BY MOLLY GIVEN
If fashion is a way to make a statement, Jacqueline City’s statement is one of perseverance.
The 23-year-old Philly native has had to overcome her own obstacles while building a career within the fashion world with a disability.
The young designer suffered from a brain injury in 2014, and soon after was diagnosed with dysautonomia—a disorder of the autonomic nervous system—and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS, another element of the disorder. Instead of allowing the added pressures of what she faced ignite a struggle, City made her disability fuel her creative endeavors.
City’s fashion line, Jacqueline City Apparel, is highly inclusive and has options for women, men, unisex, kids and plus sizes up to a 5X. The goal for the style maven was not to just make a splash in the fashion world, but to also showcase what fashion is really supposed to be about—expressing yourself in any way that you see fit.
City has already participated in New York Fashion Week, which landed her attention and recognition from British Vogue, and in March, City will also be making her debut at Paris Fashion Week. City sat down with Metro to discuss more about her line, and what she hopes JCA can bring for people overall.
What first sparked your love of fashion?
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been interested in art in all forms—from painting and drawing to music and fashion. Before I could even walk or talk, I was pulling down dresses into my baby carriage when my mom would take me to stores. My love for clothes grew when I taught myself to sew at age six, and I even went as a fashion designer to my 2nd grade Career Day. My interest in designing continued and I quickly became obsessed with “Project Runway,” ruining all of my clothes by gluing my paper drawings on to them or cutting them up. I was always very creative—maybe too creative. But I actually went to college for music and I have only been in the fashion industry for a little over one year.
Your brand is very inclusive—why was that important for you? What can you tell me about what you offer?
Inclusivity is very important to my brand, because I think fashion, sadly, has a very obvious ideal beauty standard. Tall, thin, young, light-skinned, able-bodied, cis-women have always graced the runways and magazines. We rarely get to see anything out of that very narrow box and there are so many uniquely beautiful people that make up this earth. I am disabled and I’d like to see people I relate to. I never want anyone to see my brand and think this is only for one type of person: Jacqueline City Apparel is a place where all are welcome. I carry women’s, men’s, unisex, kids, and plus sizes up to a 5X; everything on my site is under $50 as well. I never want someone to feel like they do not belong in ‘Jacqueline City.’
What can you tell me about the process of creating your line and then debuting your line on the runway? What was that like for you?
The process of creating a line for my store and one for the runway is very different. The clothing collections on my store are “ready-to-wear” which means I design them but I work with a facility that is producing them. For the runway, I hand-make couture collections so a lot more goes into it on my end because these items can take months to make. My runway collections are 12 to 24 pieces that cohesively tell a story. Creating one is very therapeutic for me since I get to combine so many of my skills aside from designing like modeling, photography, graphic design, and web design. I have only had one runway show which was New York Fashion Week, which was a very surreal experience. I can’t wait to do Paris Fashion Week and hopefully have my own Philly runway show next year.
How would you describe your collections?
My collections each tell a specific story that is inspired by the season the collection is in. For example, this past winter my collection was called ‘Solstice’ and was themed around winter solstice and rebirth. My New York Fashion Week collection was called ‘Lovers’ and was inspired by the Lovers tarot card, romance and Valentines Day. My next collection which will debut very soon is called ‘Birthday’ and is my fall collection. I really like to take my time with my collections and produce wearable works of art. I really think about what inspires me about that season and what feelings come along with that time of year.
Why is fashion, overall, important?
Fashion is a form of art. Art is such a life force. Fashion and art are how I express myself. I want to make fashion and style less intimidating. You should not have to be rich, famous, or perfect to have style. Style is individual and subjective. Fashion and style is all about expressing yourself and how you want to come off to the world. You should be able to play around with clothes and have fun. Throw out any fashion rules you’ve heard; if you like it, wear it. If you feel beautiful or confident in how you dress: That is fashion.
What has been the hardest part for you of this fashion journey, and what has been the most rewarding?
The hardest part of this fashion journey is most definitely my physical disability which prevents me from doing as much as I want to. Fashion is such a fast-paced world that I cannot keep up with because of my limited amount of energy—but I try to! I have to take it one day at a time, not compare myself to others, and just create what I love. I’m very proud of myself, so I think that’s most important. The most rewarding part of my fashion journey has been the positive response. I love how many people tell me I have inspired them to reach for their dreams. I want to be an advocate for those with disabilities and personal struggles to show them they can do anything they put their mind to.
What else are you hoping for in your career?
In my career, I hope to continue to grow Jacqueline City Apparel. I hope to branch off into styling celebrity red carpet looks and stage performance outfits. I also want to do more for inclusivity; I hope to do campaigns focused on showcasing beautiful people that would not necessarily be the fashion industry’s ideal beauty standard. I hope to include more models with disabilities. I really want to do more public speaking about disabilities, mental health and being a young, female entrepreneur. I also aspire to one day be in Forbes 30 under 30; I’ve got 7 years to make it.
Is there anything else that you want people to know?
I want people to know that Philadelphia is a great city for fashion and the arts. We have Philly Fashion Week and so many great local fashion influencers and designers. I love the Philly fashion scene and the Philly arts scene in general. I hope people can get their creative sides going [and] visit our beautiful museums and art galleries, [or] try painting or sewing at home. Maybe try a local or virtual art class. Supporting both our city and the arts are so important, express yourself and have fun. These are stressful times so I think it’s a good idea to get in touch with your feelings and emotions in a healthy way like art.
This story first appeared on philly.metro.us.