Interview with Jennifer Ison, founder of fashion brand Jennifer Anne

Read how lawyer Jennifer Ison was inspired to start her fashion brand, Jennifer Anne, during a gap year from her career – and by her own struggle to find high end clothes designed for petite women.

What’s your career background?

I have worked for most of my career as a lawyer, starting out in the city in corporate finance. Then, after a spell abroad, I switched to specialising as an employment lawyer and set up my own boutique practice with a former colleague.

In 2014 I wanted a change in direction, so I took a ‘gap year’ and studied for a postgraduate diploma in history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. It was a fantastic year and interesting that out of a total of 30 students on the course, there were eight lawyers!

I had already had my business idea before I started and when I finished the course I was determined to follow it through.

How do you balance work and children?

Although I only officially launched Jennifer Anne in March of this year, I was working on the preparation for a couple of years before that.

I work from home which makes it much easier to fit everything in with family life. When I started on the preparation stage, my children were already older with two away at university during term time and only one at home.

The days were still punctuated by the rhythm of the school day and I tried where possible to be around after school and in the evenings. It is not always easy of course but I am very lucky in that my three boys are all good at cooking and sometimes they cook in the evenings for me!

It was definitely harder when they were younger and I was running my own law practice in an office and not from home.

What is Jennifer Anne?

Jennifer Anne is a new womenswear brand exclusively designed and manufactured in the UK for petite women. This brand has arisen out of the recognition of a real need for high-end clothes that are designed from their very beginning to fit and suit the frame of a petite woman.

It is not just a question of sleeves and trouser legs needing to be turned up – petite women are continually faced with clothes that are not correctly proportioned for them at all. We have some fabulous dresses in the collection that make petite women look very elegant and superbly dressed.

The brand is sold principally online, with the range also available in Gallery 5, a boutique shop in Islington.

What has been your biggest challenge in starting your own business?

Where to start? I had no background in fashion so I had to learn everything from the beginning. I took a four day course at the London College of Fashion entitled ‘Starting your own fashion label’ and went on from there, structuring the brand, sketching out the first collection, finding a designer, sourcing fabrics and a manufacturer and then dealing with the whole ecommerce side.

I think the biggest challenge was finding a manufacturer. When you are starting out as a new brand with no track record, many manufacturers do not want to deal with you or take you seriously. I was determined to have the collection manufactured in the UK and was really pleased to find a high-end manufacturing studio in London to make the first collection.

And what has been your proudest moment?

When the website went live on the first day it was a really proud moment. I had worked really hard to put the whole concept together and had just taken it a day at a time to get it to the point when it was absolutely ready to launch.

The website looked fantastic and really professional. Then, when the first order came in almost immediately after the site went live, I thought there it is, my new brand up and running.

What is the most rewarding thing about having your own business?

Knowing that I am helping other petite women solve the problem of finding quality clothes that not only fit them well but show off their frame to their best advantage. I treasure the wonderful feedback from customers and their encouragement to extend the range and develop the brand.

Do you have any advice for other mums looking to start their own business from home?

Find something you are passionate about and be determined. All things are possible and you will never know if you could have succeeded if you don’t try.

Certainly working from home is a huge advantage in terms of maximising your time and being there for your children. Don’t ignore the fact that children are in the main, incredibly proud of their mothers going ahead and building a business. You will be a great role model for them – both for sons and daughters.

So do all your planning, take a deep breath and make a start!

You can find out more about Jennifer Anne on their website.