When I met Jennifer Chun in NYC, I did not expect such a paradox in personality. On one hand she is incredibly humble, sweet, and unassuming. She is also a tomboy at heart, with an acute sense of self, and a fierce strength in her vision. I had a delightful discussion with Jennifer, catching up with her about STLFW, her unlikely source of inspiration toward fashion, and her hopes for the future.
Jennifer attended design school at Pratt. She decided it was important to work for top designers to gain experience and learn from the best. Her first internship was with Michael Kors and then went on to work with Derek Lam and Brian Reyes. Jennifer was ready to launch her own collection in 2009 and has since been featured in top fashion publications like Women’s Wear Daily and Lucky Magazine. Her eponymous line elicits her preppy tomboy spirit while balancing her quirky femininity.
JC: I created my biggest collection for STLFW. The initial concept emerged from my dad’s old soccer college rugby. To make it less sporty, I added a preppy school uniform and the ideas started flowing from there. The design process lasted from March to August and involved sourcing fabrics from here, Europe, and Japan. It has since gone through press market, sales, and production.
BB: What do you recommend for someone who is launching his/her own label? What things do you absolutely need to get it off the ground?
JC: Design takes up fifteen percent of my time. You also need to know how to produce and sell. Figure out how to sell yourself. Have a strong understanding of your customer and your brand. When pitching to boutiques, learn how to find the right fit to get accepted.
BB: What common mistakes do people make when launching their own brand?
JC: Sometimes designers listen to the wrong people. They end up not staying true to their brand and ignoring their gut. In this business, it is wise to work with the right people who support your vision.
JC: Initially I only wanted to be in small specialty boutiques. Now I’m on Saks.com. It is about finding the right balance to grow your business.
JC: For me it was important to learn from the best. (Her work with Michael Kors and Derek Lam) So I knew the type of factories I wanted to be in. For somebody else, research your price point and make sure other designers similar to you are manufacturing there.
BB: How has showing at STLFW benefitted you?
JC: Besides having a lot of fun, I came back in a good mood. It was a pleasure to work with Lindsay Pattan and Elizabeth Tucker at ALIVE Magazine. Meeting Fern Mallis was incredible as well. I already have a strong identity as a brand, which she recognized. Her feedback was reassuring and supportive.
BB: How has your family or upbringing informed your career and art?
JC: My father is an artist. I grew up in a small town (Troy, OH) where fashion was pretty much non-existent. My dad raised me as a tomboy. But he was also into fashion, which helped attract me to it. He had these awesome argyle sweaters he would shrink for me.
JC: It’s daunting. Be prepared to work the hardest you have ever worked. I went to school and had to play catch up with people who had been sewing for years. Don’t be intimidated. In art school you’re working with some of the best. Feel inspired by them.