Starting Your Own Fashion Line: Advice and Guidance from a Drexel Alum

Inspired to go to school for art by an elementary school sleepover sesh of What Not to Wear, Jenna Knouse always had a love for clothing. Graduating from Drexel in 2016 with a degree in Fashion Design, she decided to take that love and turn it into a career.

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Her brand, jenna k, is fully and wholly representative of her design aesthetic. “I can't pretend that my product is entirely unique, but I can say that jenna k. is the only brand owned and operated by me. I'm dedicated to my customers, understanding their wants, and growing to fit their needs. I never want to become a 'big box' retailer, I just want to grow to become the best version of jenna k.”

Pro-tip: Knowing who you’re selling to is the first (and arguably most important) step. Jenna was strategic in her choice of designing “high-end womenswear and accessories for an ageless clientele. When I started my brand, I decided that I wanted to cater to a wide variety of women. I wanted to make clothing and accessories that my mom or I would want to wear--clothing for sophisticated and cool women of all ages.”

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Consistency and balance are also essentials to Jenna’s clothes. “I try to balance opposites. I once read an article written for entrepreneurs that said people like the new, but if something's too new they get intimidated. So, I combine new ideas with familiar ones for balanced garments that people want to buy. I also try to make sure my garments are cool but wearable - not your everyday run-of-the-mill garments, but also made from comfortable fabrics in easy silhouettes.”

It can’t be easy to constantly be developing new design concepts, but Jenna has a handy approach: “My design and making process is very much a part of my everyday life, because it’s visual. I’m constantly taking in my surroundings and re-organizing them to fit the scope of clothing and accessory design.”

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Jenna also focuses a lot of her time on craft shows and fairs. “I take advantage of every opportunity that allows me to directly interact with my consumers. PSA: I would advise every aspiring designer to interact with their customers and find out what it is that they want. Online sales are great, but as a new company they're hard to come across. As a small burgeoning brand, I find that you have to do work on the ground before you can establish a successful online presence. Online sales don’t magically appear.” In a time where online shopping is as easy as clicking a picture on Instagram, a personalized, in-person presence can really set a brand apart.

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For those of us interested in someday running our own brand, Jenna offers some advice:

“Be fearless, committed, and relentless. Be fearless: Building a small business from the ground up is a daunting task, but if you want to do it, do it and don't hesitate. It's unbelievably satisfying to know that every minute of work you put into your business makes it better, and it's satisfying to know that you're directly responsible for your own successes and failures. Be committed: Being fearless only works if you're committed. Half-hearted attempts to build a business yields a half-successful business. Be relentless: Disclaimer to being committed, you have to be committed for a long time.”

After learning about this alum’s story, we were so excited to hear that she hasn’t lost touch with Drexel. Her work will be featured at the D&M Pop-Up Shop on December 5th from 2-5PM in the URBN Center, along with other works by local Philly artists. “Drexel is my home! I learned almost everything I know about fashion design from Drexel University's Antoinette College of Media Arts & Design. I'm proud of my program, so I like to stay close.” Thanks, Jenna! We're glad you did.