Article: LES REBELLES #001: Jeanette Reza, founder and creative director of Jiu Jie
LES REBELLES #001: Jeanette Reza, founder and creative director of Jiu Jie
Jiu Jie Decor, founded in 2016 by Mexican-American Jeanette Reza after a long love affair with art, fashion and an extended stay in Shanghai.
Reza attended the Polimoda university in Florence with a specialization in tailoring. During this time she spent a semester abroad in Shanghai and stumbled across the mandarin word jiū jié. Which means to band or twist together all knotted up and confused. Which is obviously the epitome and core of her work. The soft sculptures began as an art project, an attempt at a visual explanation for the mandarin word, and developed into a fashion forward home decor sensation. Reza works exclusively with designer deadstock fabrics and apparel forward materials rather than traditional home fabricS to bridge the gap between home, fashion and art in a very unique manner.
We sat down with the uber creative creative director to dive a little deeper into her process and how it all began. From a semester abroad to becoming an award winning home decor designer.
In your own words, where did it all begin? Where did the original inspiration come from?
We launched in 2016, but before that and for the first few years of the company, I worked for apparel companies like Nili Lotan and Bureau Betak. Being immersed in fashion drove me to want to create my own fashion brand. But I never wanted a clothing company because its too much and too much competition. So my first love of fashion blended with my second love of home decor just slowly developed into throw pillows. The company began several years after I got back from Shanghai but I couldn't stop thinking about the mandarin word jie jie and it all just sort of slowly came together.
My first pillows were actually super super long and skinny. I would tie one pillow into several knots, really twisting and contorting the shape into a very lumpy artisanal object. The original shapes were way too difficult to produce, it took forever to get the polyfill into the thin tube, so I developed the shape into what it is today. I needed a shape that can grow with my business.
Speaking of your development process, you produce everything in your East Village studio, why is local manufacturing important to you and your brand?
I am very very particular about our quality. I have done a little bit of outside development and found it difficult to find a factory that can meet our steep standards. All the pillows have invisible zippers that need to be set straight, our stuffing needs to be extremely densely packed in order to get the right shape when knotting and the main labels need to be very precisely hand sewn on top. So for the time being all the manufacturing needs to be done in house for quality control. I also love putting money back into the community and creating jobs for other young artists. So the in-house manufacturing is really a win win.
Our signature question at Les Belles, when do you feel most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when around my pug, Choche, he’s the center of my world. No one looks at me the way he does and I love him so much.
What would you say entrepreneurship has taught you?
Omg what hasn't it taught me haha. I suppose mostly you need very thick skin. It’s a very difficult path to embark on especially as a minority woman. My company is fully self funded so it requires a lot of strategizing and very careful allocation of funds. I’ve also always felt like entrepreneurship has been falsely depicted by the media as very glamorous and a really good time with lots of benefits. But this isn't true at all, it's very lonely and requires a lot of sacrifice and constant attention. Dedication is key. I love my brand and wouldn't trade it for anything but it's harder than I expected.
Of course it's a very difficult journey, but you’ve won a lot of awards along the way, you must be doing something right.
Yes, my brand was awarded 'it' home accessory by W magazine, nominated for Product of the Year award by Dezeen magazine, and most recently, we won the Cleverest Award from AD magazine. These recognitions and achievements help me to keep pushing forward, it's like a boost of energy, like a shot of italian espresso. Growing a brand in NYC is such a steep challenge, it's really helpful to receive some recognition along the way. It shows we're going in the right direction and don't plan on stopping now.