Staying true to its philosophy, niche brand Jupe By Jackie is showcasing the beauty of a centuries-old handcraft in a modern, fresh way.
Owner, Jackie Villevoye, is passionate about creating opportunities for her skilled craftsman in a contemporary market to ensure their handiwork is not a dying art. Every year Jupe By Jackie hopes to engage a bigger audience in appreciating the beauty and relevance of hand embroidery in contemporary living.
Jackie started Jupe By Jackie in 2010 with the initial idea of making ties for women. “I soon realised when I began my business if I was going to achieve the result I envisaged I needed to create the fabric; and that fabric needed to be handcrafted. It was the beginnings of my journey into hand embroidery.”
Since then, Jackie has expanded into menswear and in January 2017 she launched a homewares collection comprising one-of-a-kind cushions, throws, and poufs. In the space of seven years she has built an enviable reputation. Select pieces from her fashion collections are stocked internationally; carried by, among others, Colette, 10 Corso Como and United Arrows. Since 2013, Jackie has had an ongoing collaboration with Comme des Garçons.
Based in The Netherlands and India’s Uttah Pradesh, Jackie travels to the latter region 10 times a year. “During my first visit to India I was searching for the little puzzle pieces to bring my designs to reality. I visited a small atelier where I showed a craftsman a photo of an intricate, hand embroidered gown. I asked him to copy a small part. He concentrated, put the needle in his hand and started to work. After finishing, he took the cloth off the frame and showed me the result. I gazed at a leaf with nerves and sculpted borders in a three colour combination. A big tear rolled down my cheek. I instinctively knew that very moment I had found a very special treasure. I have been collaborating with this man ever since.”
“Working in India is not for the faint-of-heart. Yet, the challenges of dealing with the heat, mosquitos, and the chaotic circumstances are far outweighed by the joy of collaborating with master craftsmen. Most of the tears I shed are because of the mind-blowing skills these artisans master. I can have a head bursting with ideas and designs but without the genius people we work with, we are nothing.”
“Working with embroidery craftsmen has enriched my life enormously. Personally, I found 160 new friends in India. Unfortunately there is the language barrier – I don’t speak Indian and their English is poor – so I hug them and give compliments with my hands to express my big admiration for what they are making. All the embroiderers are in my heart and each time I return it feels like home, seeing all their smiling faces. There is a lot of respect from both sides.”
“Professionally I learn a lot from them. They give me inside information in showing all the variety of stitches they have mastered. Each stitch is the base for another character; a great file from which I can start my designs.”
“When I started in India I had to explain that “less is more”. Five little deep red flowers on a navy cloth is beautiful, however they totally did not agree. Now, slowly, slowly, the craftsmen I collaborate with are beginning to understand my less is more approach and by leaving out the bling the real design can be seen.”
In looking closely at the intricate hand stitching one can easily appreciate the level of craftsmanship. Along with the incredible colour palettes, the stitching brings to life the gorgeous designs for which Jupe By Jackie is renowned. Each piece, whether an item of clothing, accessory, or homeware is a unique handmade work of art.
“My craftsmen admire what we are making and are very proud to be part of this company. Bringing the hand embroidered pieces out of India to Japan, the USA, Australia and Europe is an exciting process for them. After all these years we learned their skills merged with my talent for style is fabulous for making beautiful things, and the joint effort makes me very, very proud.”
“Sadly, globalisation is contributing to the slow disappearance of time-honoured craft like hand embroidery, one of many traditional crafts passed down from generation to generation,” says Jackie. “India is developing fast. The young technology-savvy generation is reaching out to a bigger world. We have to watch out that handcraft doesn’t become a rare art form and look for new ways to encourage more people who are good in working with their hands into viable employment opportunities. Fighting the power of the fashion giants is also challenging, especially the huge amounts of money big brands pour into marketing.”
Much is documented about modern society’s salacious desire to own the latest, greatest “IT” item encouraging wilful blindness amongst a sizeable proportion of consumers and manufacturers to the time, effort and skill being squeezed to drive down costs to maximise profits and please shareholders; not to mention the working conditions of those producing these goods. In addition, mass-produced fashion has a life span of a few weeks and the exact same high street brands in London can be found in other major and minor overseas cities. When it comes to consumerism, we are increasingly becoming a homogeneous society.
Granted there are ethical trade and fair trade movements who help businesses and consumers navigate their way to making more informed decisions. However, the existence and work of these organisations over decades has not led to widespread behavioural change. It seems to be a long, slow process to educate our ‘throwaway’ society.
Of course, there are many labels who should be commended for making a concerted effort to conduct their business ethically. Jupe By Jackie is one such label. “Only with increased awareness, can we begin to guarantee the jobs for artisan craftsmen and create a long-term and bright future.”
Images – Feature image: Tagore cushion detail. Clockwise, from top left: Yawkey cushion detail; Lalique throw detail; Farnsworth cushion detail; Moma Red cushion detail; Mai Tai CC cushion detail; Flinders CC cushion detail; Louvre cushion detail; and Leaf pouf.
All images supplied © Image Copyright, Jupe By Jackie.