Jessica Rowell on J-Chans Designs, featured at La Rue Fashion Parade tonight
J-Chans Designs are what art looks like when it comes to life. Jessica Rowell, the creative soul behind J-Chans Designs, blends her background as a painter, costumer and DIY aficionado to design some of Denver most unique pieces of art-infused fashion. Some of those pieces will be featured at tonight's La Rue Fashion Parade; in advance of that show, Rowell talked to us about designs and the advice she would give to new designers.
Fashions by J-Chans, photo by Marisa Pike, model Betzabe Arzola
Westword: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get into designing?
Jessica Rowell: I'm a 24-year-old independent, self-taught bespoke fashion and costume designer based in Denver, Colorado. I was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and raised in Aurora. My background is predominately in traditional art and painting; however, I started experimenting with self-image and self-expression at a very young age, often altering my own clothing and DIY.
I honed a lot of basic skills during this phase and eventually began dabbling in cosplay as a teenager. At the time I was creating character-based costumes for myself and friends, and it eventually led to my original creations. Around the age of seventeen I started working with stage performers and entertainers and simultaneously began developing my fashion portfolio and connecting with local and national talent. Ever since then, my work has progressively grown. It's really been an amazing road thus far filled with incredible opportunities and experiences that have landed me where I am today.
Apart from adolescent crafty, sewing-club projects and playing dress-up as a kid, I think my first design was probably the Bride of Frankenstein costume I made for Halloween as a teen.
What inspires you?
I'm greatly inspired by my surroundings and emotions, both drastically influence my work. However, each project is uniquely its own; every piece has an individual back-story and other times it's so completely sporadic I don't have either an explanation or an inspirational source! My most frequent and ongoing inspiration and influence derives from Japanese culture, art and fashion.
I think Denver has a somewhat subpar fashion scene that's still quite far from industrialization yet retains a boastful attitude and highbrow mentality; I'd really love to see a more progressive, open-minded approach with a stronger emphasis and sense of community, especially since our scene is still relatively minimal in comparison to fashion at large. We have an immense pool of local creative talent that is too often outcast rather than supported, encouraged, exposed or represented -- so why not turn the tables a bit?
What is the one thing the fashion community could do to support you?
Connecting via my social media outlets helps cultivate my network and outreach; it also allows me the opportunity to meet and communicate with fans, create new contacts and discover other talented collaborators. If you're already supporting me via social media, sharing my work with your friends is another way to help get my art in front of the eyes of others.
Regardless of what you're pursuing, my advice is to just be yourself and to remain actively involved in your art. Create your signature, experiment with it, develop it and evolve. Research and connect, and never be afraid to reach out or take a risk.
How/where can we purchase your designs?
You can find original, one-of-a-kind J-Chan pieces available for purchase exclusively online via jchansdesigns.com/shop. My storefront is currently in preparation for re-launch this summer, so please bookmark it and check back later for the brand-new catalog! To purchase pieces prior to re-launch or to place a custom order, I can be reached at email@example.com. Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming apparel line: I'm currently in the process of developing merchandise (T-shirts, tanks, sweatshirts), and will have some samples out by fall!