How did you two meet?
We met in NYC through our mutual friend Jenny—she’s real! We ended up living across the hall from each other in the same building.
What are your backgrounds in the fashion industry?
Alison: After studying fashion at LaSalle in Montreal, I moved to NYC to intern with Kate Spade in the early days. I come from a background in buying, merchandising, and planning, and I’ve bounced back and forth from Canada and NYC, working on the design and merchant side at brands like Mendocino and Club Monaco.
Beth: I originally studied theater at McGill in Montreal, then I took part in a fashion show and there was this aha moment: this is something I can do. I interned with a small streetwear company in Montreal then went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC (partly so I could get a student visa). I interned at Michael Kors and worked as the studio director for Derek Lam and Thakoon, working really closely with the designer to make sure their vision was coming to life. I think that carries through into what we do now; making a vision come to life.
What is your vision for Friends of Jenny?
FOJ: We started FOJ because we wanted to bring beautiful things to people that they might never have seen before, from hand-picked global designers that we feel are doing something interesting. We wanted to give our customers the experience of discovering their personal style, and make that fun and magical.
We also saw that there was a space in the market to listen to the consumer and respond to their needs. We wanted our customers to be able to have something arrive at their door without having to pay a surprising duty and without it taking two weeks to get to them. We wanted the ability to offer free returns because that’s a big pain point for people; a lot of the time, brands will ship to you but then if you’re not satisfied you can’t return the product, or you won’t get your duty back, or you have to pay extra shipping. Smoothing that process is part of our vision of making getting dressed as stress-less and joyful as possible.
What do you love about getting dressed?
FOJ: Getting dressed, you get to decide what you want to portray for that day—whether you need to feel stronger going into work, going on a first date, all these different chameleon moments. Your personal style is a reflection of how you’re feeling, who you are, and how you express your creativity. It’s its own sort of medium; an artform.
Why is it important to you to help customers discover their personal style?
FOJ: We’re definitely not trend-driven people—it’s not about that. It’s more about what makes you feel special, and gives you that butterfly feeling like, “I just painted a little picture with my outfit.” That is what we would like to be able to give as a gift to our FOJ community. That’s something our friends already look to us for: “Is this going to look good on me?” “I want to convey XYZ but I don’t know how to do it.” We wanted to expand our reach to engage with more people, to speak to that person at home who feels lost staring into their closet and wondering what to wear, and help them feel special. And it doesn’t have to just be about apparel, it could be something like sharing an amazing cocktail recipe to make when a friend comes over. We want Friends of Jenny to be like sitting around talking with friends and a glass of wine, sharing the discovery process and beautiful things you’re excited about.
What are your points of inspiration for Friends of Jenny?
FOJ: Seeing how people around the world dress has really inspired us: the way that they put things together in Paris or Florence. We’re always inspired by something that has a slightly magical quality to it, a lightness. And nostalgia: capturing a moment in time and a feeling of being free. We’re continually curious, looking, experiencing, learning something new.
Where do you source your stock?
FOJ: Everywhere! We work with designers that we think are doing something special and different, and we find brands that aren’t as easily accessible. It’s a big thrill for us to help our customers discover something that they can’t find anywhere else. It’s like scavenger-hunting.
We’ve also made decisions wherever possible to work with brands that are grounded in sustainability. Whenever we find a piece that’s super cool and interesting and also has a sustainable aspect to it, it’s an amazing marriage—whether that’s Eleven-Six knitwear which is hand-knit in Peru, Machete which uses recycled materials, the fabrics that Rachel Comey has developed from recycled bottles, or Jakke outerwear which PETA has voted the best faux fur coats two years in a row. We’re not perfect, but we’re all headed in the right direction together.
What does sustainability mean to you?
FOJ: Being an ecommerce business, sustainability was a baseline for all of our decisions from the beginning. We are trying to leave as little impact on the environment as possible. The fashion industry has a very bad reputation—and rightfully so—and we realize that every time we send a package, it’s adding waste. So something we discussed early on was the packaging; it’s one aspect we can control. When we send out a package, the fact that it’s 100% biodegradable makes us feel good knowing that it will not be left behind afterward. We love that through our packaging we can send a message to our community that sustainability is important to us and that it’s something they can do, too.
Why is it important for you to work with as many female-led brands and female designers as possible?
FOJ: We believe that women are inherently nurturing, and put care and love into the creation of their garments, and that comes through. We naturally self-selected towards female designers because we connect with the feeling of what they’re doing. It’s wonderful to be able to support other women who are making things happen.