Women’s fashion has a young and refreshing designer that is pushing things to the edge of chic. With designs that will please a smart woman with a touch of attitude, and a great sense of humor, Jessica Yuen of Bedford Street Laundry is, in my humble opinion, killing it. For our second installation to the Tucked Interview Series we get up close and personal with a designer on the rise. She gives us some insight on her lines, her aspirations, and her inspirations. I have scoured Google looking for anyone that has gotten this close, and I am proud to say Tucked.the blog. is the first!
Designer, Jessica Yuen
Justin Bridges of Tucked: As a new designer, what lead you to go directly into launching your own line versus working for a top fashion house first?
Jessica Yuen of Bedford Street Laundry: Well, I’ve been working for other designers since the age of 18 in one form or another. My plan was always to work a few years for an established brand after graduating and be financially comfortable before starting my own line.
Unfortunately, I graduated in 2008 and job options were extremely limited. So I continued to intern for Ohne Titel and Albright Fashion Library and picked up a lot of freelance work. I must’ve taken on at least 25 different projects between graduation and the start of Bedford Street Laundry. Assistant styling at NYTimes’ T Magazine, producing custom pieces for Diddy Dirty Money and crazy Japanese music videos, personal styling, seamstressing, samplemaking, you name it, I’ve done it. It was a blast and in hindsight, definitely helped me figure out what I ultimately wanted to do which is design. August of 2009, I decided to take the leap and start my own line instead of waiting for the recession to blow over and a full-time design job to come around.
Tucked: Your fall line that is in stores now looks very body conscious, who would you say you design for?
JY: That’s always so tough to pinpoint. I definitely like to think that she (or he! I’ve got nothing but love for the androgynous boys) is smart and has a bit of an attitude. Definitely a sense of humor as well (visor-butt pants anyone?). Although, all the positive feedback I’ve gotten thus far has been from people with such disparate backgrounds and interests that it’s becoming difficult to define the Bedford Street Laundry customer. That either means the clothes are unfocused or they appeal to a really broad spectrum. Hopefully the latter, haha.
Tucked: Not to be repetitive, but your about page on the website says you don’t really have inspiration for your creations. Is that true?
JY: Well it’s true in the sense that I don’t sit down and say things like, “Ok, this season I’m going to do a collection based on my trip to [insert name of exotic foreign country]” or “I’m totally in a 60’s vibe.” When I was writing my bio, I was thinking of all the silly backstage interviews after any show and the designer goes into a grandiose spiel about the inspiration when the truth is always, “It’s just what I and/or my team was feeling at the time.” I understand that it has to do with being press-friendly and marketable but the truth is so under-appreciated.
What I’m always drawn to is texture so my direction is largely dictated by what fabrics I come across. Otherwise, my inspiration comes from everywhere and I have little to no control over what infiltrates my brain. For fall, I can honestly say there was absolutely no conscious inspiration. I started with a sketch of the leather jacket and re-explored some shapes I worked with for my senior thesis and it just kind of flowed from there.
Tucked: Your designs are incredibly creative, so I’m sure you are always geared towards future work; any idea on what will come next?
JY: Thank you! I’m finishing up Spring 2011 at the moment. The inspiration for Spring came together on its own. I found this deadstock vintage fisherman’s vest in Hong Kong over the winter that I thought would be great to remake as a dress for spring. Then, there was the BP oil spill. Everyday I’d read about all the commercial fishermen that were left financially devastated and I guess it really struck a chord with me. I eventually found myself researching shrimp trawlers and fishing boats. Doesn’t sound very “fashion,” but I promise the end result to be awesome. Hopefully, we’ll be picked up by more stores this season.
Tucked: My expertise is in menswear, do you think you’ll ever branch out across genders?
JY: I’d LOVE to do menswear but I probably don’t know enough about men’s tailoring. I’d never be able to compete with the likes of Thom Browne. I also think the average guy looks best in jeans and a t-shirt so perhaps if I were to do a men’s line, I’d limit it to knits.
Tucked: What advice would you give to other young designers itching to carve out there own niche in the fashion world?
JY: • Be kind to the people who never get any credit; samplemakers, patternmakers, seamstresses, interns (if you’re fortunate enough to have them), etc. Smile and pay them on time. They are just as, if not more, important than any editor or buyer because without these relationships, you have no product.
• Bring something new to the table. There are more than enough derivative designs out there and word ALWAYS gets around.
Tucked: Do you have any idols in the industry, either designers or just fashion icons?
JY: Favorite designers of all time include Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, Hussein Chalayan, Rick Owens and Nicolas Ghesquiere. Completely untouchable. And the duos at both Proenza Schouler and Ohne Titel will definitely go down in history as greats. They’ve put out such consistently beautiful collections since their inceptions. It boggles the mind.
Style icons would include Yoon of Ambush for being way too cool for school, Anna Dello Russo of Vogue Nippon for her fearlessness, and Christine Centenera of Harper’s Bazaar Australia for never falling off the tightrope that divides chic and skanky.
Tucked: Do you wear your own designs? How would you define your style?
JY: Absolutely. I find that the things I wear the most are things I’ve made specifically for myself and I can’t tell you how hard it is to not wear my own samples before the rest of the collection is done.
My style is kind of erratic. I’m 5’2 on a good day and have zero curves. I like being a different character all the time. In high school I wore mostly Ecko Red, Air Force 1’s and Timberland boots. My style has changed quite a bit since those days. Sometimes, I like to look like a bad ass in my vintage F1 army jacket and raggedy Doc Martens I’ve had since I was 12. Sometimes, I’ll opt for skirts/shorts that challenge the limits of public decency. Usually a mix of two. Depends on my mood and the weather of course.
When it comes to jewelry, lately I’ve been throwing vintage pieces together with found objects like ball chains, and weird nuts and washers my dad collects and my grandmother’s thimble as a ring. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to wear big gold chola earrings but I don’t have my ears pierced.
Tucked: What are your future aspirations both in career and life?
JY: Essentially, I’d like to see Bedford Street Laundry sustain itself. Short-term goal: Be carried at Opening Ceremony. Long-term goal: Have a flagship boutique at 62 Bedford St. in the West Village (location of the original Bedford Street Laundry). Life goals: Make my parents proud, be happy, own an apartment in Paris, avoid child-rearing, get Amy Winehouse sober enough to put out an album, and save the polar bears.
With that, we’d like to thank Jessica Yuen of Bedford Street Laundry for participating in our interview series. Please stay tuned for more installations of the Tucked Interview Series as I continue to reaffirm the goals of this blog which you can read about in the about us section.
Please note that no photos used in this post were taken by Tucked LLC. For inquiries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit Jessica Yuen at BedfordStreetLaundry.com.