Janie Bryant, the Emmy-winning costume designer, who is best known for designing costumes for “Mad Men” and “Deadwood,” and has also designed for “The Last Tycoon,” “The Romanoffs,” and “It,” among other TV and film projects, is stepping out on her own.
She has designed a new collection called JXB, which is aimed at the curvy customer. The direct-to-consumer brand will launch later this month at Brandjxb.com and Williams has feature sizes 12 to 24. It will follow a seasonless model and will have releases of core essentials and new statement pieces every six to eight weeks.
“I really wanted to create the collection for the curvy girl because I felt that there was a huge gap in the market for luxury clothing for sizes 12 to 24,” said Bryant, executive vice president and creative director of JXB, on a visit to New York.
In making this decision, Bryant said she was inspired by women around the country to whom she has spoken while doing a book tour for her style guide “The Fashion File” and emceeing fashion shows.
“There would always be Q&A’s afterward, and the curvy girls would ask, ‘How do I look like Joan [the “Mad Men” character portrayed by Christina Hendricks]? When are you going to design a line for us? We need cute clothes, we need good quality, fantastic fit, luxury fabrics.’ It was always that woman who was always talking to me about their lack of fashion,” said Bryant. “They really inspired me to create the collection.”
The plus-size market is worth over $21 billion and represents 10 percent of all retail sales. With 67 percent of American women sized 14 and above, the company feels there shouldn’t be a shortage of options to choose from.
Bryant, who studied fashion design at American College for the Applied Arts, is no stranger to fashion design. Her first “Mad Men” collaboration was with Brooks Brothers, she designed three “Mad Men” collections with Banana Republic, she designed a collection with Black Halo, and designed all the uniforms for the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. “I’ve been doing a lot of collaborations with different companies, but for a long time I really wanted to have my own collection,” said Bryant.
Denim manufacturer Roy Robinson serves as chief executive officer of JXB. Robinson was the original founder of Yellow Bus Express, LLC, where he worked with brands such as Free City, Three Dots, MadeWorn and Lisa Kline. Andrew Zhu of Ningbo Longfei Import and Export Ltd. is an investor and is also an investor in Buck Mason, the men’s wear brand. She has 10 people working at the company, including two technical designers, a designer, denim specialist and marketing people.
According to Bryant, JXB is a merging of two things. One is her name, Janie Bryant, and the X, which means “unite,” and of course, two XXs for females. “We’re using the X as this amazing platform to bring women together,” she said.
For its launch campaign, JXB will feature Marquita Pring as the face of the brand and influencer. JXB will introduce #unXte, a social campaign and invitation to join a community of women of all shapes and sizes. JXB brand ambassadors will kick off the campaign on social media and encourage others to join the movement. In addition to Pring, other style ambassadors on the web site are Tara Lynn and Saffi Karina.
Among some of the key pieces are patent leather Moto jackets, a Marquita wrap dress with ruching detail and pin tucks, stretch leather leggings; pink cashmere sweaters with open back and flutter sleeves, a knife-pleated shirt with details on the cuff and collar, and palazzo pants with stretch leather yoke and skirts. Bryant is using Japanese Kurabo denim, Mongolian cashmere and Chinese silks. The brand, which is based in Los Angeles, is manufactured in Los Angeles, Peru and China.
According to Bryant, she anticipates bestsellers will be cashmere sweaters (especially the belted cardigan), silks (like the Marquita silk dress), and the leathers, in particular the jacket, leggings and skirt. Retail prices start at $98 for the cotton tees and go up to $480 for knits, $660 for the silks, and $1,100 for the leathers. Denim will start at $298.
When Bryant designs, she keeps certain things in mind for the curvy woman. For example, the jeans have a back rise that is higher and the waistbands fit very specifically on the waist. The front panel contours the body. The premium denim has stretch, and the tops have open necklines and three-quarter-length sleeves. She said curvy women want to show off parts of their bodies, and three-quarter-length sleeves are a good way to show their arms at the narrow part. She also designs clothes with a décolleté and things that accentuate the waist and have embellishments in flattering places. For example, the jeans have embellishments on the ankle. “It’s all about being flattering to the female form,” she said.
“Curvy women are always conscientious about their arms, and this sleeve is super flattering to them. With the open back, it adds sexiness to it,” said Bryant, showing off one of the tops.
Pring, who was dressed in the Marquita wrap dress for the interview, said, “When it comes to curvy women, we’re still battling this thing that we’re not getting to know the customer. A curvier woman wants options. She wants to show a little skin. She wants things that are more fitted. We’re still in this world of wanting to cover her up. We’re just assuming that she doesn’t want to have these amazing options. One of the things I love about this collection is there’s a diverse range, with lots of different options. There’s something for everyone. You can be covered like this beautiful pleated top, or you can show a little skin with the wrap dress,” said Pring.
“The whole idea behind the collection is being flirty, feminine and figure-defining,” added Bryant.
Bryant is also offering her customers the opportunity to exchange their jeans for free if their sizes change throughout the year. That is part of their philanthropy project to donate the old pair.
“I really wanted to focus on curvy right now. I feel like we will expand to all sizes down the road,” said Bryant. Eventually she’d like to expand into lingerie and ath-leisure. Their fit model is size 14. “To me, that’s super important, because fit is ultimately everything,” said Bryant, who’s aiming the collection toward a woman 22 to 45 years old.
Bryant recalled that when she was designing “Mad Men,” she had to design large-size apparel for one of the characters who was a size 24. “I designed and made a beautiful suit for her,” said Bryant. “Fashion is my love. Fashion and film,” she said. Since April, when she finished “The Romanoffs,” she’s been working on JXB. “I love it. It’s been really amazing. It’s been a couple of years in the making to make this transition,” she said.
Having designed costumes for so many different characters throughout her career, she undoubtedly had to develop a knack for fit.
“I feel very blessed to have the knowledge to have worked with all different shapes, sizes, men women and children. Throughout my career, I’ve designed and fit every type of shape imaginable. I’ve designed every type of figure imaginable. That knowledge and experience have helped me design the collection,” she said.