Cutting out a career in the fashion industry has become something of a war these days. With the economy tanking and online sales cannibalizing traditional retail, the high heel has snapped off of the once reliable business model of selling fashion. In order to make it in today’s fashion environment, an entrepreneurial fashionista must be armed with an unshakeable resolve, plenty of work ethic and a great heaping of talent to even get noticed above the towering waves of uncertainty that have swept the industry.
Gessica Brooke is one such example of this new breed of steel-spined fashion designer. Based out of New York, she has weathered hardship and new challenges that never existed a few years prior, and gone on to launch her own collection of handbags, clothes and accessories. According to Brooke, even the initial launch of her collection resulted from bad luck, which she then turned into good fortune.
“When I graduated fashion school, I wasn’t pleased with my portfolio,” Brooke begins. “As a designer, I don’t do my best work in [Adobe] Illustrator or Photoshop. So I got the idea to design some stuff last February and submit it to [fashion show] Gen Art, confident I would get selected and do a fashion show.”
For those unacquainted, Gen Art is one of the world’s leading organizations/events for showcasing emerging fashion designers. Since 1996, they have hosted annual festivals to promote new young artists. However, Brooke says that the year she was working on her application just so happened to coincide with the year that the festival declared bankruptcy, which effectively shut Gen Art down for the first time in its 16 year history.
“It was the one season they weren’t around and I found myself with half of a collection,” Brooke says. Faced with this dilemma, Brooke still decided to finish designing the line and then made the ambitious move of trying to find an interested retailer. “I shopped it around to the best show rooms in New York and I was fortunate enough that people wanted to get behind it and the response was great so we continued. All in all I didn’t know I was starting a collection.”
Though Brooke’s first season’s collection may have been an accident, her journey into the fashion industry was anything but chance. “Literally since I was a kid I can’t remember not wanting to be a designer,” she says. “I’ve always been creative and always loved clothes, so even when I was 14 and in High School I started going to the Fashion Institute of Technology [in New York] on the weekends to see if that was something I was interested in full time. It was and so it’s been my whole life ever since and not something I had to think about.”
Since starting her collection, Brooke has experienced an impressive amount of success. Her line is now in its third season, and she has begun to earn a reputation for creating stylish, practical and fun fashion.
“I originally launched in contemporary sportswear and made a 24 piece clothes line, and then made handbags. Then for the 2nd season I decided to just focus on handbags and now it’s been a handbag collection for 2 seasons… But as a designer, I don’t limit myself to being just a handbag designer.”
This refusal of being pegged down has been rewarding for Brooke. Most recently, she reached a personal milestone when she was asked to design an Oscar dress for the red-carpet, worn by the news anchor of Los Angeles’ Channel 5 KTLA news. “To me it was a major accomplishment,” says Brooke. “It was really different and exciting to have my dress on the red carpet, worn by someone who is out there and interviewing everyone.”
Going into the future, Brooke says she has high ambitions for her line and that the Oscar dress was only the beginning. “To describe where I want the Gessica Brooke Collection to go, I always use an example of the handbag collection of Rebecca Minkoff. She has a similar story in that she started with this one bag and it got such a good response that 5 years later she’s able to put out shoes and clothes and be a household name. I’m not trying to be the next Gucci or anything crazy, but I’d love to have a product out on the market that people recognize as being classic while also offering new trends.”
However, at the end of the day Brooke realizes that it’s a long road to the top, and will require a lot of work. This is why her advice to other aspiring fashionistas isn’t design or philosophy related, but practical. “What I learned most is to get your ducks in a row, but at the same time be able to roll with the punches. Things are never going to go as planned, but you still have to keep going and do what you feel is right. So plan as best as you can but know how to troubleshoot.”
Images: The View from 5 Ft. 2