Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Don't Always Know Where You're Going Until You Get There!

It seems without exception, each time the Jilly Bean Showroom doors open, a visitor asks “where do you find such unique fabrics?”  It is not a deliberate goal of mine to avoid chain fabric stores (but I do for bulk buying) in fact, they save my life on a regular basis.  A zipper here, trim there, or just the perfect color thread, all of these elements become part of the plan or part of the emergency room visit as I work through a design process.  To be honest, I don’t always have a clear vision of what a particular fabric will become.  First there needs to be an attraction and that is just something you feel with your eyes and fingers.  That is instant.  You certainly don’t have to be a designer to possess this instinct, but I’ve met more than a few along the way who stock pile beautiful textiles.  A fabric can lay nicely folded on the bolt for months – even a year before it speaks to the Jilly Bean aesthetic and a collection unfolds. 

This is certainly the case with our Calypso Collection of dresses.  When this fabric was purchased (last fall) it was intended to be our Jilly Bean “Gypsy” Collection.  Then a trip to New York last December changed the face of spring for Jilly Bean!  As I dug through bolt after bolt of fabric, there were many I loved but nothing felt cohesive to the plan I had drawn on paper.  Throwing caution to the wind (after all, who doesn’t love Scarlett) I began purchasing fabric that reflected the Jilly Bean brand rather than a particular collection.  You will see that I use the word “vibrant” often when describing Jilly Bean.  Children are drawn to bright colors and a Jilly Bean girl will make no apology for her attraction to wearing more than a little color!  So as I sat on my suitcases and stared at the best traveling companion in the world (who happens to be my sister) I expressed concern that I knew I had something, but just exactly what that was, remained unclear.

Being an independent designer affords a girl some flexibility in the creative process.  Here are a few places I go to shop that aren’t big east or west coast trips.  Try a thrift store or an occasional store and set your radar for anything vintage.  If you can’t see how a vintage fabric might work for you, take at look at our Jilly Bean So Happy Summertime Dress.”  The apron, bottom border and appliqué details were cut from a beautiful vintage table cloth.  I’ve also been known to upcycle cotton shower curtains, dish towels, even a bedspread or twelve.  In short - think outside your box. 

I can best highlight this exact inexact process by revealing our Starfish Beach Cover Up for summer 2012.  The aqua blue cotton and lace fabric in part, contributed to what impeded my suitcase closing as I left New York last December.  Little did I know it also was the perfect Caribbean complement to our Jilly Bean Calypso Dresses and made a smooth transition into the heat of summer.

I’ve learned that the bottom line is that there is no bottom line.  You make your own rules in design and art.  I hope that you will follow the journey of this independent designer and her vibrant made in America brand Jilly Bean.  After all, you don’t always know where you’re going until you get there!