Since 2012, Jessie Andrews has launched four Insta-famous brands across a variety of categories including jewelry (Bagatiba), swimwear (Basic Swim), skin care (Petiue) and ready-to-wear (Jeu Illimité). Today, Andrews expands her empire with the launch of denim for Jeu Illimité, offering two vintage-inspired, high-waisted jeans made from deadstock denim.
While Andrews does not have any “formal training” in design, she described her interest in fashion stemming from her days as a model, most notoriously for her days at American Apparel, but also recently having walked Roberta Einer’s fall and spring 2019 London shows. The designer’s background has included wearing a multitude of hats in front of and behind the camera, but her primary focus now is sustainably focused designer and chief executive officer.
“No formal training,” she remarked over the phone. “I kind of love that because I think of Virgil [Abloh]. He didn’t have formal fashion training, he came from architecture. If you care about something, it’s almost more important having passion about fashion than learning all the tedious training.…I learn so much about washing fabric, more than I’ve probably ever learned. I’m having real-life experience with this. Learning and having mistakes.…I’m literally at my knitter right now picking up sweaters.”
Speaking to all of her brands, Andrews expressed, “the older I get, the more passionate I get about sustainability and exclusivity.” When it comes to year-and-a-half-old brand Jeu Illimité, sustainability to the designer means using deadstock and vintage fabrics for her designs, instead of designing new fabrics, which are produced locally in Los Angeles and offered in limited quantities. In addition, the line’s direct-to-consumer web site has offered full transparency on its easy, cool-girl staples such as blazers, graphic Ts, dresses, accessories and more through listing the limited available quantities with fabric information. Denim is no exception; citing both styles as sourced in Los Angeles, her black deadstock denim originated from Mexico and blue from Taiwan.
For the designer, sustainability and exclusivity go hand-in-hand. “I don’t want to create another brand just to create another brand. Each of them has a reason.” Jeu Illimité includes small batch wardrobe staples that Andrews herself wants to wear, citing herself as a “consumer” as much as “designer.” Per style, a run of 30 tank tops, five specialty sweaters or 60 dresses (across varying sizes) could exist on the brand’s site at one time.
Limiting the quantity of each piece — whether it’s color, print, silhouette or size — gives an exclusive allure to the item while cutting down on overproduction and waste. Andrews is also conscious about pricing — a majority of her rtw and accessories ranges from $100 to $220, with some tanks and Ts in the lower $80s with specialty, 10 of 10, novelty sweaters up to $520.
“I want sustainability to be accessible to people, but also exclusive. I don’t want to see everyone in the same dress…like a Coachella situation,” she remarked, adding: “No brand is perfect, but taking that initiative and first step towards being sustainable; you’ve got to make sustainability cool.”
Andrews’ denim offering is certainly cool, but still timeless. “I wanted to make a classic jean I could wear every day, but I could also wear in two sizes bigger and it be a baggy boyfriend jean. I made it that way, it could be dual-wear.” The vintage-inspired jeans are high-waisted, no-stretch, 100 percent cotton, and are offered at $220, with a run of 150 of each color (black and classic blue), spaced out between sizes 25 to 30, on the brand’s web site. The designer also placed a few styles in her Los Angeles pop-up.
Customizing the perfect “worn look” — whiskering around the crotch, the perfect wash and fit — while adding her own special details — custom-brushed metal buttons and a debossed leather back patch were all important processes Andrews learned and customized throughout the process.
“Once this denim run runs out, I’ll reproduce but with another dead-stock denim, so it won’t be the exact same denim. That goes back into the exclusivity…it’ll always be a little different. Maybe the color will be a bit off — I’m trying to get it almost exact — but that’s the variation when you’re getting a unique piece.”