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Jewel Toned: The Heart Series with Jessica Anderson

Jewel Toned is a brand committed to supporting the curves and dreams of all women. As much as our shapers tone your incredible curves, we believe the stories behind the women who live their dreams set the tone for our culture as a brand and as women. 

Our latest project, Jewel Toned: The Heart Series, explores women with strong feminine qualities in a variety of inspirational ways. This week, we interview Jessica Anderson.

What do you get when you have world-class shopping, a thriving entrepreneurial spirit, textile factories, stylists, models, and designers dynamically spread throughout a city? The fashion scene of Miami, that’s what. But what if you could find a way to bring all of them together under one virtual and physical roof? Enter the Miami Fashion Network from CEO Jessica Anderson.

 

15 second elevator pitch: what is Miami Fashion Network?

We actually re-branded the name recently, to Apparel Design House. We felt we needed to do that because our clients are not just in Miami. Having the Miami named attached to it, even though we’re known down here, wasn’t helping us on an international level though. So that was part of the re-branding. Even though it’s the same business model, which is the fact that we help entrepreneurs — affluent entrepreneurs — launch their fashion businesses.

Basically, our clients come to us with a concept or an idea and we hit the ground running: we design it, we source for them… on the other side of it, we really work to plan ahead: we have a marketing side, a fashion marketing arm, creating a line for them. My partner creates their website, we get their SEO going — [for instance] they’ll have 10k Instagram followers before launching their product. So we really launch in tandem with the rise of their business. I'm sure you know of other companies that do it, but they don’t have a marketing side of it. There’s a lot of people who aren’t in the industry, necessarily. Where, if you’re 45 you’re not going to go to fashion school. So, they’ll come to us with an idea and we’ll help them with it. They’re are a lot of people who don’t want to worry about the management — they don’t want to be involved — so really, we’re like their managing partner. The great thing is, we have a great working relationship, where they trust because I’m the expert in the industry, I’m making the right decisions, that avoid costly mistakes.

Î love the the expansion from Miami to the whole “Design House” and I think Apparel Design House does frame what you do in my mind, a lot better. I think it shows evolution as well that brands change to accommodate where they’re going.

I was telling another entrepreneur, when I started this I wanted to focus on Miami and this area. I had a different mindset initially and I had to learn, and this comes with having a business partner, too — to just adapt to demand, to what people want, and me coming from the industry, I was initially involved with industry people and those people a lot of time… I had to change my model a bit, but expertise is what we’re selling.

How did you land in Miami?

I went to school with [Jewel Toned Founder and CEO] Rachael at FIDM in San Francisco, and then I moved to New York. I spent ten years there, then I moved to Miami. It definitely wasn’t the industry that brought me here. (laughs) The industry I basically brought it here, in the sense of using local manufacturers and getting these clients, which we have outside of Florida, that want to produce here, by us being here. It was more for a lifestyle change, not industry.

Were there any brands, agencies, or fashion houses that structured the business you’re running?

No, actually no. There were a few in New York, at least with the initial model. Designers that have inspired me though, are mostly, i would say, women entrepreneurs… Elle MacPherson. In the industry, back in the day, she was one of the first celebrities to start her own line. So she is definitely a big one. Another one, at the time, would be Jennifer Lopez. People who saw an opportunity as entrepreneurs, and went for it, I respect women like that… as far as the business part of the industry, obviously [Sophia Amoruso] the founder of NastyGal.

Where did you see the opening in the marketplace for your business, where did you see the need for a conceptual design house? Also, touching in on the geography, with Miami, even though you didn’t go there for the industry, what was it about the city that cultivated the model and helped it grow?

The city didn’t have many job openings in the industry, which is fine, since I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit; but what I did see was that Miami has a lot of talent, a lot of designers, a lot of creatives. I realized there was no garment center or fashion area like the ones I spent my growing-up-twenties in in New York. I thought “Wow, that’s really interesting," because there was a lot of manufacturers here. It was even bigger 25 years ago.

The other thing about Miami that’s interesting, across the board, is that everything is word-of-mouth here — people don’t know how to market themselves, nor do they really care to do it. I’m talking about the suppliers, etc. So, I kind of saw a void there and was like, “How about I be the driving force. Get this organized, and help these designers and people who want to launch their brands, get them going."

In terms of body image and the fashion industry’s impact on it, where do you see the most room for growth into a more positive body image? Working in the industry what are your thoughts on how it shapes young girls and older women’s perspectives of themselves?

Miami’s an interesting example for that, because women here definitely like to show off their figures — big or small, toned or not, all different variations. I would say, living here, you definitely become very aware, more so of your body, because you’re exposing a lot of it. (laughs) I would say women are very very conscious of it, I’m not saying from a whether they workout or not, but they want to look sexy and feel sexy so that’s just an ongoing thing — I would say that’s a Miami theme: flaunt it while you got it… Women don’t care as much about the conventional body type, or it’s presented in a different way, which I like.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten since being an entrepreneur?

So many… I think the best for where I am, right now, is — and i would give this advice to women starting their own businesses as well: don’t try to be everything to everyone. Pick your niche and go with it.

Finally, what fuels your Jewel Toned heart?

For me, which it’s been a struggle living here in Miami, what fuels me is other creative people and people that are doing amazing things. It doesn’t have to be in my industry. That’s what I really miss about New York and I like it about bigger cities. Basel is inspiring because you’re seeing masterpieces and art that people put their soul into — that’s the stuff that inspires me.

Really the process of something, so the start — which is what I do for my clients — the concept, building from nothing; from just dirt on the ground, and then actually having something, a product, and then having people buy it. I like the process of things, whether it’s art, where you’ll have an architect and you see their renderings become the final product, you’re just like, “Wow… it can be done.”

The lack of awareness of that process — where people lose sight of it in their focus on the end result — you see that all the time in the industry. People don’t realize what goes into the product they’re wearing, or all the people that were involved, and — the process.


Kari Elam
Kari Elam

Author



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