At first glance, you might not see designer Jessica Velez's
beautiful, delicate knitwear as provocative. Not a shoulder or stomach is exposed by her Colombian-influenced creations. And, Velez, herself, is an unlikely provocateur, someone as soft and sweet as her work. But, in launching her own brand, she's displayed Beyoncé levels of backbone and boldness.
While working in the houses of Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, and Rebecca Taylor, the designer realized she was devoting much of her time and talent to brands that didn't necessarily align with her beliefs, especially when it came to sustainability and sourcing. Rather than wait for the fashion labels to come around to her ideas, she branched out on her own to create a line that doesn't just source in responsible ways, but actively uses its manufacturing to supply jobs and relief where they're needed. By partnering with rural Colombian artisans, she's not only bringing their unique craft to stateside customers, but providing them with economic stability. It's a step beyond running an ethical business and a serious challenge to the entire industry.
The biggest risk I’ve ever taken
“Before I launched my own company, I was devoting a lot of my time and abilities to the benefit of a brand that wasn’t mine. But, I didn’t want to work all of these hours at something I love and enjoy for someone else. I knew that if I did start my own brand, I wouldn’t have the security of a full-time job — but I just had to.”
How I see fashion's future
"In 10 years, I envision the New York Garment District back on its feet again. I'm eager to see local yarn mills, factories, suppliers, and designers all sharing resources. I think the value of hand craftsmanship and artisanal work will grow as consumers become more involved with how and where a product is made. To that end, I want to sustain a studio near my roots in Belén de Umbría, Colombia — a place to house local artisanal talent, an essential tool for creating my knits, and something that will support and nourish the community."
The biggest challenge I've ever faced
"I'm constantly asking myself how I can improve my business ethically and socially while remaining honest to my aesthetic. I'm learning as I grow that merging my innate devotion to designing knits with a network of artisans can create something that's socially and aesthetically rewarding."
Silk Dress; Opening Ceremony
Carine Heel, $365, available at Tibi
Rose Gold Rings, $55-$90, available at Melanie Auld
XL Pulse Ring, $220, available at Jennifer Fisher
Clutch, $195, available at Palethorp
Makeup by Ashleigh Ciucci; Hair by Bethany Brill; Styled by Laura Pritchard