09 22 15
Rachel Jones on track pants, underpants, and building a brand based on what’s underneath.
Rachel Jones founded JONESY in 2014, and her underwear designs have been making girls feel like 90’s babes ever since…she also spends many of her days working in the tech world (and exploring Brooklyn with her dog Frasier).
Q / Hi Rachel! Hope you are having a good morning! How do you usually start your day?
A / I bumble out of bed around 6:40ish after snoozing my alarm a couple times. I get up excruciatingly early (only parents and other dog owners are out at this time, well, and joggers) to take my dog to our nearby dog park, which has off-leash hours in the morning. As a puppy he used to run around and play with all of the other dogs, but now just sits and watches like an old man. We usually meander around the park, trying to pretend that we’re getting a workout, before heading home. Then it’s a 15-20 minute rush to squeeze in a shower (not a daily occurrence, I have to confess), breakfast, getting dressed and applying makeup.
Q / Do you have a daily uniform?
A / I feel like my style keeps on getting simpler and darker. I blame New York and being frazzled :). I really value comfort, so I lean toward looser bottoms and chunky knits on top (which I realize goes against all fashion advice of pairing roomier garments with other looser items). I’ll also pair men’s shirts over jeans. And I only ever wear flats. I walk too much to be sporting blisters and busted heels!
Q / Is there anything you carry with you every day? If so, why is it important to you?
A / Inside my wallet, I carry a smudged note on which my now-husband wrote out his proposal speech. It’s a flimsy piece of paper that I rarely look at, but, somehow, it’s strangely comforting to know it’s there.
Q / Is there a time of day that you feel most productive? Anything specific that helps keep you focused?
A / Mornings are when I’m most lucid and focused. I don’t drink coffee at home, but tend to grab a mug when I get into the office. I don’t feel like I’m a stereotypically morning or evening person, but I’d like to think 9AM is when I’m at my best, at least when it comes to getting things done.
Q / What is your favorite place to work?
A / I don’t know that I’ve figured that out yet. I like to work in places with some background noise, but finding a spot at a local coffee shop can be next to impossible, especially in my neck of the freelancing woods. The window seat in my living room can get the job done.
Q / How do you keep yourself organized with all the projects you have going on?
A / In the last couple of years, I’ve moved away from paper or app-based lists. I wonder if it has to do with the sort of work I’m doing. Instead, I map out my to-dos on my Google calendar since I’m otherwise apt to forget.
Q / What is something you are good at? Something you struggle with?
A / I’d like to think that I’m good at meeting people, probably as a result of the way I grew up. I definitely struggle with the feeling of falling behind. It is hard for me to find a balance in celebrating the struggles and successes of launching a brand without allowing it to determine my identity.
Q / What do you like most about designing? What is the most challenging thing about it?
A / As a newcomer to the world of design, it feels most like a puzzle to me. How do you put these things together or tweak certain elements in such a way, so as to create a product that looks unique and is functional? It is very much a back-and-forth process that relies on a dozen small choices.
Q / Where do you go to be quiet and think?
A / To be completely candid, I don’t know that quiet thinking is a strength of mine. I err on the side of continual doing, which is probably not the healthiest approach to life. I tend to work out any doubts or questions that are needling me by talking about them, much to my husband’s chagrin.
Q / How does your home influence the kind and quality of work you produce?
A / Any fashion brand is now a lifestyle brand, so curating a look online and offline requires thinking about your audience as a whole. Where do they shop for home goods? What other brands do they follow on Instagram? But that’s probably the extent of it for me.
Q / Where did you grow up? How would you say your upbringing shaped your perception of work?
A / I grew up in Madrid, Spain. Life there, more so than in other European countries, is about good food, time with friends, and close ties to family. Work is secondary, if that. New York City is the opposite of that world, so it’s refreshing to travel, whether to Spain or another place, to remind myself of that reality. At the end of the day, your work should be something that you can walk away from.
Q / What is your first memory of work?
A / The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked at a local McDonald’s in my neighborhood. It was the worst job of my life: mopping floors, rolling barrels of rancid oil out to the dumpster, and scrubbing the inside of trash dispensers. On top of that, the work environment was mildly verbally abusive. I will say that it gave me tons of respect for anyone that works in the service industry. To sit at a desk for most of my day is a form of privilege.
Q / How would you define beauty and what part does it play in your work as a designer?
A / Beauty for me is feeling stylish in my own skin. Whether that’s a ratty t-shirt that’s been washed too many times or a swipe of lipstick, it’s about capturing (or striving for) that intangible sense of cool.
Q / How would you say social media and the internet factor into your work?
A / It is incredibly useful as a tool for connecting with other up-and-coming designers or boutiques across the country. And, of course, is a great way to test ideas and play around with a brand’s look. But, as we all can probably admit here, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s a challenge to stay sane and not compare the success of JONESY to other brands I see.
Q / Is there anything you find problematic about them?
A / As someone who has yet to post a selfie, curating an Instagram feed doesn’t feel very natural to me. I try to think of it as an experiment, rather than a reflection of the success or failure of what I’m doing. That is easier said than done though.
Q / Do you use the internet on vacation or do you prefer to completely disconnect?
A / I never completely disconnect, though I find that the more days I am away, the less I care to check in or connect.
Q / Is there anything in particular that you do to take care of yourself and relax?
A / A good cocktail does wonders after a long day! That, and a movie in bed.
Q / Was there any particular person who helped shape your career in formative way?
A / My husband has been a huge force. He originally gave me the bug to do something creative, outside of a 9-5 office life. Combining incomes has also given me the financial cushion to be able to launch something like JONESY. That’s not something that we talk much about, the idea that entrepreneurship at it’s core boils down to access to money.
Q / How did your parents feel about your career path?
A / They’ve been vaguely supportive, in the sense that they are happy that I’m pursuing creative interests, but don’t necessarily understand what that entails. It’s definitely a generational thing: they want me to be fulfilled and find stability in my job, but also don’t necessarily understand the itch to abandon the corporate grind to do something that is inherently DYI and risky.
Q / Where did you get the idea to start JONESY?
A / It arose from the desire to find (and wear) a bra that was both stylish and durable – in other words, a garment that wouldn’t dissolve after a couple of washes. I have tiny boobs, so I’ve drifted between lacy bralettes and sportier bras, but always felt limited by my options (and care instructions: I’ve yet to hand wash a bra!). With the resurgence of 90s minimalism and sportier wear (I hate the word athleisure), I felt like there was an opportunity to create undergarments that felt grown up and stylish, but were still suited for day-to-day activities.
Q / Would you say the collection is at all related to your past career experiences, or does it feel like a completely new venture?
A / It is a completely new experiment. I’ve worked in tech and advertising and on the side have contributed to several writing projects, but have never worked in fashion. Since landing upon the concept (over a year ago), it’s been a huge learning experience as I’ve navigated my way through the ins and outs of the New York manufacturing scene. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have friends that have helped me along the way (I doubt I’d be doing what I’m doing if I was based out of Omaha…), but it’s difficult to make contacts in an industry that still primarily relies on word of mouth. It can be very hit or miss. I’ve had some misses, but, thankfully, feel like there’s a path forward.
Q / Your collection has such a clear focus and brand identity. Is there any particular reference that inspires you?
A / Those black and white Calvin ads from the 90s are a huge inspiration of course. I feel like they nailed the perfect blend of functionality and style. Adidas athletic gear from my childhood is also a source of reference. I’ll never forget those baggy track pants worn by Sporty Spice or those striped socks. I have a thing for stripes.
Q / What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
A / Having the opportunity to learn something new and create something that resonates.
Q / What is the most boring part of your job?
A / Packing orders! It’s a happy tedium though.
Q / How does working as a designer affect the rest of your life?
A / It gives me a sense of purpose and hope, since I feel like I’m taking my ambition into my own hands and doing something with it. It does create financial stress, however, as any new brand can take years to become financially successful.
Q / What has been your proudest career moment thus far?
A / Getting into my first store was definitely a highlight. It was hugely validating to know that someone else saw possibility in what I was doing.
Q / What are you looking forward to this year? Any adventures or new projects?
A / Launching new undies and a bralette style is in the works!
Interview & Photography