Designer Profile: Amanda Singh, Owner of Jean Franklin - Los Angeles
Hi Amanda! Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background?
After college I got a job at a marketing agency, although my degree was in creative writing and photography. My career has been in marketing across several different industries. I've always wanted to do more than have a 9-5 job. Being able to combine something as creative as designing clothing with changing the fashion industry for the better (by working to reduce the negative impact we have on the environment as well as helping people by paying fair wages) is extremely rewarding.
What led you to start Jean Franklin? What is the inspiration behind your brand?
Several years ago I started doing more digging and research on the fashion industry. As a consumer, I became aware of how much I was buying all the time, from fast fashion to more expensive trendy clothing, and I realized how much negative impact my own decision were having on the environment. I also learned how that majority of garment workers, even in the U.S. aren't paid fairly for their work. I knew I had to get involved in changing this. The inspiration for the brand comes from my love of vintage clothing and updating some of my favorite styles with a modern fit. It is also greatly inspired by my parents. The name Jean Franklin is a combination of their middle names.
As a sustainable business who focuses on transparency, how do you educate your customers on what you do and why you do it?
I'm constantly working to be as transparent as possible with our processes and how we reduce waste. I also focus on being open and honest with the realities of having a fashion business. Like most small businesses it's not easy to keep costs down when the biggest expense is labor. So talking with people about that online, in our blog, on Instagram and in person is key. We'll be sharing breakdowns of our costs on average for our clothing in the near future as well. Until I personally took a step back from what I was buying, I never thought about the people behind my clothes and how it didn't really make sense that I could buy a shirt for $5 at some stores. To help us tell that story we embroider the initials of the person who makes each garment in the label on our clothes. We also use biodegradable hangtags that have wildflower seeds in them and 100% recycled, recyclable and biodegradable packaging. All of these items help tell our story and start a conversation about how our clothes are made, but they are also more expensive, which is part of what we share as well.
What was the process of starting a sustainable clothing brand? How did you find your team and define your values?
This part has been anything but easy. I first started with my friend who is a patternmaker and we created one style to start. We typically launch one style at a time, but recently launched several pieces at once for this Fall. Since my background is in business and marketing, I needed to find a team of experts to work with. Honestly, it's been part word of mouth, referrals, interviews and luck in finding the team I have now. Some of us still have full-time jobs. Defining the values of the business was probably the easiest part, but making it a reality as been the most difficult. Jean Franklin pieces are made to order, so we make each order when it is placed to reduce waste in making sizes that we might not sell. There aren't many manufacturers who operate this way, so I've had to create a process around this and find people who are willing to work this way. It's taken a lot of testing and refining to operate in this business model.
Could you tell us more about you help the homeless population and create educational opportunities for women in LA?
We're in talks with one of the main women's centers in LA who help women who have experienced homelessness. We are discussing job opportunities, training in skilled crafts and a few other ideas. One of these ideas involves taking fabric scraps from Jean Franklin orders and creating new products with them. The bigger picture is finding a solution to help our homeless find jobs with living wages and affordable housing. We also do limited edition collections and pop-up events with proceeds going to various causes to help women in our community, like the Breast Cancer Awareness collection we have right now.
How do you want your customer to feel when wearing your pieces?
Our customers should feel confident in knowing that they not only look great and get to express their personal style, but that they are also doing good with each purchase. They are making a positive impact on the environment and on people's lives.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I couldn't stand on the sidelines anymore and talk about how terrible things are in the fashion industry (and in others) and not doing anything about it. What makes me passionate about my work is helping others. Each time we sell a Jean Franklin piece or give back through one of our charity campaigns, I get to help our customers have a positive impact on other people and the planet - that is the most rewarding.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with Jean Franklin?
Creating a made to order business, paying fair wages, and sourcing deadstock fabric (surplus fabric left behind by other fashion brands) make producing clothing challenging. Our goal is to get to zero waste and it's a lot to manage on top of the normal production and design challenges that businesses face. There is an amazing amount of waste that occurs in the production of clothing from scraps to paper, packaging, and energy used in travel and shipping.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
I am so happy to be a part of a growing community of women who help each other. From my photographer and publicist, to the women who own the boutiques I work with, to fellow designers and many other people behind the scenes, we support each other when we face challenges. It is so helpful to have other women to talk through business ideas with and discuss common problems and challenges we face. It's crucial to support each other because we only become stronger together.
What women bring you inspiration?
Many women in my family, in particular my mother and my grandmothers. My mother is one of the most giving people I know, she really cares for the community around her through service, bringing families meals when they need them and also listening when people need to talk. Both of my grandmothers were incredibly strong and resilient, but also had a sense of humor.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
To have a plan, test everything you do and never give up.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Check out Pragmatic Marketing. It is focused on product management and marketing but applicable to many areas of the business since it's really about focus.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I'm always wanting to learn more about new technologies and processes to help our business get to zero waste and use recycled materials in production. Deep diving into Pragmatic Marketing and getting more focused as a business is an ongoing process.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
Right now, spending time in Highland Park where I live and DTLA. I love the canyons in LA and I find I'm more drawn to the hills and the desert than the ocean. Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree.