Since opening my glove shop in London, I’ve been able to experience first hand the problems women (and men) get with finding gloves to fit them. The common factor in this, is that we cater for the ‘typical’ and most ‘popular’ sizing. But, if we are going to embrace diversity, and be inclusive, we need to stop that. Meeting Jennifer, owner of the incredible brand ‘Jennifer Anne’ was powerfully refreshing to see a woman who is pioneering the way and having a voice for all the petite women out there.
I sat down with Jen to ask her a few questions about her journey, the brand and what success look like to her.
What’s your favourite item of clothing that you’ve created? Why?
Gosh that is a really hard question. I think the one I am definitely getting the most wear out of at the moment is the Winterson Sweater Dress, as it such an easy and flattering dress to wear. It can be dressed up with a silk scarf/ jewellery and high heels or can be more daytime worn with boots or flats. It comes in black or in blue and is made from a beautiful textured fabric, which gives it added interest. I always feel well dressed and so comfortable wearing it – a great combination.
Was fashion always a passion of yours?
My mother has always dressed beautifully and is a very elegant lady. I think I was a little bit of a disappointment when I was young as I was a real tomboy and hated wearing dresses. Once I started work though as a lawyer it became really important to me to be well dressed and we would go on shopping expeditions together. She like me is petite and we would have to be quite determined to find the right clothes as there was so little suited to a small frame.
Where do you source your inspiration for your clothing?
I look for the fabric first and visit textile fairs with my designer. I find films and television are a great source of inspiration – I was a real fan of Madmen and The Goodwife and love how well dressed the women were in those series. I am always looking at what people are wearing when I am out and about not just here in London but also when travelling abroad on holiday. It is important for me that the Jennifer Anne designs will hold their relevance for many seasons so I don’t tend to go for the latest trend but look for clean classic lines.
What is the contrast like between working in the law world and the fashion industry? Did it take time to adapt after making such a big jump?
There was a really huge contrast as you can imagine. What I love about being in the fashion world is the ability to be creative. There are of course some core skills that I learned as a lawyer and in running my own law firm that have been so useful in setting up a fashion business.
It did take time to adapt though for sure. Getting to grips with the challenges of the supply chain was a steep learning curve. There have been so many new experiences. Planning the very first collection and then seeing it actually come into being was so exciting – working on it through the production process, then seeing the model wear the clothes at the photoshoot and finally (this is the most rewarding) on customers.
Would you say working in a niche market is worth the risk? Similar to the Gizelle Renee’s niche.
Absolutely when it is a niche that you feel passionate about. I know that you and I have that in common. It is hugely rewarding when customers tell me how delighted they are at last to have found a brand that puts them at its very heart. Customers really relate to the authenticity of the brand – they know that at 5’ 1” I have suffered from the same difficulties in finding clothes that they have experienced and understand absolutely what drove me to create the Jennifer Anne brand.
The challenge for any new business is to let people know you exist and for a niche business that can be even harder. On the plus side when customers do discover us they are very loyal and so appreciative which is fantastic.
It is mentioned that you appreciate the heritage & tradition of the UK’s fashion evolution. What is one classic/timeless item of clothing or jewellery you’d love to always have in your closet?
You are quite right I really do value the fabulous history we have here in the UK with regard to fashion and its creation. For me a beautifully made blazer is always going to be something I will want to wear again and again. There is a real tradition of quality tailoring in this country and women look so elegant in this classic piece. I wear our Brookner Blazer as part of a trouser suit or love to team it with my Paige jeans – perfect weekend wear.
What fabrics do you explore now and what would you like to explore in the future?
I am delighted that we manged to source a wonderful merino wool woven in the mills of Yorkshire – we have used this for our Smith Trousers and Brookner Blazer and I would love next to bring out a skirt in this fabric.
I also think that the quality of synthetic fabrics has gone up hugely in recent years and we have been to delighted to discover really high quality non-natural fabrics. They do have the advantage of easy care and drape beautifully. So I would like to carry on offering a selection of both natural fabrics and high quality synthetic blends to our customers. Choice of fabric is key to our collections and they all have to pass my touch test before I will even consider using them!
Would you say that one of your top goals is to allow petite women to feel empowered?
Absolutely. It is hard to feel confident about yourself when you are not dressed well and there is no good reason why the smaller woman should find it such a struggle to find clothes that suit their frame. It can be quite depressing when you go out shopping and just can’t find anything to fit/suit you.
Also, as I am sure it has not escaped your notice, the fashion industry does tend to focus on tall long legged women – when do you ever see a petite woman on the catwalk or featuring in fashion adverts/ photoshoots?
I have started a campaign called #PowerfullyPetite designed to draw attention to this and encourage greater diversity on and off the catwalk. It has begun to happen for curvy women, which is fantastic and I would love this greater acceptance to extend to petite women too. Whatever our background, size or shape it is only right that we see ourselves reflected and accepted in the world of fashion. Empowerment for the petite woman? Clothes can definitely help!
What is your favourite Gizelle Renee product?
The Psyche Women’s Suede Mittens – I just love their combination of Nubuk lambskin with the Liberty Cuff. So glamorous.