Fashion industry for emerging fashion designers is tough. The journey from the idea to concept to the brand is long and challenging. What is it like to be an emerging fashion designer launching your debut collection? We caught up with Juliana Ponce de Leon, a founder and designer of the new eco-lux label JPL Atelier launching in London this November, to find out what it takes to launch your own fashion brand.
Working and studying within multiple parts of the luxury industry prepared me to start JPL and to understand the critical path from different viewpoints.
Fashion Bloc Tell us about yourself – how did you arrive at where you are now – an aspiring young designer soon to be a new sustainable luxury brand?
Juliana Ponce De Leon: I started my creative career at the age of 14 when I attended art school at Palazzo Spinelli in Florence, Italy where I focused on oil painting and charcoal sketching. And after I graduated from the high school I attended The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, USA where I received my undergraduate Fashion Design degree. I then did a Master’s in Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni in Paris where I interned and collaborated with luxury fashion houses like Dior, Issey Miyake, Carolina Herrera, Rick Owens, Bouchra Jarrar, and Courreges.
Upon graduating, I moved to London and worked in the design studio at Hunter, Hackett London, and Kent & Curwen of Savile Row. I also worked at Dior in the PR/Events division. In addition, I did a business course at Central Saint Martins. Working and studying within multiple parts of the luxury industry prepared me to start JPL and to understand the critical path from different viewpoints.
FB: What is JPL and what is the concept, idea behind it?
JPL: JPL Atelier is a pioneering innovator in the slow Eco-Luxe fashion movement – which is a fusion of the traditional elements of an international luxury label, ground-breaking sustainable DNA, and historical costume influence. JPL is also a part of the new wave of organisations that are focusing on female empowerment as well as in taking responsibility for our carbon footprint on the planet.
FB: What do you think about the fashion industry – is it young designer-friendly?
JPL: I think that the modern consumer’s purchasing habits have started to shift significantly as mainstream trends and some big fashion companies have now become somewhat monotonous. Fashion consumers are now looking to feel connected with a label and to share the same values as it. I think young designers are coming out with a more personal approach to product development, which does make the fashion industry more young designer-friendly.
FB: What are your biggest challenges?
JPL: I think the biggest challenge I have faced is balancing a full-time job and the development of JPL. And after a couple of months, I have been able to stick to a very detailed schedule which has proved very successful.
FB: How do you manage your time between creating and managing the soon-to-be business?
JPL: With the master schedule, I arrive at my current job (which is also within the luxury fashion industry) 30 minutes early where I answer all JPL emails. Then during my lunch hour, I focus on any deadlines or additional emails that come in. I then head home after work and work on JPL for about 1-2 hours.
Another example is that I took a week’s holiday this year to pattern-make the first collection – I would wake up at 6 am and work until 11 pm. In addition, I work a couple of hours as well during the weekends.
I did not expect was how life-changing it is to start a company and to have an individual creative voice. When you see the finished product, it really is the most rewarding moment from the whole process.
FB: Did you expect it to be this way when you were still at university?
JPL: During university, I never wanted to launch my own fashion brand. I vowed to work for a massive luxury house as I had seen the struggle and challenges that came with being a young designer in a start-up company. But things changed after I worked in the industry for a couple of years – I felt that I wasn’t able to have a constant creative outflow like I had had at university. So I completely changed my mind and decided to go out on my own.
I did expect it to be like this, but what I did not expect was how life-changing it is to start a company and to have an individual creative voice. When you see the finished product, it really is the most rewarding moment from the whole process.
FB: What did you learn while trying to launch your own fashion brand?
JPL: I learned that adding a new perspective and different talent can greatly benefit the label and its development. I have the most extraordinary creative team that I have worked with on my editorial and e-commerce shoots. The team consists of 8 members that cover styling, photography, videography, interns, hair/makeup, and creative.
Another huge learning curve was the management of the total budget – I learned to always add at least 15% more to the final budget calculation.
FB: How do you see yourself and JPL Atelier in three years’ time?
JPL: I see JPL growing on an international level. I would love to be stocked in multiple boutiques – at ones that I feel would mirror the unique JPL aesthetic. I also see myself having a studio in London with a couple of creative minds helping me out.
FB: How are you different? Or maybe you are not trying to be different?
JPL: JPL is different because it is going against the whole traditional fashion calendar – there will be three collections per year that are all linked with each other.
There are no seasons – as the JPL DNA consists of being part of the slow heritage movement: limited stock and no end of season sales. JPL is also a sustainable company – so I only use eco-friendly materials and everything is completely made in London (which also has a bonus of reducing transport energy).
FB: Who are you creating for?
JPL: I am creating for the modern woman. Today’s woman is a career woman, a mother, an entrepreneur, a feminist, an independent soul, and a strong and influential member of the society. She is strong and iconic in her own individual way. That is who I am creating for.
FB: Tell us about your launch.
JPL: The launch of the label will be next month on the 14th November and it will consist of a trunk show event as well as the e-commerce website launch (both will have the collection available for immediate purchase). The trunk show will be a private event which includes guests not only from the fashion industry but also women from international corporate companies who are the modern women I design for. Guests will be able to come and mingle, sip on champagne and coffee, and have the option of purchasing a collection piece then and there.
Stay tuned to witness the private JPL Atelier launch on Fashion Bloc (@fashionbloc) Social Media channels.