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Stylish, sophisticated and sexy, that is what designer Jessika Allen envisions when she aspires to make each woman feel beautiful both in and out of the water.
Built on the foundations of a premium luxury swimwear brand, JETS Swimwear continues to up-hold a standard of superior quality through its design integrity and unique style.
So today I’m catching up with Jessika Allen to talk all things Spring/Summer for the 2015/2016 and to see what will be hitting our beach’s this season.
How did you start your business and what was the thought or inspiration behind starting your business venture?
My husband and I took over JETS in 2001, which makes this our 14th year operating as JETS by Jessika Allen. The decision came quite suddenly with my husband, Adrian, literally waking me from my sleep one night and saying, “let’s buy JETS”. What came next was undoubtedly the monumental milestone of my career.
Prior to acquiring JETS I developed my skills in couture tailoring and also had a number of consulting roles with various fashion companies, focusing on sales and design. This inspired my passion as a designer, developed a love for stretch fabrics and design. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What was one of the lessons that you learnt about the fashion industry early on in your business?
To put it simply, believe in yourself and your skill! One of my biggest lessons in the early stages of JETS was that it was going to be very challenging with many long hours, however in the end enormously exciting and rewarding.
There were trade-offs and decisions to make that were and still are imperative to surviving in the fashion industry. Such as learning to delegate and run a company while literally wearing a variety of different hats. In the early stages I covered everything from sales, supplier relationships, picking orders, to focussing in all aspects of the design. Another was learning to listen to your customer and understand their needs while remaining true to your design philosophies.
Of course it is imperative to educate oneself through study and training. However the world we live in now is much more accommodating to new comers and young people seeking to break into the industry. Internships and work experience programs are so accessible, and the advent of social media, blogging and other digital media has created a global community. The journey can definitely be bumpy and difficult to get moving, however once you develop yourself and mark your presence, the rewards are unrivalled.
What inspired your career and interest in the fashion industry?
I was born into a family history of manufacturing, textiles and retail so as a child growing up this inspired my decisions in becoming a fashion designer. From what started as walking the cutting tables and pretending to model garments came a Degree in Fashion Design and Textiles at the University of Technology and a post-graduate program at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, which was the foundation of my career. However it was in the 80s that my love for swimwear and stretch fabrics began, this was post the bodysuit era, and now two decades on – here I am.
The first JETS by Jessika Allen Collection delivered sophisticated and elegant swimwear with a focus on fabrication, clever detailing, construction, and fashion-forward designs. These are fundamentals that are still true today however the brand itself has become much more modern, hence meeting the needs of a wider target market. In addition the product category has extended to swim, resortwear, accessories.
Over the years we have also introduced JETS White Label, JETS Man, JETS Pink (Kids), JETS Blue (Tweens) and most recently an extensive JETS Resort and Ready-to-Wear Collection to the JETS umbrella of brands.
What is your business mantra or philosophy behind your label?
With our philosophy focused in design and innovation, we pride ourselves on superior fit, fashion and fabrication. This design philosophy allows me to feel comfortable we’re creating beautiful swim, accessories and ready-to-wear garments that make women feel glamorous. Elegant and sophisticated; the JETS brand understands style that is both classic and chic. Precision and form mixed with grace; function meets fashion perfectly.
Who did you create your line for? Please describe the person you are designing for?
JETS is designed for real women – each with a different mindset, lifestyle and personality. Both sophisticated and modern, she has power, self-worth and intelligence. The JETS woman embraces her time-out and loves lounging poolside, weekend getaways and resort holidays. She appreciates quality and knows when she sees it. Fashion-forward, timeless and classic – the JETS woman is ageless.
Please tell us about your current or seasonal look?
Our current collection is the JETS Preview 2015/16, which serves as an entrée into next summer. Think strong yet sensuous shapes, sporty influences with sophisticated edge, flashes of animal pattern and contrasting textures.
Key highlights of the collection include monochromatic athletica and sports net, cut-outs with mesh and high neck designs. The Collection includes some great resortwear for women seeking a pool-to-bar ensemble. Kaftans, shrugs, resort pants and dresses, there is a piece for every occasion!
What are you currently working on or designing?
We’ve just finished the JETS by Jessika Allen Collection for summer 2015/16, which is really the fundamental ingredient to our business cycle. From here our sales teams commence presenting the Collection to buyers. From this we shoot the swim campaign for the collection at an exotic secret location. Then before you know it, summer starts to kick-off.
I am tremendously excited to introduce the new collection to the market and launch campaign. So stay tuned!
In terms of your own personal style mantra how do you like to dress?
At work my style is smart-casual. The key pieces in my daily wardrobe revolve around tailored jackets, which have the ability to completely dress-up an outfit, especially with jeans. I also love sleek lines and minimalist cuts in pants and tops. As for colour palette, I go for a neutral mix of white, ivory, navy, denim and the always fashionable black.
In summer, dresses become a staple part of my wardrobe – shifts being my favourite item this season. I usually style dresses with a pair of wedges and always have a light jacket to throw on.
If I want to dress my outfit up a bit more or simply add some colour I use accessories and scarves.
During your time designing and owning your business in the fashion industry what advice can you give to others that are wanting to start their own fashion label?
My advice for someone wanting to start their own fashion label is to first and foremost further your education in design and business, build relationships with people who will bring you positive outcomes and inspire you, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. It can be challenging to find your niche in the fashion business, but once you know what you’re good at and what people respond to, you’re on the right path! And of course, the utilisation of social media and the web are vital for networking, getting your label known, connecting to consumers and gaining insights and feedback.
There are many learnings that have contributed to successfully running the business, and have affected me both as a business woman and on a personal level.
My biggest learning was understanding the importance of being true to the brand – understanding JETS, the company philosophy and business processes are the fundamentals. In keeping on par with this I’ve learnt the importance of surrounding myself with passionate individuals with complementary skills and who share the same vision.
Another big learning for me was that you can’t do everything yourself! Investing time in training staff is beyond beneficial – I have the upmost trust in my team that they can do the job to the same detail as I can.
I have always been very organised and like to plan – attention to detail is very important to me. This approach has been vital over the years. As the brand has grown and evolved, learning to balance my work and personal life has been a milestone achievement. Allowing me to redirect my energy into design, family, my interests…and take a holiday or two!
As a general rule, most women today have forgotten the importance of self-care (along with self-worth and so on!). What can you say to women who feel too busy ‘juggling’ being a mother / wife / career woman / friend?
I believe that women of today can have it all. However finding the happy medium of work, life and family does take a lot of hard work. The importance of self-care and health throughout establishing this balance is integral, and in my opinion, they are fundamentals in managing the juggling act!
Before I fell pregnant with my daughter, Tahra, JETS was my number one priority – at this stage my husband and I were both working long hours and really establishing the brand. Then once we became parents there were all of a sudden many trade-offs that we were faced with between family-life and work-life. Ranging from international travel opportunities and sales trips to the standard late nights or early mornings in the office.
What got me through this was the incredible support system around us. We were extremely fortunate to have devoted grandparents to look after Tahra when both Adrian and I couldn’t leave the office. However once we had successfully established the brand we had the opportunity to appoint a larger team who could assist in managing various areas of business.
The hard work I put in at the very beginning of my career has given me flexibility and allows me to spend more time with my daughter and family. It is very important to me that I am available to take Tahra to school while she’s still young, attend school events, and be home in the evenings to help with homework or extracurricular activities.
So I suppose my advice to other women would be to make sure you have positive and supportive people in your life that can lend a helping hand when needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, take a break or slow down for a moment to let your emotions catch up. Life is incredibly exciting and I believe to keep the balance in check, you need to stop and smell the roses sometimes, and make smart decisions!
My success has come from understanding what women want in their swimwear – to feel confident and beautiful. Understanding this and knowing how to fulfil their needs have been direct influences of the success of JETS today.
My top 5 tips for business success are:
- First and foremost; do what you love and love what you do.
- Remain inspired in all aspects of life. For me this includes travelling and experiencing different countries and cultures, visiting museums and galleries, spending time with loved ones and special pieces of artwork, furniture and books.
- Establish your competitive advantages in the industry you’re in and use them as a platform. This will assist in creating your vision and goals, paving your way to success.
- Invest in training, education and new technologies; they give you the capacity to keep up with new innovations or become the creator yourself.
- Build close relationships, network and seek feedback…. and constructive criticisms. This also means getting out of your comfort zone, which is much more challenging than it sounds!
What is 2015 going to bring for you?
Health, happiness and success! I’m in a really exciting time of life with many opportunities on the horizon and an incredible collection about to launch; I can’t wait to see how the year rolls out!
As for me personally, this year I’m going to continue keeping my wellbeing a priority. I have been taking classes in Pilates and boxing and love the benefits of keeping physical. As my daughter grows up our relationship bond becomes closer, sharing experiences with her and my husband is very special to me!
In the digital world we live in, the future is very exciting. I look forward to presenting our swimwear to women through social media and other next-generation digital platforms, and also expanding the business more internationally.
However what I am positive of is more beautiful swimwear that will make women of all ages and backgrounds feel glamorous and confident!
What is your 2015/2016 Fashion Predictions?
My fashion predictions for summer 2015/16 is all about garments that celebrate strong women and courageous style. Think seriously sleek and sporty shapes, 1970’s inspired prints and silhouettes, architectural genius and sheer beauty with cut-outs and mesh. Another key trend to look out for is contrasting patterns like oriental floral and geo, animal influences, monochrome creations and flashes of special details such as hardware and plunges.
What are the 5 things you can’t live without?
- My favourite JETS swimsuit of the season – a sleek one-piece with a sexy low back is my go-to style
- My iPhone – emails, photos, calendar and contacts all in one!
- My beauty bag essentials; I’m an advocate for high protection sun-screen, great moisturiser and lip gloss for shine.
- My jewellery collection – I have collected some really sentimental pieces over the years from my husband, family and travels.
- And of course; my family! We’re a small unit and extremely close nit. My husband is my best friend and my daughter is my life, and our puppy Toby is the cuddly new addition we adore.
- A great pair of jeans – dark denim, slim leg and perfect fit is key.
- A soft, gorgeous white top – I love special silk designs
- A tailored jacket, naturally!
- Black boots with a high heel or a pair of day-to-night wedges
- A stack of cuffs – I love mixing up urbane tones with a flash of metallic bronze or silver.
What is your biggest fashion Faux-Pas?
The art of contrasting your prints can prove to be tricky if you don’t learn to master the mash-up!