With her natural inclination to be eco-friendly, Gretchen Jones turned a lot of heads when she won Project Runway last season, and there is no question that her name will be around for years to come. After chatting her up last week, I believe that Jones is a force to be reckoned with. With her Southwestern charm and an unbelievable knack for all things fashion-forward, this girl has got it going on.
Check out her insightful answers from our Q&A (Be Warned: You’ll Get Hooked!)
1. First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your design background?
“Well, I am self taught. I didn’t go to school for design and I kind of came to the decision to do that because I really think of fashion design as an art and art schools are not really always able to guarantee you anything afterwards and I felt that it would be better for me to, rather than investing in an education that could be potentially very costly and not come with a good job or what I was looking for after my education, I chose to work in as many different facets of the fashion industry as possible while I continued to sew.
I don’t have tons of experience when it comes to production, distribution, and manufacturing, so that is kind of where I am now needing to find my support. But I feel like taking a hands-on approach has really given me a realistic idea of what being a successful designer really means.”
2. What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
“I think it has a lot of negative connotations to it actually. As I move forward, how I identify myself to be is a conscious designer. I don’t like the term sustainability or green or eco because I feel like people have stereotypes that they have created and that the media has created to what that means. I even dealt with that kind of on the show, you know, it can be granola or tree hugger or your a hippie, and that is not really what I identify with. In my design process I have and do make ethical decisions day to day and to me the umbrella that the word sustainable encompasses and covers is so wide that it is really not the right term…So I really identity with trying to be a conscious designer rather than a green designer.”
3. How does your current collection allow you to embrace your idea of sustainable fashion? Is it produced locally? What materials do you like to use?
“A little bit of both. I am currently relaunching as Gretchen Jones (her previous line was called MothLove), so the choices I am making right now are basically going to be the ones that I model my career after. My goal certainly is, as I move forward and make money, to embody more and more green practices, but that all costs money. So right now I am really big on local production and supporting the economy and the economic needs of my community at large. So I am trying to produce within the New York area.
I do want to incorporate sustainable materials as I can but sustainable materials to me are a pretty broad spectrum because if you think about cottons and dying, there is waste everywhere. So I am trying to use as much natural materials as possible like silks and wools, because not only do they lend themselves to my aesthetic but also because they are protein based and can be made without tons of processing. Bamboos and all those cellulose based fibers are not fibers. They take huge amounts of processing to even get into the materials that then can be used, so for me, it is about using as many natural materials as I can. But, I don’t want to ever design with green practices as my goal. My goal is to create beautiful clothing and be purchased first because it is highly competitive and forward design first and than my practices may be through the purchasing process of a customer, they want to learn more.”
4. As the winner of Project Runway, you may be the next designer to bridge the gap between sustainable and mainstream fashion. How do you feel about that? Is that your intention?
“I really believe things happen for a reason and I believe that my appearance on Project Runway happened not just for my own good, but now I have a responsibility to my community and to my environment. I do think that I bridged the gap between sustainable and mainstream fashion, but I believe that is something that is holistic and a part of me. I want to be a representative and articulate why it is easy to bridge those gaps, especially when you are in an elevated contemporary or high end level, because of the trickle down affect with fashion. You know first things are Haute Couture and than I get them and I reinterpret those things down, which are reinterpreted by the mainstream mall fashion which is than reinterpreted in the off brand kind of thing. So if I can, through my high profile identity, just be who I am, I believe that will actually affect the mainstream market. I don’t think it is going to affect people in a manner where everything is going to change, like I was saying in a matter of years. But there are little girls out there who are 12-16 and they are contacting me not because they think that I am great because I am sustainable but because they identify with my personal aesthetic and how I dress, as well as what I design and those little girls and boys are open enough, I think, to understanding that I am doing things a little bit differently and they will take that into their next steps. So I think what I am doing right now is more about setting and inspiring a trend of being conscientious in a cool, accessible way.”
5. What would you like to see change about the fashion industry in the near future?
“With this collection that I am working on right now, I don’t have huge number goals. My goals are to be in a very select, curated amount of stores, which would probably be less than 10, that fully embrace my brand identity and also live up to the standards of the type of client base and I suppose ‘it’ factor that I am looking for. Really, this collection is a strategic collection. It is about establishing my place. So my goals within the next two months are one to actually get everything sampled and be ready for market in February, but two to write a very small series of orders that will help me look more valuable and viable to funding and the greater whole of retailers as well as put me in the right timeline so I can fully launch (this is sort of a soft launch), with a presentation for Fashion Week in September of 11 for Spring 2012.”
6. Do you have a favorite piece in your collection right now?