High fashion and couture aren’t usually terms ones hears when discussing the style scene of Boston. However, talented designers are emerging from the collegiate haunts and neighborhoods of Bean Town with fierce looks that look every bit as posh as those walking the runways of New York City or Paris. Boston Fashion Week celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with a bang last week (September 24-October 1, 2010) showing more collections from local artists and designers than ever before and proving that our fare city is rising as a contender in the fashion world.
One of the design groups presenting for the first time was JET 42-71, featuring nearly all-black looks for the jet-setting woman. JET 42-71 is a design team comprised of the skills and talents of Thomas Kwong, Julie Kontos, and Eileen Apelian who worked together to produce a collection of pieces for the woman who knows and understands fashion, and above all, isn’t afraid to make a statement. I was fortunate enough to talk with these budding fashionistas about their stellar collection, and below is an excerpt from the interview… enjoy!
Key to interview: J= Julie Kontos; E= Eileen Apelian; T= Thomas Kwong
1. Please introduce yourselves. Name, age, (if you wish) fashion background, and what you’re currently doing as a career.
J: My name is Julie Kontos. I’m 26, and an ’07 graduate of Lasell College’s Fashion Design & Production major. I’ve been working as a Clothing Designer/Graphic Artist for the U.S. Navy since graduation (three years).
E: I’m Eileen Apelian, 27 years-old, and I graduated from Lasell College with a B.S. in fashion design and production. I am currently working for the U.S. Navy in Natick, Massachusetts, as a clothing designer and product manager for Navy, USPS and protective clothing.
T: I’m Thomas Kwong, 25, and I earned my bachelors from Lasell College in Fashion Design and Production. I currently work at Louis Vuitton as an Accessories Specialist.
2. How did you all meet?
J: Thomas and I met at Lasell, we had many design courses together and were in the same graduating class. Eileen also graduated from Lasell a few years ahead of us, but I didn’t meet her until I started interning at Navy Clothing & Textile Research Facility (NCTRF) where we both currently work.
E: I met Thomas through Julie, and Julie through work.
T: I had art and fashion classes with Julie and became close. I met Eileen through Julie.
3. Where did the label’s name, JET 420-71, originate?
J: JET comes from Julie, Eileen, Thomas and 42-71 are the coordinates for the Boston area. We thought the coordinates sort of went along with the whole jet-setting theme that we came up with from our names!
E: JET means Julie, Eileen Thomas and 42-71 are the coordinates for the Boston area
T: JET is our initials put together and 42-71 are the coordinates of Boston, MA.
4. What inspired the collection?
J: Our current collection was actually a “toned down” version of our last collection that we each designed three pieces for. Our original line looked more like three separate collections, so we wanted to combine our design styles/ideas to make a more cohesive ready-to-wear collection out of it.
E: Originally, we did a line in woven and decided to make a ready-to-wear line in knit. We scaled down our pieces into separates and made them hip yet wearable. We kept the JET-setter in mind with clothes that will travel and pack well.
T: Originally, we were inspired by birds and auras. But for our Domestic line, we took out the feathers so the pieces could be more wearable. The pieces became more geometric and exaggerated.
5. Why all black?
J: There are touches of gray, and even some pink, in this current collection, but the black came from Thomas’ original inspiration for his first three pieces in ’09.
E: We reinvented the little black dress but included a little color this time (gray) to break up the black. Black is just classic, and always modern.
T: Originally, we were inspired by black because we wanted people to focus on the silhouettes, details, and textures of our garments. But for our domestic line we added a little gray and we even made some tanks in light pink for a splash of color.
6. Who are you dressing? What type of woman would shop your collection?
J: We are designing for the fashion forward jet-setter. Someone who is not afraid to stand out in a crowd but also wants to be comfortable while traveling! Our target market is women from about 18-35 yrs old.
E: I am dressing the woman who isn’t afraid to showcase her fashion personality, someone who is willing to look different than everyone else. Dressing the busy woman that jet-sets to where she needs to be. Her clothes are fashionable but travel well; she always looks together wherever she goes.
T: We are dressing women who are not afraid of fashion. She would be very confident in what she wears and she would live and breathe fashion.
7. What situation or event do you see your pieces being worn to?
J: Our clothes can be worn while traveling (they’re knit, so they’re really comfortable!), out around town, day or night depending on how you accessorize them. This current collection can really be worn wherever.
E: Parties, out on the town.
T: Our pieces can be worn for anything. We have three lines: our Domestic line is more wearable for everyday, our International line is more detailed and show stopping, and our Private line which is made-to-order pieces. Because of our three lines I can see our pieces being worn for work, a day or night out, and to a black tie event.
8. What inspired the collection?
J: The ready-to-wear collection was inspired by the original collection of show pieces. The show piece collection was inspired by birds/feathers/black/tulle.
E: We collectively brainstorm ideas and then compromise on things so they work together. A couple of the designs were taken from Julie’s personal woven line which transitioned nicely into black knit. We were inspired by futuristic secretaries.
T: See above.
9. What was your favorite and least favorite aspect of creating this collection?
J: My favorite part was the end result: The Emerging Trends Fashion Show and the photo shoot we did afterward. My least favorite part was trying to coordinate who did what and where and when. It’s difficult to plan time to work together when we all have very different schedules.
E: Favorite part was that we weren’t doing a line alone and could each do something to get it done. Least favorite part would be fusing three different fashion styles into a collective line; it’s not always easy getting three people to agree on one design concept.
T:I love the whole runway show production and the creative process of making the garments. My least favorite would be the production of the garments like pattern making and sewing.
10. Was this your first Boston Fashion Week?
J: This was our first Boston Fashion Week. Last year we did a show just before BFW.
E: Yes, but we did a show in a fashion show the week before Boston Fashion Week last year which was held at District, in Boston.
T: Yes, it was out big debut.
11. What is in store for your next collection?
J: I think we are planning to take some time off from JET 42-71 and build on our own individual collections. I’m already working on a dress for my next show, Catwalk for a Cure at Liberty Hotel on October 14th.
E: Still riding the high of this last one. It was incredible and hectic. We’ll have to see what crazy thing will inspire us next.
T: It’s top secret!
12. Just for fun: Are there any trends you hate right now? Trends you love for Fall/Winter?
J: Trends I hate: When people wear the trend wrong like a tunic as a dress when it clearly looks like you’re missing your pants! I saw that twice just this week! Or leggings with a short shirt. Trends I love for Fall/Winter: Boots! over the knee, below the knee, booties, love them all …almost… Uggs should be for one practical use only.
E: Love the menswear for women trend or military. I don’t like fur, I just don’t like how it looks.
T: Nothing I hate in particular, but I love that fur is coming back this year!
13. Style tips for today’s 18-35 year-olds.
J: Style tips for today’s 18-35 yr olds: Be yourself!! I’m so tired of the VS Pink sweats, Ugg boots, and Coach bag wearers you see everywhere! Why does everybody want to blend in?!
E: Don’t try too hard. Fashion is supposed to be effortless.
T: Find clothes that fit and be confident wearing them.
14. If you could banish one horrible fashion from the world, what would it be?
J: If I could banish something: I’m not a fan of monogram/logo anything. I think people should buy a clothing item or accessory if they find it beautiful. To me it’s all art. I do like my name brands, I just don’t want my outfit to scream their name. Vintage items are my one exception. I love the look of an old Louis Vuitton bag!
E: Cargo pants, no one needs pockets on their thighs… ever.
T: Denim skirts! They are horrible!
15. Favorite designers?
J: My favorite designers: For casual, Marc Jacobs, and for dresses/gowns, Oscar de la Renta.
E: Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, and BCBG.
T: I love Jeremy Scott, Alexander McQueen, and of course Marc Jacobs (for Louis Vuitton, of course!)
16. Favorite fashion magazines?
J: My favorite fashion magazines: I like W and I love nymag.com to keep up-to-date with the latest fashion news and designer shows.
E: Elle and Vogue.
T: Details, GQ, and Vogue.
17. Who do you think will win this season’s Project Runway?
J: Hmm.. I think Andy will win Project Runway. But I also like Mondo and April.
E: Love Mondo! His quirky fashion just works!
T: I haven’t been watching since they moved to Lifetime unfortunately!