Pieces of Me

“Design and style are at the pulse of my career endeavors, and the foundation of my creative fulfillment.  They just so happen to fall into the fashion industry, where people wear your products…I am interested in creative manifestation – it is my driving force.” Jessica’s experience in retail sales, management, and buying; wardrobe styling, fashion show production, personal shopping, and design, qualifies her as a “serial designer”, she says. There’s no denying that Jessica is a woman after every dream promised to her, and she is committed to making sure there are no “pieces” missing from her puzzle. She admits that she hasn’t maximized on her full knowledge and design potentials quite yet, but I can assure you that she won’t stop until she shares with the world every piece of J. Bird. “I perceive it to be my duty. It wakes me in the morning, keeps me up at night, there is a bombardment of visual slideshows in my head that is impossible to ignore. “


Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your educational background? What are your general professional and nonprofessional interests?

I am from Houston, Texas, born and raised. I went to school in San Diego for 3 semesters to study business, convincing myself to do the “business side” of fashion. I studied art and art history in France for a semester and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin to complete the design program graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Textiles and Apparel Design. I am interested in creative manifestation. Turning thoughts into reality – a sketch to product, a product to revenue, a vision to reality – it is my driving force.


What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is an industry created by people with a vision.  Design is the process of turning this vision into a sellable product.  Style is personal expression using the products of designers.  Design and style are at the pulse of my career endeavors, and the foundation of my creative fulfillment; they just so happen to fall into the fashion industry, where people wear your products.


When did you realize you wanted to become a designer? I knew when I was a little girl I wanted to be a designer. I found a note written in pencil on my mom’s old cutting board saying “keep this for when I am a famous designer” with an autograph. I think I was 13. I just didn’t know it would start with jewelry!


How long have you worked as a designer?

I have been designing for years but it’s been a business since November 2013.


What was the first piece of jewelry you ever designed?

The chain skirt I wore at my senior fashion show.  I draped my collection and thought, “Hey, I can drape chain.”  It was made for myself, I had no idea other people would love it too.


How long does it usually take you to design a piece? I rarely design a single piece at a time. My mind habitually imagines three to five things at once, and each idea can be translated into a handful of pieces.  My design process mirrors that. I have no lack of design ideas; it is editing them down into a streamlined story that plagues me, and that’s just the sketching process!  From sketch to sourcing, to prototype, redesign, finalizing…it can take up to a few months to get a design just right, depending on its complexity.  Looks can be deceiving – minimalism is the ultimate challenge.


Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of jewelry. Dream, sketch, source, sample, create, redesign, resample, recreate…  It is an ongoing process that currently revolves around building a supply chain that will allow me to scale for serious growth.  I want production to stay in the USA which is extremely difficult.  My raw materials come from all over the world, and one of the processes I use in production is very specialized.  Each piece of jewelry has multiple steps and touches multiple hands, not to mention I handpick each stone.  Some ideas come to fruition quicker than others, but more often than not my designs must revolve around each particular stone.  After designing a sample collection, I wear the pieces and see which ones I gravitate to, and which get the most attention.  This is the editing process.  I design what I wish existed; it’s really as simple as that.


How does designing jewelry differ from designing clothes? The one main difference is the lack of sizing in jewelry.  Fit is the necessary evil that every designer must battle in clothing design, and for the most part this battle doesn’t exist in jewelry.  My design aesthetic remains the same across all mediums – I seek simplicity, versatility, clean lines, and minimalism. Jewelry can transform an outfit, and the right pieces can drastically improve the ROI of your wardrobe; definitely worth the investment, and fun to design something so powerful for the consumer.


What do you believe makes a quality piece of jewelry? J.Bird upholds a very high quality standard from the grade of each stone to the thickness and purity of gold on each piece. Wear-ability and versatility are also important quality factors; the higher the quality the better the investment.


What do you think sets your brand and your product a part? The raw, organic, human element behind my aesthetic. The fact that everything is made in the USA.


What other experience do you have in the fashion industry (stylist, retail, marketing, etc.)? What did you do to get your foot in the door?

I interned for Chloe Dao years ago when I first started design school and knew nothing. I was completely useless and made a fool of myself. I have worked retail, was manager/assistant buyer for a boutique in Austin, I was the stylist and photo assistant for a studio photographer, interned for Vogue stylist Tabitha Simmons, stylist Jane How, Joey Showroom… I went to NYC in heels, walked directly into agencies representing stylists and designers, and told them I wanted an internship. Two days later I got a call from Tabitha’s assistant and styled shoots with them all summer.


What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?

Despite the humbling challenges that only starting a business can teach, I must say that the biggest accomplishment is the fact that I am actually doing it.  I won Accessory Designer of the Year in Austin in 2011, and then launched the line in November of 2013.  I left a sales career and told myself I would focus on my line through the end of the year, then re-evaluate my career steps.  The next five months were a whirlwind.  I looked up in May and realized I was in boutiques around Texas and Louisiana, received press four months in a row, had a feature in Houston Modern Luxury, accessorized The Ross Bennett Collection at Austin Fashion Week, and was even on the news in Nashville.  I will never forget walking the Red Carpet at AFW as a guest of the designer, and being introduced to people as the J.Bird designer.  “Oh my gosh, you’re J.Bird?!  We love your stuff!”  I was shocked people had any idea what J.Bird was, let alone that they cared.  It was a “pinch me” moment.


Do you consider yourself an artist?

Absolutely. God has blessed me with the gift of vision and implementing that vision, in any channel, drives me. I perceive it to be my duty. It wakes me in the morning, keeps me up at night, there is a bombardment of visual slide- shows in my head that is impossible to ignore.


What matters to you most as a designer? The woman wearing the design. When you go to a store and find something that you MUST walk out of the store wearing, then continue wearing it at home, smile when you catch a glimpse in the mirror and hold your head a little higher after taking it off… it’s confidence.  You just feel good. I always say when a man can give me the “new shoe” feeling of giddy excitement and unsurpassable confidence he just may be the one. I want to give people that feeling.


What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design? Conceptualizing never stops.  Some of the best ideas come in the shower and in bed at night, so I keep a sketchbook by the bed.  But when I sit down to truly conceptualize, I drink coffee, listen to music that feels like the mood I want to evoke, and create an inspiration board.  The concept for the 2014 collection is ‘dripping in gold’.  I listened to a great dub-step remix of the song “Dripping”, drank Gevalia till my hands were shaking, and put all of my ideas onto a board that encapsulated both natural movement and art deco lines – very luxurious yet minimalistic. Conceptualizing is the most freeing part of the entire process, it’s a natural high.


Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing them? Constructing. I keep a sketchbook (and personal journal, and business journal…) by my bed to sketch ideas when they come at night but the true art for me is in constructing. That is when the idea comes to life; a sketch is merely the first step.


What do you like best about designing and creating pieces? Wearing the finished product and seeing it on other people; it is so rewarding.


What do you dislike about designing?

Being limited by factors I cannot control.


How would you define your personal style?

Minimalist, functional, versatile.


How would you define the style your line exemplifies? Minimalist, functional, versatile.


What are some of your fashion goals?

As I establish a solid supply chain and grow my accounts, my goal is to be carried by the leading fashion retailers.  Neiman’s, Saks, and ShopBop.com top the list.


What are your favorite colors to work with and why? Neutrals, neutrals, neutrals! Even the colors I use are grey tones, earth tones, and jewel tones. It is the key to versatility. You look in your closet and everything matches, regardless of pattern, print, or cut. I am neurotic about neutrals. Neon has no business in my life. If it could ever be considered a highlighter variation there is simply no room for it…with very few exceptions.


Where can readers buy your pieces?


The 2014 Collection is currently in the works, and pre-sales will begin as soon as the sample collection is finalized. Stock lists will be posted on the site once the collection is released.  For more information about Jessica Bird or JBird pieces you can also visit www.Jessica-Bird.com.