Nfld. & Labrador

Goodbye pharmacy, hello fashion: This designer has it in the bag

Megan Jackman has been making bags since she was a little girl in Roberts Arm, N.L.

Megan Jackman has been making bags since she was a little girl in Roberts Arm, N.L.

Megan Jackman is the owner and designer behind Ragmaw, a handbag business in St. John’s. (Maria Hillier Photography)

Designer Megan Jackman's eye for style developed at a young age, when she was learning to sew while growing up in the central Newfoundland community of Robert's Arm. 

"My first memories of fashion would be like dressing up my little dog in different outfits and then parading her around the house in a doll stroller," said Jackman, who grew up mostly with her grandparents.

Her grandmother taught her to sew when she was about five years old. She and her brother would make little "random pockets," not attached to anything, to put things in. 

Jackman left home to study in St. John's, and became a pharmacist. 

She lived in the United Kingdom for a bit, and spent a lot of time going to London shops and studios of female entrepreneurs. That got her thinking. 

"At the time, I was there studying a master's of infectious diseases, and it was completely two different worlds for me, but my passion is fashion and textile design." 

Six years ago, Jackman followed a call to be creative, and began making and selling her handbags.

Rugged inspiration 

While her current business idol is British designer Cath Kidston, Jackman's company, Ragmaw, is inspired by home. 

That word is "a Newfoundland term used to describe a child, or usually a woman, dressed in tattered or ragged clothing," Jackman said.

"Sometimes it might be a term of endearment." 

Sewing it up: See how Megan Jackman is taking Ragmaw's bags to international markets: 

 

Ragmaw bags are made from a combination of materials. Many of them include fabrics created from Jackman's hand-drawings. 

"They're quite rugged," Jackman said, "which is quite good for the place [where] we live." 

Jackman only has to drive a few minutes from St. John's to find inspiration for her designs. 

"You can see the ocean, you can see whales, and there's lots of flora and fauna."

Island business 

Beauty aside, Jackman talks frankly about the challenges of running a business in Newfoundland and Labrador. For one, shipping.  

It takes weeks to get a fabric order, Jackman said. Winter weather can cause further delay.  

Jackman started her handbag business in 2013. (Lian Morrison for CBC)

It's also expensive to get off the island to look at supplies, and trade fairs are less accessible. Interacting with customers can be a challenge, too. 

"We have to really put more into our social media presence to try to make that connection," she said. 

Orders have come in from places like Norway and Australia, and Jackman sells a lot to Alberta and British Columbia. 

Jackman and her current dog, Joni. (Lian Morrison for CBC)
 

"My grandparents were really proud when I did pharmacy and became a pharmacist," Jackman said. "I think this change for them has been completely unexpected, on their end, but they're pretty happy with what I'm doing now."

And so is Jackman.   

"I really love that I get to create the direction for my business, and I get to create the experience that I want my customers to have." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Natalie Dobbin. Video produced by Lian Morrison for CBC