Meet Jess Russ, creative genius & savvy entrepreneur behind Australia’s fastest growing accessory label Jessica-T!
Founded in 2011, Jessica T is the culmination of a decade-long love of all things fashion for Brisbane-based designer and Creative Design Director, Jessica Russ.
Following graduation from high school, Jessica was accepted into the inaugural year of QUT’s new BFA Fashion Design Degree, studying alongside the likes of George Wu and Gail Reed (Gail Sorronda). By the time Jessica had graduated with Honors in 2004, she had completed a 3 month internship in Hong Kong, and was the first QUT Fashion Design student to gain full time employment in the fashion industry.
Within 12 months of officially launching, Jessica T was stocked within over 100 stores around Australia and internationally. Two years later, Jess has achieved a turnover of $1M and continues to grow and diversify, and in September of 2013, Jessica’s achievements were recognised when she was made a Queensland Finalist for the Telstra Young Business Women’s Awards.
You’re a Creative Director. What exactly does this mean? What do your days involve?
Every day is different, that’s what makes my role so exciting. I could be visiting independent or corporate customers, working on designs for next season (Winter 15 at the moment) or liaising with our suppliers in Asia on current production. I am also fortunate enough to travel overseas at least four times a year for work, as well as regular domestic travel within Australia. I love different cultures and exploring new cities when travelling.
Some friends Jess has made on her travels.
You held some great jobs in the fashion industry prior to Jessica-T. What was the catalyst for you to leave and go out on your own?
I had been working for other people for the best part of a decade, in both large and small businesses. I had formed a clear idea in my mind of the things I did and did not want to do in terms of business practice, and I knew I had gained enough skills to give it a go on my own. I also wanted to have complete creative control (yes I am a bit of a control freak) on the products and business ethics. I had seen what worked and what didn’t in my previous roles and have applied that knowledge to get Jessica T to where it is today.
When you started Jessica-T, what was your vision? Is it similar to where you are now or have you followed a different path than previously imagined?
When I started the business, my vision was to have the Jessica T label sold nation wide in independent boutiques and stores. Whilst achieving this, I certainly never thought I would be designing products for huge fashion chains and shopping centres, but it has proved to be the most profitable and rewarding aspect of my role. So in a way, I have followed my original vision, but also had some additional branches added to the path along the way.
Do you have a style icon or muse who’s style you follow for inspiration?
I don’t have one specific person as it tends to change depending on the season and the trends that come through. I love the quirky and outrageous stylings of Bjork as well as her music, the magazine series in Japan called Fruits is always new and exciting and I love hunting for new looks/styles/trends in the back streets of Hong Kong.
The Jessica-T growth has been quick. $1M turnover in two years. What do you put this down to? What have you done that has been so successful so quickly?
What makes Jessica T sucessful is that we run two businesses parallel to each other under the same roof. The first is the Jessica T label, where we love all things quirky, chic and unique. Our pieces are a little left of centre, for the women who wants to stand out from the crowd. The second is our product development side of the business, where we design and manufacture accessories for fashion chain stores and shopping centre complexes. Its exciting for us as both sides of the business feed off each other and we have quite a diverse customer base. My mentor in Hong Kong always said to me ‘go with the flow’ in business. Never turn down opportunities without fully exploring the possibilities. You never know exactly what your business will end up being. I believe it is this openness to change and opportunity that has ultimately lead to our relatively quick success.
What is the Jessica-T mission? What is it you want to achieve?
Our mission is to continue to grow and develop the Jessica T label, whist simultaneously acquiring new product development customers and nurturing existing ones. We would also love to break into the South East Asian market with the Jessica T label in the next few years, as we see this is a huge area for potential growth.
Your last name is Russ. Where did the “T” come from?
The ‘T’ comes from my middle name, Tanya. Jessica R just didn’t have a ring to it so my best friend Lisa suggested Jessica T, the rest is history!
Has there ever been a time you’ve ever thought about giving up? What kept you going?
In a word – YES – many times in fact, however its these times that make the good times seem even sweeter, knowing just how far you have come. What kept me going was a genuine belief in our product and services, as well as not wanting to fail! I couldn’t give up everything we have worked towards for almost 4 years.
You’ve bought on some really large contracts recently for some well known fashion chains. How did you go about securing these?
Some of these customers I have been working on for years – getting your foot in the door in one thing, securing an actual order is quite another! A few of our larger customers I secured through being in the industry for 10 years, the Australian market is not huge, so after a while you get to know quite a number of people in different organisations. The remainder are from good old fashioned elbow grease and courage! Not so much from cold calling, but targeted proposals to specific companies outlining what we do and how we could assist their business. I used to be quite shy in approaching new customers/business who we had no direct contact with previously, yet some of our most profitable customers have come from simply being bold and putting Jessica T out there.
What is your all time favourite Jessica-T accessory?
Now that’s a tough one! All our pieces have a special place in my heart, but I have narrowed it down to the following:
Silver Spoon Necklace
Sands through time Necklace
There are so many pieces of Jess’s I love and here are a couple of MY favourite’s that are still available!
Only $29.95 these earrings are great for the little touch of bling! Versatile and can be worn as an everyday item or for special occasions. Also available in black if the silver is too much for you. For me, one can NEVER have enough bling! Bling it on I say!
I LOVE these! They remind me of Cleopatra. They have that slight antique feel and there are two with different textures which adds interest. A definite talking point! A steal at $29.95!
No animals were harmed in the making of this fabulous clutch! I LOVE the pony hair. I have been coveting this little baby for sometime. It’s classic, elegant and the fur gives it that little point of difference from your standard black clutch. A definite MUST HAVE and it’s going on my Christmas list! Parental unit – pay attention!