by frédérik sisa
Huzzah, here's Part 2 of my interview with J. Jill's VP of Design and Product Development Michael Leva. Read Part 1 here.
What is the size and composition of the design team? How does the team maintain creative freedom while supporting the overall design vision?We have 4 designers; Deepika, Hope, Lynne and Kim. They are supported by 4 assistants; Anne, Katie, Phoebe and Tessa. They all report to our Senior Director of Design, Janey and I. They were all here before me and they adore the brand. They are thrilled that we’ve been able to take J Jill back to its core values and inject a new spin that’s right for now. J Jill is a “design driven” brand. There is a concept team led by our CEO Paula Bennett and our CMO Hilary Chasin, our GMM Avra Meyers and myself. We brainstorm the overall brand values and direction. Design takes that and creates the pieces that deliver that direction and experience. We have a lot of creative freedom, but every style created is put through our brand filter of “Easy, Ageless, Cool.”I also have fabric, product development and technical design reporting to my world, so we really have a lot of control over the product we create. I think that is a real win for our customers.What challenges and opportunities exist in designing for a target demographic of women aged 35 and over?There are really no challenges. This demographic is starved for great clothes with great style and value.What does the future hold for J. Jill? What can we look for in upcoming collections?J Jill has an amazing future. We’re just getting started! For spring we have the best new dresses in linen, cotton and silk in knit and woven. We love the new longer lengths in dresses especially. J Jill is known for linen. We work with some of the finest linen mills in the world and we have great linen shirts, sweaters and pants. Our new chino pants are the best in the market and a huge hit. And any woman 35+ must try our new skinny jean. It’s also a big hit. It’s totally trend right and easy to wear.Pure Jill is also one of the best parts of J Jill. Pure Jill was another iconic part of the brand which had been left to decline. In my first week here I challenged my team to really reinvent Pure Jill into a clean and simple collection of knits and sweaters with a luxurious, cozy feel and the purest lines and finishes. Pure Jill has grown into a very sizable part of our business. I am really proud of its success.(Linen and cotton faux-wrap pullover from Pure Jill. Beautiful!)What advice do you have for people - both J. Jill customers and people falling outside your target demographic - trying to express themselves and articulate their own style?Keep it simple and have fun. Be yourself, don’t stress and just enjoy! And try J Jill! It’s Easy, Ageless and really COOL!
Again, many thanks to to Michael Leva for his time and insight into a dynamic brand that still makes me wish there was a J. Jack equivalent. Also, thanks to Heather McKenna for setting up the interview. I really enjoyed this opportunity to get an inside look at J. Jill!