Designer Jason Jennings, whose background covers both occasionwear and bridal, is now working with a number of companies, advising them on their design development
When Jason Jennings graduated from Central Saint Martins he was lucky enough to land a dream job – working on David Fielden’s ready-to-wear collection for London Fashion Week. Invited to try his hand at bridal, he fell in love with it. ”The workload was immense and designing RTW, bridal, evening wear and bridesmaids honed my skills and capacity to design across the board working on several projects simultaneously,” he recalls. “Coming up with new concepts, techniques and silhouettes, I learned fast how to formulate ideas and translate them into finished pieces. As time went on, I began to specialise in bridal – it just felt right for me.”
Always with a passion for passing on knowledge and sharing ideas, after his stint at David’s, Jason went on to teach at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. “I loved the raw and naive way students collate their ideas and how they translate them into designs. For me it’s a reminder, as a creative designer, of the true process of creating a collection from concept to reality.”
Around that time, and while still lecturing regularly, Jason developed the JJennings Bridal Collection, his first introduction to the commercial bridal arena and a shift of focus from Paris and Milan RTW weeks to the Harrogate Bridal Show. Another big learning curve, but one that proved invaluable in his next chapter.
Jason joined the Veromia Group in 2009 to develop his commercial bridal experience, never having worked with big production factories in the Far East. Soon he was designing most of the collections under the Veromia umbrella including Veromia Bridal and D’zage – along with their bridesmaids collections – Veromia Occasions and Irresistible. He also developed the award-winning plus-size bridal collection – Sonsie – from scratch with a focus on fit and construction, using elastic corsetry to manipulate plus size shapes (size 20+) to create beautiful silhouettes.
The next chapter
Then, in 2018, with considerable experience and a great track record under his belt, Jason launched his own bridal label, Story Bridal, debuting with three contemporary collections – Boho, Retro and Glamour, drawing on classic silhouettes, all with their own modern twist. However, he fast came to the realisation that the set up he had put in place would not fulfill his personal goals – what he wanted to do was construct his own line, from start to finish. “I love personal fittings and made-to-order special gowns and you can’t do that working with the Far East and India. I want to produce out of the UK where I can be more creative with my fit and cut, so we’ve put the business on hold until 2020.”
So now Jason is using his multi talents, working with a number of businesses in a consultant capacity. “I’m currently enhancing one collection and working closely with others. Each project is completely specific to that client,” he explains. Unsurprisingly, Jason is being called in to advise on various areas, from brand identity and collection conception – which entails trend predictions, mood boards, styling and imagery – to design of individual pieces and complete collections, overseeing fit and construction with sample rooms, and relationship management with overseas manufacturers. This exciting stage in what is an exciting and exacting career path, gives him a new-found freedom to work with independent fashion houses, wholesalers, retailers and private clients.
How would you describe your signature style… what inspires you?
My look is versatile with a feminine, pretty and ethereal look but also commercially aware. My own journey I would say is more dark and twisted but very artistic, drawing on old pictures, different cultures, nostalgia and contemporary interpretations. I see beauty in all things!
What are your preferred fabrics and colours and trims?
I love to create all my beading and embroidery from research to keep it original. For example, for Story Bridal, I designed the embellishment for our Boho collection using inspiration from peasants, gypsies and national costumes, old coins, Iranian embroidered jackets, matador boleros and bikinis in Ibiza! Working with clients I’m comfortable with any fabric both couture and commercial; what you do with it is the most important thing.
How involved have you been in the production process?
No collection is complete at the sales stage, there are always modifications and requests from sales agents and retailers, so until it’s in the shops I like to be involved the whole way through so that the product is perfect and jumps off the rail.
What are the biggest changes since you started in the market in design, and in brides’ tastes?
I started in 1997 so there have been very many changes along the way! I do think social media and the younger generation generate hype and success in the way that advertising used to. The Far East is a juggernaut in terms of production which has been great for the industry, but I also think it can take away the individuality of a collection so working within those parameters, as a designer and consultant I can give that individuality and personality back to brands.
Do you think operations like Wed2 are an ongoing threat and how can bridalwear retailers fend them off?
Someone’s going to do it – if not them it will be someone else. There is a particular client for everything. The one thing I love about lecturing is enforcing the importance of individuality and getting one’s personality to shine through.
We all want to sell dresses and what will make the difference for each brand is integrity, individualism and personality. It’s very difficult for retailers because of the competition also coming from surrounding retailers with often three to four shops per town competing for the few brides in the surrounding areas. But there are some amazing retailers out there with very strong drive and it shows in their choice of, and confidence in, their designers and the way they service their clientele.
Since you have moved into design consultancy what have you discovered about today’s manufacturers – what are they looking for? Is it something different that puts them apart from the competition?
Consultancy is such fun because no two brands want the same thing. It could be anything from styling, inspiration, colours and mood boards and illustrations for the upcoming season, embellishment and beading, fit and silhouettes.
I want to give brands their own identity, that’s how you stand out, not chasing the same look and repeating what’s out there, or last season’s best seller. Every brand has its winning numbers which are safe, but then what’s new? What creates the interest and buzz? You will never sell 100% of a collection so some pieces need to serve a purpose, as showstoppers to draw attention to the brand through advertising, social media etc. Every time I did the fashion show at the Harrogate Bridal Show, my intention was to draw people to the stand to see the collection and attract new customers.
Do you get involved in dealing with production for your clients?
I’ve dealt with many production issues over the years so I can offer many solutions to complex problems. I’ve spent months at a time in China designing and creating multiple collections so I’ve addressed practically every problem that a factory could throw at you. While I was there I’d often be asked to help out with other collections that were to be viewed by other clients or just being a critical eye.
What do you see as the next big thing – for brides, maids, MOB etc?
I’m loving the clean lines I’m seeing in bridal at the moment. The younger designers are being bolder and more fashion forward.
I’ve been doing a lot of fashion recently and I think MOB and occasionwear will get more adventurous and slightly younger. I’ve been to a lot of events recently and been inspired by what I’ve seen women wearing and how they want to feel as well as look. If I was a menswear designer I’d do more of a styled look. Men want to feel like they’re in Peaky Blinders.
Describe your dream brief.
I’m excited by people with a vision. I make that a reality by understanding them, their brand and what they want to portray. I’m like a chameleon; once I understand them then it’s my job to give them what they want, accompanied with lots of other options they have not considered.
Want to talk to the man? You can reach Jason on +44 (0)7511 936 648 or firstname.lastname@example.org