lizard to bold splashes of artistic color. These are the ideal travel bags that can easily pop into a suitcase. Bring along an extra panel or two that allow you to go with everything. There’s nothing like a luxury statement bag to make a look.

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The world is morphing and changing so quickly. I do believe we will see a lasting impact on the entire fashion industry with more conscious consumerism going forward. I know I’m left forever changed. One thing I’m also seeing is that it’s times like this that force us to get creative. Jacqueline and I are used to hitting the streets of LA for our photo shoots. Our typical backdrops run the gamut from the Venice Boardwalk to Beverly Hills and everything in between. This time, we stayed safely tucked away inside and decided to hit my living room instead! I have never done a full photo shoot indoors but we made it work. More importantly, we made it fun. Or, Virgil James inspired us to get creative and have fun! That we did. Mission accomplished. 

Take a peek through the Virgil James website or visit his glorious images on Instagram. You may not be able to visit an art gallery or a museum during Covid but Virgil James is the perfect alternative to get your fix. And, if you feel moved to join Jacqueline and I in purchasing an investment piece to hand down to future generations, I can’t think of a better purchase than a Virgil James bag. Cheers Beauties, I’d love to hear from you. Which one is your favorite? Be prepared, it’s going to be really hard to choose!

6 comments

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I will check out the website/IG. Your writing is so good Catherine. I’m sure Jay from Vigil James loves reading how you describe his passion for making luxury handbags. They are beautiful. I love how this indoor shoot turned out. You and Jacqueline make beautiful models.

Karen – Wear With Passion

Reply

Aren’t they so fabulous, sister. We are lucky to play in such a beautiful yard as Virgil James. I miss you!!!

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It really is a great bag and taking a photo indoors fit nicely because it is a piece to treasure and be a part of your life. Beautiful!

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It took some creativity, sister! I have a tiny home and didn’t know we could do it but Fierce women always figure it out!

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absolutely spectacular Catherine!

Reply

Love you!

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