For Jessica Ray, Woodland Road is a runway. As the senior Arts Management major enters her spring semester, she’s devoting her free time (and her tutorial) to Fleur of the City. Inspired by her French heritage, she curates elegantly edgy ensembles for the fashion blog. Ray brings radiance to the realistic, enlivening gray days with bright bags or pops of pattern. She elevates everyday scenes – snow-covered stairs to the quad or the doorway to Mellon Board Room – with the perfectly framed shot. The polished aesthetic of Fleur of the City easily convinces a reader that they’re hearing from an expert, but it’s the fantastic advice and warm writing that make Ray feel like a friend.
HC Chatham: What brought you to Chatham?
Jessica Ray: There was just something about Chatham that attracted me to it, especially how it was an all-girls school. There was something empowering about it! I had always heard how nice everyone was though, and it really is true. That and the campus is just stunning!
Why did you choose to major in Arts Management? How did you choose your concentration?
I think that the major chose me. I came to Chatham still confused about what I wanted to major in, and after explaining my passions to Deborah Prise, she was like, “This major is PERFECT for you. Here, look at it and email Professor Burke because you two have a lot in common!” From there, everything just worked and I have had so much fun with this major. The whole department is an amazing group of people!
What advice do you have for artistic students as they navigate business coursework?
That it’s tough, but you just have to think about your ultimate goal to get through it. As an artistic student, business courses like accounting & statistics do not come easily for me, but you have to push through it if you consistently think about graduating. When I struggle with something, I envision myself walking across the stage to reach for my degree. It’s something that I really want to accomplish, and that usually gives me that extra push. So find your “push” and think about it through hard times.
What are you doing for your Tutorial?
Defining blogging and how to make it a career. Blogging is something I always wanted to pursue, so I figured I would apply something I wanted to accomplish career-wise towards my tutorial. When you’re in college you have all the resources and contacts you could possibly need, so I really wanted to take advantage of those tools.
When did your interest in fashion begin?
[Laughs] At a very young age! I started wearing tutus and costumes since I could walk probably. I’d even wear them to the grocery store; I never wanted to take them off. Then from there, I started sketching my own designs for women. My mom and I called it, “Le Jess Dress”. I’ll never forget when she bought me that sketchbook and colored pencils. Then from there I created DOZENS of outfits. I don’t know why I did, but I loved it. Then my Grandma taught me how to sew.
Why did you decide to start a fashion blog?
Years ago I started following a girl named Jessica Quirk from What I Wore. That’s when I discovered blogging. I was working for MAC Cosmetics at the time and started reading about blogging while working for them. I didn’t pursue it then, but when I got to Chatham and was in Media Arts, I realized that was the career of my dreams: to share my love of fashion and makeup with people. I always love inspiring people to look their best.
How did you decide on the name, Fleur of the City?
It was actually quite hard to figure out a name. It’s like picking a perfume: you’re picking a scent you want people to know you by. For me, that’s a very detailed process, and I can be quite indecisive about it. After weeks of trying to find something that represented me and what I wanted to be about, my boyfriend Adam actually created the name and I loved it. He knew how much I wanted to incorporate a French aspect into the name, while still being about the city of Pittsburgh.
You put together stunning photo shoots. How do you decide on a concept? Where do you get your inspiration?
Thank you so much, I really appreciate that! It’s a lot of hard work, especially while being in school. I find inspiration in the Parisian culture. I have French ethnicity in me, and when I went to visit my cousins over in France I just instantly felt like I had found my style. They dress so well there! It’s classy, effortless, practical and put-together. Timeless.
When you’re putting together an outfit, what’s your starting point?
When I put an outfit together, I go by what or how I am feeling honestly. If I’m tired, I wear something comfy/practical. If I feel edgier, I throw on my leather jacket. That’s the fun part of fashion really: You can go by how you are feeling or what you are doing!
You’ve also got an incredible eye for makeup. How did you develop that skill set?
Ahhhh thank you! I try. [laughs] For starters, I have a terrible addiction to YouTube videos. I watch endless amounts of makeup tutorials and product reviews. But I also used to work for MAC Cosmetics. I loved it there, and it’s truly where I was taught everything. They were a wonderful company to work for. I love to always try new products just so I can tell people about them, good and bad. Makeup is about trying knew things to find what’s best for you, so if I can help people with that then I am happy!
How do you select locations for your shoots?
When I am driving around town! I watch out for places that intrigue me. I just find Pittsburgh very unique, and I want to share that with people.
Which location was your favorite (so far)? Why?
Probably when I did my very first shoot, which was at Chatham. It was very inspiring and exciting because it was the first photo shoot for my blog, but the campus is just stunning. I also enjoyed shooting for DonaJo Fitwear up on Mt. Washington. It had the entire city in the background!
What is the most challenging thing about maintaining your own blog?
Being consistent while being in school. Being consistent is key, and I want to stay true to that. So I always make sure I have something up, even if it means editing at 3 a.m. to get a post up for that next day. I want my readers to always have something to look forward to and would never want to disappoint them.
What is your vision for Fleur of the City going into the future?
I’m really open to anything. I just want to inspire people whether it’s for fashion or makeup.
For students interested in blogging, what advice do you have for building a brand?
Be true to who YOU are. Don’t follow the crowd, and create your own ideas and work. Someone once told me, don’t be a “me too”, and it’s true.
What contribution is your time at Chatham making to your career?
I hope a lot [laughs]. Chatham has taught me so much during my time here, and it makes me wish I would have attended for all four years instead of just two. But things happen for a reason! I trust the universe will take me wherever I am meant to go, but in the meantime I will just work hard.
What do you love most about being a Chatham student?
How supportive ALL the staff is and how small the classes are. It really allows you to get the most out of your time and education here.
What do you love most about fashion?
It allows you to express who you are as a person. For anyone.
How can new fans follow your work?
What was your childhood dream job?
To be a fashion designer. I even designed my own building that I would have my offices in.
If you could collaborate on a line with one designer, who would you choose?
That’s a tough question! I’d say Chanel or Oscar de le Renta, they are timeless designers that will always be true to a woman’s clothing needs. Especially Oscar, he knew how to dress a woman.
If you could have a $10,000 shopping spree to any store, which one would you pick?
Another tough question! I would say Zara or H&M, because their products are affordable and yet pretty great quality. They are so my style, too!
You have a friend visiting Pittsburgh for one day, and you’re planning the itinerary. What do you do?
I would bring them to the Shadyside/Squirrel Hill area. It’s my favorite part of town, so many great stores to shop at and restaurants to eat at. Plus I love all the houses down here, too. They are so pretty!