Photos courtesy of Emerson. Just a few years into her career, Jackie Fraser Swan is arguably one of the most successful fashion designers to come out of Boston. She’s put on multiple well-received shows at New York Fashion Week; her line, Emerson by JFS, has been written up in Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue Italia; and she’s signed with People’s Revolution, the powerful fashion PR firm made famous on The Hills.
This weekend, Emerson is having a huge sample sale in town, so we figured what better time to catch up with the designer? Here, she tells us about how she went from design school to a show at Lincoln Center in under two years, why she won’t be leaving Boston for New York any time soon and more.
YOU HAVE A PRETTY UNIQUE STORY IN TERMS OF HOW YOU GOT STARTED IN FASHION. YOU MADE THE DECISION TO START A LINE AFTER A SEMESTER AT THE SCHOOL OF FASHION DESIGN ON NEWBURY STREET, AND WERE SHOWING AT NEW YORK FASHION WEEK A FEW MONTHS LATER. HOW DID THAT COME TO BE?
I made the decision to start my line even before I went to the School of Fashion Design. My drive came from my two children and my husband (at the time I had a 2yr old and an 8 month old, now I have four daughters). I went to school to learn the things that I would need to know to get started. But to be honest, I feel that there are certain things that cannot be taught. I am the type of person that has to dive right into something and get my hands dirty. I knew what I wanted for my brand, and where I wanted it to go.
When my line began, I started with a small capsule collection for Fall ’10. From there I did a full collection for Spring 2011 and had a presentation on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel in NYC. That was a huge accomplishment for me, a great starting point. For my next season, Fall ’11, I signed with People’s Revolution, and we decided to do a really strong look book for buyers. This collection ended up in Louis of Boston. The following season, Spring 2012, was my debut at Lincoln Center at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Truly a dream come true. I have to tell the story behind each collection, and put people into my world each show. I’m now busy getting ready for my 6th show at Lincoln Center, it’s amazing.
AS MUCH AS WE LOVE BOSTON, IT’S NOT EXACTLY KNOWN FOR CHURNING OUT SUCCESSFUL FASHION DESIGNERS. BUT YOU’VE SHOWN IN NEW YORK FASHION WEEK MULTIPLE TIMES, AND YOUR LINE HAS BEEN FEATURED IN VOGUE ITALIA, HARPER’S BAZAAR AND WWD. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU BEAT THE ODDS?
I don’t feel that I beat any odds. I’m doing what I always thought I’d be doing, it seems natural to me. I do realize that everything I’m doing is a huge risk, the fashion industry isn’t the easiest industry to break into. You have to have a clear vision of what you want for your brand, and you have to be business-minded as well. Patience is key, and if you have the drive to succeed, nothing can get in your way, you will figure out how to make it happen.
YOUR AESTHETIC HAS CLEARLY RESONATED WITH THE FASHION INDUSTRY. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?
I would describe my aesthetic as classic silhouettes with an edge mixed with a bit goth and punk.
WHAT’S THE PROCESS LIKE FOR GETTING YOUR CLOTHES CREATED? I.E. DO YOU SKETCH YOUR DESIGNS? CREATE MOOD BOARDS? HOW DO THE CLOTHES GO FROM BEING IDEAS TO HANGING IN STORES? (AN OVERVIEW IS FINE..NO NEED TO GO INTO ALL THE DETAIL!)
Each season begins with a clear inspiration, then leads to sketching, creating the mood boards, designing the prints, and sourcing other fabrics. I live for designing the prints and hunting for the perfect novelty fabrics to mix into the collection.
WHO DO YOU DESIGN FOR? WHO’S YOUR “GIRL”?
I design each collection for the girl/woman who is strong and confident, and isn’t afraid to be herself. She isn’t into what’s “trendy”, she dresses for herself. She isn’t one to follow the crowd.
HOW ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL STYLE. HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE IT? DOES IT INFLUENCE YOUR DESIGNS?
I’d say my personal style is like a mix between upper east side chic, with a lower east side punk aesthetic. I love punk music, and have multiple tattoos, but I adore Chanel!
There is definitely that mix of the two different worlds factored into my collections.
HOW DID YOUR CHANEL OBSESSION BEGIN? WHAT’S YOU FAVORITE PIECE THAT YOU OWN?
Coco Chanel was the first designer that I was inspired by. Her life story is amazing to me. She stayed who she was, and believed in her design aesthetic, and stuck to it. I admire her determination so much. What the brand has become, is truly inspiring as well, Karl Lagerfeld is a genius.
I have a few favorite pieces that I own: my Chanel bike, the giant hula hoop bag from last Spring, and a pair of fingerless gloves that have spikes all over them.
WHAT KEEPS YOU IN BOSTON, AS OPPOSED TO PACKING IT IN FOR NEW YORK?
My family keeps me in Boston. I live south of the city with my husband and four daughters, and we share 80 acres with my sister and my parents. I can’t imagine packing them all up and moving them into an apartment in the city. I want them to have the childhood that I had, it’s a wonderful place to raise a family.
You hooked? Good, because, did we mention there’s a huge Emerson by JFS sample sale going on in Boston this weekend! Deets below.