In The Studio With Jessie Andrews: Redefining What It Means to Be a "Modern Woman"
Meet Jessie Andrews—the self-proclaimed modern woman, overall boss, and CEO. The 26-year-old Miami native, and founder and CEO of four brands (yes, we said four) started her first venture and jewelry line Bagatiba in 2o12, which quickly rose to Internet fame as every it-girl’s favorite dainty gold jewelry line. Soon thereafter Andrews started her second line, Basic Swim, followed by two more companies in the next few years.
Jump to 2018—Andrews is putting the final touches on Petiue, her latest venture and suncare line, launching later this summer. Clearly, she is a powerhouse and force to be reckoned with. Last week we paid a visit her studio (1201 B Studios) in Downtown LA to dive deep on her four brands, her definition of what it means to be a modern woman, and where to cop the best business advice (hint: it’s not as complicated as you think). Check the full interview below and our exclusive images in the gallery above.
First things first, let’s go over all four of your brands.
Bagatiba is the first brand. The name comes from the word “opulence” in Latian, meaning riches, dainty, gold. I came up with it in 2012, when it started. It’s jewelry, it’s just become more of my outlet for on-trend pieces, as opposed to collections or seasons. It’s designed by inspiration. So if I find a vintage piece of jewelry I like, I recreate it and change it a bit, and make it more modern. That’s kind of how I design for all the brands. Basic Swim is the swimwear line, it’s pretty much cheeky, tiny bikinis that you can tan in. It’s not really made for pool parties and stuff. You know the tanning bikini that you want all year round that you can never find and that’s not 200 bucks. Jeu Illimité is my ready-to-wear line, which has everything from silk, bags, shoes, trousers, button-downs, rompers, dresses. Kind of like my all-around ready-to-wear line. It started about a year ago, maybe two years old. I have another line, Petiue, a suncare line, that’s releasing at the end of July. Beauty is like a whole different world. I was reading something in Business of Fashion, and they were saying that even though there are venture capitalists now, everybody is investing in beauty and health instead of clothing. It’s projected to be the biggest in history in 2020 or something.
That’s amazing. I think people are realizing that clothing will come and go, but beauty and skincare and actually taking care of yourself is what’s going to last.
It’s something you use every day! A piece of clothing you wear once, or you change your clothes every day. It’s not something you can wear every day unless it’s a pair of shoes. The beauty industry is insane.
Suncare, that’s really interesting. Why did you choose that route?
I’m not a makeup girl, so I don’t gravitate makeup items anyways. I’ve really gotten into sunscreen in the last couple years, and I think it was something I wanted to tap into, other than makeup in health and beauty.
In terms of your physical studio space (1201 B Studios), what exactly is the space used for?
So I got it a year ago. I do everything from production, shooting, the day-to-day for each brand, fulfillment, meetings, kind of everything. It’s also like a showroom space. It’s kind of like my creative outlet, or a creative hub for everything I do. It’s giving all my brands a home to live in because all of my brands are direct to consumer. So if somebody actually wants to see the brand in real life, they can see it there.
But when I shoot it and design it, I know exactly what I’m getting for each brand. It’s consistent.
In terms of branding and design for all of your brands, do you do that yourself?
Yeah. So I do all the branding, the photography, and production and design.
Across all of your brands, I feel like the identity is very consistent with continuing a certain vibe that you have, or that the brands have. Can you talk about you created the brand identities? Or the general overlap and continuity between them?
I think they all look like they could be done by the same person because I do it. If I let a different photographer shoot for each different brand, then it would be way different than what it is. Because I do all of it, I have a clear vision of what I want to create for the brand, rather than outsourcing. When you let a photographer and a creative director control the direction of your brand, it becomes not exactly what you want, unless you’re an insane control freak. You leave a lot up to chance that way. But when I shoot it and design it, I know exactly what I’m getting for each brand. It’s consistent. They’re all cohesive in a way, laid-back, easy-going, and they speak to a similar girl. A girl that’s 18 to 35, who loves the essentials and doesn’t want to go overboard with things. Someone who wants affordable, quality products.
When you think of your customer, who comes to mind? Who are you aiming for when you create brand identities?
I think about myself honestly. I turned 26 two months ago, and I create things that I want to wear and that I like. My demographic is definitely a younger girl. I think if I keep it that way, it’s much easier to create things that are true and that work. I’m not a 50-year-old woman trying to create for a 25-year-old girl, which I think a lot of brands are doing. It takes the right kind of person to create something for themselves, and brand it well, and have the all-around vision for each brand. I pretty much think about myself.
That’s something I admire about you and your brands, and that I respect. A lot of young people who create their own brands, it’s almost like you can trust it more. When someone is creating for themselves, it’s like themselves.
Right. Even with brands like Zara, they’re creating for a younger demographic, but they still have a conservative woman in mind. I create brands for my vibe and my demographic. I’m also a smaller-boobed girl, I’m a little thinner, kind of normal sized. But when I get questions like, why don’t you create things for big-boobed girls—it’s just not what I do. I don’t think I do it well. I look at the girls who do Monday Swim, they’re big-boobed girls who need support. They just know the market better than I do, so I’m just going to let them do what they do best. I’m not going to create something for big boobs because I won’t know how it fits since I don’t have big boobs.
Totally. It makes it more genuine too. You know how things look on girls who look like you, and then you create something exactly for it, rather than you creating for someone who you don’t know how it’s going to look on, or how it’s going to make them feel.
Totally. It’s not that I don’t want to create stuff for bigger boobed girls or different shaped girls, I just know that I can create what I’m good at since I can fit it on myself. I know my demographic much better. I don’t want people to think I’m biased or anything. It’s just the way I design.
Nowadays, people consider themselves brands in addition to the ones they run or own. Do you consider yourself a brand? How does that work with the other identities of the brands themselves?
Yeah, I consider myself “Jessie Andrews” as a brand separate from the businesses. I use my brand to help promote. As with any brand would do, having influencers and ambassadors, I’m an ambassador for my own brands. I’m really lucky that I have my platform to help and grow. I have the knowledge of a consumer too, so if I’m designing something and I love it a ton, of course, I’m going to promote it on my brand as well. I think it is important for girls that have their own brand separate from their brand. Then I can do posts for Proenza Schouler, that are not necessarily mine, and I have that option to be broader with my spectrum, but I can also promote my own brand.
I like that.
It gives you more opportunity.
What is the process like from idea and creation into production and sending out the products to consumers, to different stores? I know you sell in Reformation—what’s the process like from when you have the idea to when you actually sell?
I’m direct-to-consumer, except for Reformation. They sell pieces for me, and I design a couple of pieces for them. It’s mostly about finding pieces or photos of vintage things I like, something I can make better. I just sketch it out on my iPad or paper or something, then I transfer it to digital. I talk with a couple different suppliers I like, and we discuss their capability of making it. Sometimes it’s not easy, I have to search for a couple different people until I can find someone I can, whether it’s jewelry, shoes, clothing. I outsource everything, I don’t have one specific place where I do everything. I’ll get a sample from them, see if I like it, go over pricing, go over quality, then probably a month or two from then, I’ll get the finished product. I’m able to shoot it, sell it, and get it out to the world.
It’s kind of a long process. I always have like 15 things being produced at one time, whether it’s jewelry, dresses, swimwear. Anything like packaging, there’s always things in production because there’s four brands. I’m always busy doing things with production. It’s a lot of work.
Is it just you?
Yeah, it’s just me doing production, design, shooting it. I have a girl that works for me, Jess, who does the other side of our business which is fulfillment and customer service, studio management. We kind of do those things together, it’s a learning process. I’m also teaching her how to do social media. We’re both kind of pocket knives, we can do anything for the business. We’re down to learn.
I consider myself “Jessie Andrews” as a brand separate from the businesses. I use my brand to help promote. As with any brand would do, having influencers and ambassadors, I’m an ambassador for my own brands.
So you kind of touched on this, but you photograph a lot of your friends in your stuff as well as you. What was your thought process behind you being a part of everything instead of outsourcing models or photographers? Also, including your friends in it? From an outside perspective, it seems personable and relatable.
It kind of all started when I was shooting Bagatiba, and it was such a new brand I was just shooting girls who I thought were beautiful. I didn’t want to hire models and photographers, I didn’t care to do that side of business. I wanted to still keep it close to me, so me shooting it. I did a little bit of modeling for it in the beginning, but it became my outlet for photography. I just messaged a bunch of girls that I really liked, and then shot them and asked if they wanted to trade for jewelry. Over the years, I’ve just become good friends with them. So now I just shoot my friends now, or girls who really like the aesthetic of the brand and I think are really cool. I think it’s better that way, I don’t really like the hostility of hiring somebody for a rate, and expecting something from them.
I feel like it’s never going to be exactly what I want, and if you want something done, you should do it yourself if you have the capability of doing it. I shoot my friends, they love the photos, they get free jewelry, they get beautiful photos. I’m also not doing campaigns like Prada, so it’d be crazy for me to hire a girl for 100 grand, when I’m only going to sell 50 pieces of something. I’m going to use the photos for maybe a month or something, then it’s going to be gone. I have such a quick turnaround with stuff that it doesn’t make sense for me.
With social media now, there are so many amazing people out there who want to create good content anyways, so gifting or them buying it on their own and shooting it themselves is interesting. If it works with the vibe of social media or the brand, and then you have content. But I love shooting my friends.
Can you talk about how you incorporate sustainability in your brands?
Yeah, over the past couple years, I’ve been way more conscious about it in general, whether it’s not leaving the water running when I brush my teeth, or overbuying groceries that I let go bad in the fridge. Little things that I’ve been more conscious of over the years, so I wanted to bring that into the brand. For Jeu, I’ll use deadstock fabrics that are produced in small quantities, and I’ll make the most basic, minimal bikinis. I’m not trying to be a massive brand and making 50 different styles of one color. I just do the basic. With Bagatiba, I use stainless steel, which is not harmful to the people making it or the people wearing it. It’s why we drink water out of stainless steel bottles. I try to incorporate it anyway that I can.
I like that, it’s conscious but it’s not out of the way. It’s about doing what you can. What is your experience like a woman CEO, the good and bad?
It’s good. I think it’s good to have other people see me as a woman CEO. I know there aren’t that many of them, not many like me who do everything. I think it sets a good example for younger women that it is possible. I don’t think I’ve run into any trouble. I’m also very strict, so if somebody is trying to do shady business, I’m very adamant about how I want it to be. I think people think women are more of a pushover in business, and I’ve had people run away with money after production, I’ve just had so many shitty things happen — they just need to be handled like a normal person would handle it. I have to be way more strict as a CEO, with everything.
Use Google. Anything you want to know about business, the Internet is your holy grail.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?
This is a good one. The more you let go, the more you grow.
Who told you that?
Actually, a company that I went with, a fulfillment company probably 3 years ago when I was doing all the shipping myself. They were like, you’re so busy, and you need more time for designing as you grow your business instead of the idea of fulfillment. I went with them for two years, and then I realized that I’m such a control freak and I don’t let bad business slide by. They were just kind of lazy and disorganized, so I just ended up taking it back up in house. From me letting them fulfill for me, it gave me the freedom to grow the businesses. Whatever loss I had with them, was a gain in the long run for that knowledge. But it is very true. The more I let go of things I have to do, the more time I have to run the business. I’m not just sitting there answering emails all day, I have more time to research and design.
Who are some people you look up to in regards to business?
Good question. I kind of stay in my own zone, but I do like how Reformation has grown into such a massive company while staying true to what they are. They’re a sustainable company, and they show how sustainable they are. There are so many brands that claim to be eco-friendly — you can say whatever you want on the Internet, but until you prove it, I don’t believe it. I love the fact that they interview their sewers, show where they get their fabric from. So many things I enjoy about that company.
What are some pieces of advice would you give to women trying to start their own businesses?
Use Google. Anything you want to know about business, the Internet is your holy grail. Anything you want to know already, you can Google already. There are so many people that have great advice that share it on the Internet, it’s just so accessible now.
You call yourself a modern woman, what exactly does that mean to you?
For me, modern woman is an ever-changing definition of a woman that’s in charge, and defying what a woman normally should be, like a stay-at-home mom letting everybody else do the work. Somebody who is a go-getter, and who can solve any problem. Someone who sets the tone for other women.
What are your next moves?
Next moves are suncare. Well, it’s in the move, hopefully, late July. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a couple years, but that’s the next big move.
Produced by Taj Alwan (OPC)
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