|I first visited Jill Andersons
store about 2 1/2 years ago in the early fall. I had been wandering around the East
Village looking at the boutiques sprouting up, when I came upon Jills window display
of gorgeous dresses. I was warmly welcomed by Jill, who treated me with such kindness and
patience, as if I was an old friend. The kind of reception one usually doesnt
stumble upon in New York City stores. That day I bought a gray pinstripe long fitted
jacket, which has been a mainstay in my wardrobe ever since. I was hooked on her clothes
from that moment on. Jills designs are sexy, chic, dont go out of style
because theyre classic, and they are appropriate for whatever occasion, but never
ever boring. They are also so versatile. You can funk them up, or wear them in a totally
traditional way. One day I stopped by to say hello to Jill, and she was wearing one of her
long black skirts in silk with a vintage cheerleader top over it. I just thought that was
such a cute idea and it looked great.
Jills clothes are both modern yet evocative of fashion history. Her dresses that remain popular season after season (though done in different colors and fabrics Jill uses both vintage and modern fabrics), are her suffragette suit and her Italian widows dress. Some of her pieces, especially when they are combined with other elements of her line, have a sort of timeless monastic ascetic that I adore. This spring, Jill did some of her Forties style dresses in fabulous vintage fabrics. Her vision celebrates womanhood and all its shapes and forms. Her clothes look great on teenagers, women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and women in their 50s and 60s. They look great on petit women, curvaceous women, tall thin women; in other words everyone can wear her creations. Jill Anderson has an impressive list of celebrity clients along with her loyal clients. Many of them are her "pant groupies" Jills pants are cut great. I saw several pairs being tried on by our three models, all of whom were different heights and body sizes, and the pants fit everyone perfectly.
I can certainly understand becoming a Jill groupie; I think Ive become one myself. When we were over at her store right before the shoot, I was looking around at all the delicious summer clothes, and told Jill soon I will need a 12-step program to curtail my Jill Anderson addiction!
Jill Anderson: Looking back at it, I really did not have the nerve to be a designer. I wasnt an entrepreneurial spirit that I thought of. But my ex-husband was. He was Greek. And that was one of the only ways I think that he could convince me to move to Greece, because he said, "Oh, dont worry. Italys right there. Well go get the Italian fabrics and well do the wholesale in the United States." Because they do have production capabilities in Greece, too.
And so we get there, and Im used to a certain kind of setup. So you need a pattern maker. "Oh, we cant afford a pattern maker." So obviously I learned how to make my own patterns really quickly. You know? "We need a sample maker." "No, you get a machine and you do it yourself." You know?
And so I wholesaled to the United States from Greece. And I had a contracted showroom and I did a dress line. It was primarily dresses, not a full line collection at that time. That was the market that Id come from.
But then I got this two hundred and fifty unit order from Bendels.
And it was a confirmed order, and we ordered the fabric and everything, and they cancelled. And my showroom accepted the cancellation and you know there was nothing that we could do. And so we were stuck with all this fabric that we had ordered for this huge purchase order, and what were we going to do?
So we opened up a store. And I just loved it. I loved it, I loved working with the customers. I loved developing my style. I loved seeing what worked on different people and, you know, I did all the production myself. Patterns, cutting, everything. It was pretty much a one woman show.
FF: And when you had the store in Athens, was it similar to the work you do now? Or did you make a big change in the look of your designs?
Jill Anderson: No. Its very, very, very
similar. My Italian widows dress was started there, three years before I even moved
back here. That dress has been good for me for about six and a half years.
But that was the wonderful thing about it. Because all of a sudden my line just started like developing.
And I could try all these neat things and develop them. And I love having a store. And I love doing my own patterns and, you know, developing that way, and trying different things out in the store. I mean doing a line is fun, but whats great fun is doing one dress, and then putting three of them on the floor and just seeing instant reaction.
You know, is this going to fly? Can I do this in different material? Ive got my sewing space full of bolts of material, because when I see something that I love, its like I have to own it. I have to work with it; Im obsessive like that.
Its like other people do with a pair of shoes. You know? But its really true. Its awful. And so Ive got fabrics that are -- you know, that are just waiting for homes.
Its very exciting to me. So I loved doing it.
And then, everything fell apart with my husband and I, and basically I closed the store, packed a few belongings, and moved back to New York all in the space of a month. And I just knew it was either open up a store or be a hotel maid. And you know, something in my gut just said, youre either going to survive this, or youre not.
Coming back, I couldnt complete sentences, you know? So I lucked out and got this store. And again, for the first year, I did all the sewing. I did everything here. And then the second year I hired somebody part time, and grew it from there.
FF: And what year was it that you opened the store on Ninth Street?
Jill Anderson: It was March six -- ninety six.
FF: Is it really just that recently?
Jill Anderson: Yeah, yeah. I flew into New York
February fourth, ninety six. And I opened the store March -- well the funniest thing was
that I had previously met somebody here, a Greek person, who had called me in Greece and
said, you know Im opening up a store in New York. Would you like to do something
together? And so I said, well as it happens everythings falling apart here, so yes.
Now I have an alternative.
So you know thats how it kind of like got me over here. And within two days of getting here, she handed me a contract that said I basically couldnt design outside of the firm. And for as long as the firm was in existence.
And so, even if I got out of the contract, my name could still be used and everything, and I couldnt design. I couldnt work as a designer in the State of New York for as long as this contract -- so you know two days after I got here, Ive got my store fixtures coming on a boat, and no place to put them, and nothing to do.
And so then I just like, okay, well, one foot in front of the other, and I just begged them, instead, to give me the store. I got great press in Greece, so I did this whole little presentation. No credit history here. Just enough money to be able to get the keys. No credit rating, no residence. You know. Nothing.
And I got it. You know, we women will pull together the strength that we need sometimes when we have to.
Jill Anderson: You know when I look back on it, I think, okay, that means that I can definitely get through today. If I did that then, I can do another day of this, you know?
FF: I know. I say that to myself, too. Its like, if Ive faced this down, I can face that down, you know? And it took a lot of courage to do that, having to start all over again essentially.
Jill Anderson: Its like also you can say okay, if I lose it, if I lose this tomorrow, Ill start again -- no matter what happens to me, Ill be able to do something. Thats the thing, when you feel like youre boxed in, and theres nothing that you can do. Thats just what starts me to try to think of solutions, you know?
|Next, Jill's lifescape begins....|