Brisbane based designer, Jessica Russ, founded her fashion label, Jessica T in 2011. The design house is a culmination of a decade-long love of all things fashion… she took some time this week to speak to me about her label and her plans for the future.
Allie: Can you tell me about how you got started in the fashion industry and how your label, Jessica T, came to fruition?
Jessica: At high school, I really enjoyed art and design so my preference was to attend QUT’s inaugural year of their Bachelor of Fine Arts Fashion Design degree. Luckily I was accepted! In between the second and third years of the degree I got the opportunity to complete a three month internship in Hong Kong with one of the UK’s leading development companies – this is probably the single best decision I have made in my career.
Before graduating with honours, I was offered a full time position with the Colorado group as an assistant ladies apparel buyer. I stayed with the group for four years, progressing up through the ladies buying team. After that I took a position with a small niche wholesaler in West End as their accessories product developer, this role allowed my creative skills to fully develop. After 4 years in that role, I took the plunge and went out on my own to start the Jessica T label in 2011.
Allie: What is your design philosophy and what do you believe makes Jessica T unique in such a competitive market?
Jessica: What makes Jessica T unique is that we run two businesses parallel to each other under the same roof. The first is the Jessica T label, where we love all things quirky, chic and unique. Our pieces are a little left of centre, for the women who want to stand out from the crowd. The second is our product development side of the business, where we design and manufacture accessories for fashion chain stores and shopping centre complexes. It’s exciting for us as both sides of the business feed off each other and we have quite a diverse customer base.
Allie: What do you feel are the most notable accessory trends filtering through this season, are these reflected in your current collection?
Jessica: For the upcoming Spring/Summer season we have a big focus on hats. Panama, floppy and visor styles will be most popular this year. In jewellery we have been working on delicate and fine/small pieces as well as new crystal and stone styles. We have also backed hair accessories this season, with tropical turbans and delicate metal headbands topping the list.
Allie: Can you tell me what you love most about your job?
Jessica: I am fortunate enough to travel overseas at least four times a year for work, as well as regular domestic travel within Australia.I love different cultures and exploring new cities when travelling.
Allie: You worked as a product developer for a wholesaler in West End – can you tell me about the experience?
Jessica: I had been working for a large multi-national group for several years, so the opportunity to work for a smaller company was exciting, as you have a lot more creative control. During my time as a product developer in West End I was able to utilise and extend my design skills, as well as develop other business skills, which is generally the case with small businesses.
Allie: On July 1, you were the guest speaker at the Brisbane League of Extraordinary Women breakfast in Brisbane. Can you tell me about this and what it meant to you as a young professional?
Jessica: It was a great honour to be selected by the league as their July guest speaker. Jessica T has been involved with the league for many years now and it was exciting to be the speaker rather than the attendee this time. It is really important to stop and take stock of what you have achieved when you run your own business. Events like being a league speaker, and being a finalist in the 2013 Telstra Business Women’s awards are perfect opportunities to reflect and appreciate what I have accomplished.
Allie: What’s next for Jessica Russ and Jessica T?
Jessica: The second half of 2014 is shaping up to be a busy few months! I have an overseas trip to Asia at the end of July, a trade fair in Melbourne in August and a holiday in October to Vietnam for my 30th birthday. We have also just completed our submission to be included in the 2014 Brisbane Lord Mayoral Business Mission to Shanghai (http://www.acpet.edu.au/article/7889/2014-lord-mayors-business-mission/). And to top it all off, we are looking to set up an office in China before the end of 2014. A very exciting 6 months ahead!
Thanks to Jessica for her time and we wish her the best of luck for what is looking like an exciting year ahead!
Until next week…