In the era of Twitter and Tumblr, when anyone with sass, style and a digital camera can become an “It” girl, Jesse Jo Stark leads the pack.
How many other 19-year-old Los Angelenos can claim the mantle of head designer at Chrome Hearts, the biker-inspired jewelry brand that’s favored by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld? Who else culls Seventies-style makeup tips from Cher, her godmother? They probably don’t get music lessons from Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan for their first album as Stark did, either. Never mind that the blogosphere digs Stark’s DIY touch, and that Mark “Cobrasnake” Hunter has tapped her to succeed Cory Kennedy as his muse.
If teen girls envy Stark’s panache, they won’t need to anymore. Starting April 1, Stark will begin selling a collection that she designed with Southern California skate brand Vans. For $6 to $58, women can emulate her look in cropped muscle Ts, black and white creepers, ankle socks with the American flag print and backpacks trimmed with leopard spotted fur straps and an image of Old Glory. The 15 items also display Stark-speak, such as the word “germy” embroidered on the heel of a shoe and the phrase “dig it babe” emblazoned on a T-shirt. While she credited the catchy slogans to a friend, the predilection for Flintstones-worthy fur and dinosaurs came from her seven-year-old siblings, twins Kristian Jack and Frankie Belle.
“I wanted to incorporate a younger, playful vibe,” said Stark, a laid-back tomboy who can’t seem to be bothered to comb her long chestnut-brown hair. She traces her design résumé back to grade school, when she pinned 10 different swatches of leather together to make a bag at the Chrome Hearts factory owned by her parents, Richard and Laurie Stark.
“My parents always told me to trust my instinct,” she said. “I went by how I felt, I guess.”
Vans had a gut reaction when its women’s designer spotted Stark on style blogs such as Bleachblack.com and pitched her the idea of working together. The Vans x Jesse Jo collection will land in 18 PacSun doors, Animal House in Venice Beach, Active in Santa Monica and will also be available on Karmaloop.com.
Stark relishes the prospect of bringing her Hollywood look to the malls where PacSun runs its action sports-themed stores. No matter what their zip code, girls “want to make a statement, for sure,” she said. “My main thing is: Don’t follow, start from scratch and wear what you feel that day.”
Though she talks like a sage stylist, Stark acknowledged that she still has a lot to learn when it comes to designing, and she’s not limiting herself to fashion.
“The other day, we made corn-on-the-cob skewers,” Stark said. (Granted, they are pricey skewers cast out of Chrome Hearts’ signature sterling silver.) “We like to make things that are unnecessary,” she joked. “You got to make those cool things once in a while.”
Spoken like a true “It” girl.