September is hours away, which means it’s again time to make scarves a staple in your fall ready wardrobe. This is the opportune time to introduce the JEM designer spotlight. JEM by Jennifer Miller, a local District designer, is a collection of oversized accessories including stylish scarves and bright beaded necklaces. Jennifer took some time to speak with DC’s East Coast Chic and share how her hobby has become a profession. JEM was also recently mentioned in the ECC post CARBON, Int’l Visions cool collaboration creates Fashion Meets Art Runway Show for her series of scarves included in the show. Read on to learn about Jennifer the person and the designer:
How did fashion play a role in your life growing up?
Fashion has always played a role in every stage of my life. I can’t remember a time that I haven’t been in love with clothes and the fashion world. My parents have always been around creative people including photographers. My aunt Sula, also a photographer, and other family friends had me modeling as early as age three so, fashion started very early for me! My mom told me when I was little I announced that I would only wear bathing suits or dresses, so I was making wardrobe decisions at a very young age.
Growing up and presently, I use fashion as a way to creatively express myself. It’s a medium for me to communicate a message, emotion, image, idea or overall statement. You can learn a lot from people and the responses you receive just by the way you are dressed. I think Jackie Kennedy tapped into this concept quite well.
I’ve been developing my style aesthetic since I was young and continue to cultivate it today. On a whim I can get ready in ten minutes and be down for whatever. I can also be very thoughtful about the process and go as far as researching different ideas, looks, textures, and colors that I might want to experiment with. Once I get a complete look together, I typically will continue to build on that – fashion is ever evolving for me. I am noticing that in my work. My first design was a scarf and now it’s developing into so much more; that concept excites me. I never want to stay the same. If you aren’t growing you aren’t learning. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt that said do at least one thing every day that scares you.
When/how did you decide to start designing?
It actually goes pretty far back. In grade school I used to sell braided bracelets on the bus. It was all the rage! I also sold flower pins to local boutiques while at college. Growing up, I was involved in singing and acting so I didn’t really hone in on fashion design until recently. January of this year is when I really started to think deeply about designing professionally and I’ve been creating scarves/tunics and necklaces ever since.
What is your style aesthetic?
I think every woman should own a HOT accessory that makes her light up a room. I want JEM to be that item for my customers. I like the idea of looking sophisticated in an easy, fun, sexy, and adventurous kind of way where the last thing on your mind is perfection and the only thing on your mind is feeling fantastic – like the feeling of being in love. My designs offer a lot of flexibility and are meant to be a compliment to you. They can be worn by anyone of any age and any size. I want to support and be a part of a movement where we influence women to feel beautiful at any age and that imperfections make us uniquely gorgeous. My designs symbolize this concept. They may have imperfections, but you can’t help but be drawn to their unique beauty.
What is your design process?
My process can be a little contradictory. I may start creating something on a whim or idea that comes to mind and literally just dive into the design. I may also take my time and read/research, get inspired by people/places/nature I’m surrounded by or sit at home, sketch and build upon that idea.
I’m currently addicted to my tie dyed scarves. I love the layers to this process. I take great care in selecting the fabrics, dyes and coming up with the overall color combination. I also find the folding and dying process to be meditative and relaxing. I love that I can influence and initiate a pattern, color and always get something unexpected and unique when I unwrap the fabric.
What materials do you prefer to work with?
The tie dyed scarves are made of soft cotton, including organic. The patterned ones vary – cotton, cotton blend, poly, silk or silk blend.
I also work with wooded beads and Indonesian resin beads. The Indonesian beads are a part of a cottage industry, so it’s not mass produced. I’m obsessed with these large bright beads! They are rare and the colors are unmatched.
I buy all my fabric and beads locally.
Why did you decide to design eco-chic accessories?
It’s something that naturally made sense. I want to support our local businesses and it’s smart to recycle/reuse. Many of my necklaces at CARBON are reworked vintage pieces. I like reusing distinctive pieces you can’t find anywhere else and adding to their beauty. PLUS, helping the environment seems like a win-win to me!
CARBON has some phenomenal designers that offer fair trade products. I am very much interested in people across the globe. I’m very sensitive to subjects surrounding women and children. I hope that at some point in my life I’ll be able to travel and educate/provide tools to empower women to help them advance personally and financially.
CARBON is much more than a retail store. Owner, Katherine Limon, has a mission and message to help the earth – the environment and people. I’m proud to be a part of that.
Are you sold exclusively at CARBON?
I want to be very thoughtful about where the JEM line is sold. Currently, JEM is sold at Carbon and select pieces at TROHV. I am working on a website as well. You can also contact me by email to purchase JEM accessories at email@example.com.
At CARBON you currently have amazing jewelry and cozy scarves. Have you thought about expanding to apparel?
Yes, absolutely. My first concept was to bring my version of a circle/infinity scarf and from there it’s transitioning into a top worn as a tunic and selected pieces can also be worn as a bandeau. Stay tuned as things continue to unfold!
See pictures at ECC of some of JEM’s many designs. Also, remember to get to CARBON asap for new fall cuts and colors!