James speaks to CWB Magazine and reveals the story behind Jessie and James.
What is your career background? How did you get into childrenswear?
Jessie and I both gained degrees in fashion and then went on to begin our design careers with Vivienne Westwood. I turned down a place at the Royal College of Art for a Masters Degree to work with Vivienne on Man Mainline and Japanese License. Jessie worked closely with Vivienne on new designs and patterns as Head Creative Pattern Designer. Vivienne had already been Jessie’s teacher whilst she was studying at the Berlin Arts University and asked Jessie to join her in the Battersea London Design Studio. Jessie and I spent five years working together at the Vivienne Westwood Studios and ended up falling in love! We had our first child Billy and that’s when we started putting a few childrenswear designs together.
What was the inspiration for launching Jessie & James?
Our inspiration came from having our children. It seemed such a natural progression. Jessie loved designing garments for our son and that’s when we first realised the vision that is now Jessie & James.
What is the brand concept?
Our ethos is to create unique and fashionable garments, and for us luxury is both comfort and fashion combined. For the collections, only the finest fabrics from the UK, Portugal and Italy are sourced and we strive to work with the best manufacturers and mills that understand our standards of quality and design.
How did you get your big break with Jessie & James?
We designed a small collection of baby and kidswear and very proudly, Liberty London stocked us straight away. Now other stockists include the Step2wo concession in Harvey Nichols and Childrensalon.
What does the brand comprise? Types of garments/products? Age range? Key colours/prints etc.
We design clothes for boys and girls aged between 2-12 years old. Humour and clever unconventional cuts are at the core of our collections. We like to have fun with our designs and incorporate influences from other contemporary designers and trends out there too. In terms of colours this season, we love blues and greys, with elements of pale pink for the girls. Stripes, tartans and florals are huge for us this season.
For AW15 we are all about romantic glamour and sparkle, with a King of Spades and Queen of Hearts theme, combined with court jester elements for that added bit of signature Jessie & James fun! Colour-wise, expect to see deep autumnal hues, soft pink jerseys, casual grey mélanges and vibrant tartan prints.
How would you sum up the look of the brand? What are the signature design features?
Kids clothes should be fun and wearable, which is what we have tried to achieve with the collection. The collection incorporates unique silhouettes, mixing historical shapes with modern pattern cutting principles that are timeless in their originality. Every piece in the collection is considered in its detail and design.
I am a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin and we have incorporated this theme throughout our designs, from the bowler hat emblems, to twisted seam baggy trousers, teamed with fitted blazers and unconventional layering. Our company ethos is “a day without laughter is a day wasted” and the Charlie Chaplin design elements capture this perfectly for us.
Can you provide an overview of the spring/summer 16 collection? What’s key and what’s new?
This SS16 collection is our most colourful summer collection to date, we introduce two personalised prints designed in-house inspired by our British garden tea parties. Both stories of our fun loving ‘Flutterbies’ and elegant ‘Cascading Roses’ showcase the true essence of summer with pop reds, pinks and signature navy blues. This seasons key detail features our ‘Storm Bow’, a new innovative cut which can been seen running throughout the collection with its clever one-piece cut and folded bow applied onto blouses, dresses and even trench coats. This unique development effortlessly upgrades classic styles to statement must-haves. We also love the new ‘Adonia Dress’ with its heart-shielded belt offered in soft pink and cream stripes adding a touch of extravagance to any occasion.
Which is your favourite Jessie & James piece to date?
It has to be the squiggle dress really, it was the first girls dress we designed and it is still today loved by our customers and has become our signature piece.
Are there any plans to expand the brand over time? Into new product categories, for instance?
We would really like to see the brand expand internationally and are actually excited to share the news that Jessie & James will be stocked in Bergdorf Goodman in the US from SS16. It would be great for us to see Jessie & James in other similar, high quality stores around the world.
Which other independent childrenswear brands do you admire and why?
We like Petit Bateau for babies and think the quality is amazing. Stella McCartney is great and it is how childrenswear should be – lots of fun. Jessie’s favourite shoe brand is Chapter 2. She loves their designs, which are crafted by hand in their workshop in London.
What are the plans for the business? Where do you hope to see it in five years’ time?
We plan to keep our growth continuing and to create a lifestyle really not just a brand. Launching our first London flagship store is part of this five-year plan.