Jessica Jay first began her fashion career at age 14 when her grandma bought her a sewing machine. Northland-native Jay says that her journey really started when she entered, and won the Newmarket Young Fashion Designer Award. The winner of this competition was given a two-year scholarship to Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design and an internship with Taylor. “This prize really kick-started my career and gave me the confidence to start working and studying fashion which had always been a dream of mine.”
“Prior to studying Fashion Design at Whitecliffe, I was extremely passionate about fashion but had little knowledge of the negative social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry,” Jay reflected. “My studies at Whitecliffe opened my eyes to the importance of creating clothing in a way that is ecologically sustainable and ethical sustainability is central to my practice as a designer because of this.” Hamlet Jay, Jay’s brand, looks at maximising its sustainable practice and minimising its risk to the environment.
Jay presented seven looks for her graduate collection. The collection was designed as an ode to Jay’s mother and was inspired by links between memory and place. “Each garment in the collection has been individually and naturally-dyed using plant materials sourced from the places which hold particular significance to the memories I have of my mother, who passed away five years ago.” Jay said that silks are of particular interest to her. “Silk has ideal properties for natural-dyeing. The silhouettes in my collection are relaxed, drapey, and oversized. This is both an aesthetic choice and the outcome of my zero-waste patternmaking practice.”
Jay began interning at Taylor Boutique as a workroom assistant in 2015 and hasn’t left since. She stated that the opportunity to work at Taylor in both retail, and the workroom, has provided invaluable experience in the industry. “As a designer, my work is constantly influenced by my immediate surroundings and personal experiences. I feel inspired by the beauty of the natural world and hope that my designs reflect this.” Jay cited that both sewing and designing area were equally important for her. “I would say that sewing and being able to construct a garment beautifully, is an increasingly undervalued skill in today’s industry.”
Jay hopes to be able to launch her own brand and is currently working towards making this a reality.