Some of the best stylish trends come from the most unexpected places. Such an unexpected place to consider looking is your closet. Why not bring life to that favorite jean jacket of yours? You know the one that you have had for years, from which you won’t dare part. Or, how about those scarves that you have yet to wear, mainly because you don’t know how to coordinate them. Well, why not re-create that jean jacket with that scarf to make a whole new jacket? That’s what, Founding Designer Kate Fralin of Good Jeans company has been doing for women everywhere – offering recycled style at it’s best.
Since the launch of Fralin’s home-based, custom jean jacket company the spring of 2008, she has created quite a following. Today, Kate shares with readers her take on personal style which should truly be original and custom made, like her brand of custom made jackets, Good Jeans.
Naima Turner: Hi Kate, thank you for joining me today. Tell me, has designing and styling garments always been your calling?
Kate Fralin: Yes and no. I have no formal training yet, I am the classic case of someone who wanted to change up my career path and stumbled upon a concept that I’m very passionate about and that is also very personal. Thankfully, Good Jeans corresponds with a population of women I seem to understand. I was very fortunate to grow up a short ride from Manhattan, and was able to tag along with my Mother who was a voracious shopper and had a keen sense of style. I can remember parking at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, waiting for the bus, and arriving at her favorite destination, Saks Fifth Avenue, and having the time of my life going through the floors with her, My Mother also sewed many of her own designs and I spent countless afternoons on the floor watching her cut out her patterns with her fabric scissors.
Naima Turner: What inspired you to create your first Good Jeans jacket?
Kate Fralin: I had been in the corporate world for 20 years and had just stopped working to start a consulting business. After several trips to the consignment store to clean out my (mostly) staid 80s and 90s looking suits, I looked to the stack of orange boxes, remembering each Hermes scarf and what they had meant to me over the years. Each holiday, my Mother had gifted me with one of these beautiful creations, trying to pass on her devotion to wearing scarves which she did with natural grace and style. My Mom had just recently passed away from a long struggle with Alzheimer’s and I felt as if giving these treasures away would somehow create even more distance from her. I literally took my favorite among the pile and wrapped it inside my faithful Gap jeans jacket and realized I was on to something. I made my first Good Jeans jacket for myself and received such incredible feedback from friends and family that I went on to make several more for other acquaintances and from there, the business was launched.
Naima Turner: Who is the Good Jeans customer?
Kate Fralin: A Good Jeans customer is someone who appreciates classic designs but who wants to preserve their own sense of style and personality. My customers have sent me everything from Lucky Brand, Tory Burch, and Isabel Marant jean jackets — to the classics such as Levi, Gap, and JCrew. As for the inside, I would say overwhelmingly, Hermes scarves make the best lining however, I have done many Good Jeans jackets with Gucci, Ferragamo, Pucci, scarves and even some very clever original scarves coming from organizations such as a Hunt Club in Middleburg, VA. I believe in these tough economic times people are taking stock of what’s important, an item that can be created from an existing piece of clothing that has meaning and history is very compelling.
Naima Turner: How would you describe your personal style?
Kate Fralin: To break it down I would say number one is functional, two is fashionable, and three is comfortable. I need an outfit that I can put on at 6:30 am that will take me from day into night and still look smart and well put together for an evening event. Given how busy women are these days it is so important to stock your closet with pieces that transcend trends, that are classics, and that work on many levels. I remember a quote from Donna Karan which I try to live by when buying clothes – three quarters of your closet should be wearable year round.
Naima Turner: How do you work your designs into your own personal style?
Kate Fralin: Since my earliest memories, I have always incorporated a jean jacket into what I was wearing. I can remember figuring out that a jean jacket looked ‘cool’ with my khaki pants and a white t-shirt in the fall or over a sundress for summer nights at the beach. Fast forward to how and why I thought about creating Good Jeans and that same thinking rings true. My favorite look to compliment a Good Jeans jacket is a pair of skinny pencil leg khaki pants and a James Perse shirt (something that should be a staple in any woman’s wardrobe). For evening, I have a Vince black knit dress that I wear with tall black boots and a Good Jeans jacket. This type of an outfit can take you about anywhere these days. As for splurges, I have my eye on a jean jacket from Burberry…if things go well this fall I’m going for it.
Naima Turner: Do you have any plans on expanding the Good Jeans custom made collection?
Kate Fralin: I have a few ideas that I would like to pursue that incorporate the idea of taking something from your closet and making an original design. For now however, I am focused on creating jean jackets since I believe they will never go out of style.
Naima Turner: Who are some of your celebrity fans and clients?
Kate Fralin: Being based in Washington, DC, can bring its challenges as it relates to reaching out to celebrities. That said, I have had my share of A-List Washingtonians who are clients. I have kept a close watch of who wears jeans jackets among celebrities I admire and would love to see in a Good Jeans jacket. That list includes: Diane Keaton, Reese Witherspoon, Tea Leoni, and Blake Lively, all of whom I admire for their fashion sense.
Naima Turner: What piece of style advice would you like to give women?
Kate Fralin: Wear what works for you and expresses your own personality and is still suitable to your lifestyle and body type. I have been 5’11 since the seventh grade. To be comfortable and confident in what I was wearing and how I was expressing my own personality brought its share of challenges. What I’ve learned over the years, and with some stumbling blocks along the way, is that you have to dress to compliment and accentuate the positive. Again, my Mother from a very young age told me that I wouldn’t be able to wear clothes that were made ‘cheaply.’ She instructed me that, it was always better to pay more for an item that was well designed and would have staying power. I believe that advice shaped my choice of designers and where I shopped and has helped bring value and longevity to some of the investments I’ve made in my wardrobe.
Naima Turner: Choose one: Custom design or mass production of a design. Why?
Kate Fralin: That’s easy…custom! The whole concept behind Good Jeans was to create custom one-of-a-kind jean jackets. Each jacket has its own identity and story within the lining of the jacket. In this age of franchise fashion (as I like to call it) I think creating something that nobody can lay claim to is very exciting.
Naima Turner: What do you consider your best fashion moment?
Kate Fralin: I am fortunate to say that I’ve had many ‘best’ fashion moments thanks to a generous clothing allowance when I was younger, and a healthy fashion budget when I was working full time. None of them compare however, to starting and creating a business in which women get great satisfaction and delight out of receiving their Good Jeans jacket. One close friend, who is a breast cancer survivor and one of my inspirations for starting my business, lost her hair during chemotherapy and wore a special scarf around her head with grace and beauty. She had to attend a special event at the White House and wore this particular scarf around her head forsaking the expensive bob-like wig she had purchased. Thankfully, a year later, her gorgeous hair was back, and she was in remission, and I covertly got my hands on this scarf and created a Good Jeans jacket for her. I have never been so honored and felt more rewarded as seeing her in that jacket. It was truly the highlight of my fashion career thus far.
** Please be sure to check here every Tuesday for Style Q&A with fashion and style icons. You can also follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/stylsimplystate. On Sundays, you can catch my style segment, The Style Groove Report with Naima Turner, during the 1PM EST hour live on Soulful Sundays with Dyana Williams on 107.9 (http://rnbphilly.com).