Jessie and James
Alex Jenkins talks to a Havant couple about their journey from high-end fashion to parenthood and starting their own designer clothing brand for children.
Vivienne Westwood may be synonymous with punk and ‘the shock value’ but she is also known for her use of historical cloth cutting principles and reinterpreting them to create modern designs.
And it is this which has stuck with two of her protégés – Jessie and James New.
“Working with Vivienne was absolutely fantastic, as she has a really unique and unusual way of cutting clothes and draping fabrics,” explains Jessie.
“We both learned so much there and it was an honour to get the experience from such a legend in the fashion industry.”
After both gaining degrees in fashion, Jessie and James first met while working at the Vivienne Westwood Studios in Battersea, London.
Originally from Germany, Jessie was taught by Vivienne at the Berlin University of Arts and asked to work with her closely as creative head pattern-cutter on the ‘Gold Label’ collection.
However, James’ start in fashion came a bit later. “I never knew what I wanted to do,” admitted James, who was originally from Emsworth. “I worked in a bank when I was 18 and I did not really like my job.
“My boss said ‘why don’t you do something creative as you do not like working here’.”
This led to him attending the University of Portsmouth and then Ravensbourne in London where he studied fashion.
It was during his time here that he was first spotted by Vivienne following a menswear show at the London Graduate Fashion Week.
He turned down a place at the Royal College of Art London to join her team, working on the Japanese ‘Man’ license in Tokyo and the ‘Man Collections’ in London and Milan.
Love blossomed and Jessie and James married, with their son Billy born five years ago.
From their London flat and with the arrival of Billy, Jessie began to design clothes for him and the first ‘tip-toe trouser’ was handmade at home.
Next came their signature ‘T-squared’ t-shirt and then a jumpsuit.
This then developed into a small collection for boys and girls and the ‘Jessie and James’ brand was born.
“Working in high-fashion with Vivienne Westwood teaches you how to cut and design clothes in an interesting and playful way, so everything that children’s clothes should be,” explains James.
“When we had our son Billy, we were designing clothes and thought it would be quite fun to do a children’s brand.
“We really started to see a gap in the market for a luxury clothing range for kids which was fun but still comfortable and wearable, so we started developing new silhouettes.
“Before we knew it we had a whole collection, a brand and a new business.”
James admits it was ‘nerve-racking’ making that decision to leave Vivienne’s team and go it alone three years ago, but it seems to have paid off.
Now, five seasons later and having relocated to Havant, Jessie and James collections are available in some of the most prestigious department stores in the world.
This includes Liberty London and Harvey Nichols in the UK, boutique outlets and international stores in Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, the US and Germany.
The collection is also available online.
Originally the couple were creating clothes from newborn to three years old for the first
However, as Billy has got older and the demand from customers increases they now create clothes for children up to 12 and 14-years-old.
“There is a lot of demand for us to do older, and older, and older and to do an adult range next,” James says.
“Our winter collection coming out in July will be the sixth collection and we are working on summer 2016 at the moment,” he adds, explaining the brand now creates double the amount of items, with 120 styles in two colour ways for the autumn collection.
Working with Vivienne has certainly influenced the pair’s work, with their collection incorporating unique silhouettes which are the basis for their designs.
Mixing historical shapes with modern pattern cutting principles that are ‘en vogue’, as well as being timeless through their originality, means every item in the collection is considered in its detail and design.
“No one out there is creating children’s clothes like us, from a design perspective, but we want to make sure that we combine fashion with comfort, as that’s the most important thing for children,” Jessie says.
“That’s why we only source the finest 100 per cent cottons from the UK, Portugal and Italy and choose the best manufacturers and mills that understand our idea of quality and design.”
“It is a real design led collection,” adds James. “We look at how clothes were cut and experiment with cut and folds and clothes on the mannequin.”
Spring/summer 2015 is entitled ‘The Elegant Traveller’, inspired by nautical and flying themes.
Meanwhile the autumn/winter season is based on the theme of royalty, looking at kings and queens and in particular Mary Queen of Scots, as well as British gardens.
Jessie and James are enhancing their brand even further by not only looking to open a new flagship store in London, but by introducing exciting and recognisable new collections, developing new silhouettes and including a range of shoes, bags and accessories.
It is certainly an exciting time for the Havant pair and their children’s brand.
For more information about Jessie and James, visit www.jessieandjames.co.uk
April 27, 2015 Fashion and Beauty