JESSICA HARRIS

...designing your favourite dress

Jessica Harris is an American fashion designer living and working in Rome, Italy. Her designs are delicate and embellished, inspired by images in art, antique objects, vintage, culture, irony, and child-like day-dreaming. Jessica opened her Roman boutique/atelier "38 Leopardo" in March of 2006. Initially, she concentrated on one-of-a-kind pieces and special order dresses. Soon after opening, the growing interest in her work lead Jessica to design a complete womenswear line and in the summer of 2007 she presented her first collection S/S 08 "Retro Kitchen". Since then she has gone on to design A/W ’08 "Galactic Ballet" and SS’09 "Office Barbie Garden Party" both of which were presented at Rome Fashion Week (AltaRoma). Jessica studied fashion design in Rome at the "Accademia Koefia d’Alta Moda". Prior to fashion school, she earned her Bachelor's degree in Art History and Fine Arts at Boston University, in the US. Jessica Harris’ aspiration as a designer is to evolve her fashion line as part of the growing modern context of Rome's high fashion heritage.

Nothing inspires me like…
Playing dress-up. the countless hours I have spent at this game are certainly the most important formative exercises of what is now my design process. I love the feeling of creating a new character with an outfit and stretching the limits of what a piece of clothing can become. My inspiration has always been sparked by toying around with possible looks ever since the Saturday mornings as a 10-year-old spent rummaging through my parents' closet of old clothes from the 70s, to afternoons at age 13 in my best friend’s room inventing party outfits from her ballerina aunt’s hand-me-down costume collection, to high school experiments with vintage treasures found in Chicago’s second-hand shops…a girl has to play!

I hope…
That my pieces can inspire in my customers the same tingle of excitement that I experience when seeing them being worn for the first time.

Cultural influences…
in this cosmopolitan city, determine which designs will be a success. I work in Rome with Italian fabrics and am influenced not only by my Roman/Italian/European surroundings, but also by my American roots. Rome is such a popular travel destination and I am very lucky to have visitors in the boutique from all over the globe. It is so interesting to observe which styles are desirable for each individual customer and how their unique cultural background may or may not influence their tastes.

I got where I am...
By putting myself out there. It takes a huge amount courage (and a gaggle of supportive friends and family!) to open a boutique and to create a fashion line. Reassurance comes from seeing someone happy in my clothes. I hope to create pieces that make people feel special and excited, and every time those emotions are expressed I feel that I am where I need to be.

Fashion can sometimes...
Be the only reason to leave the house. Nothing feels better than taking a new outfit for a spin around town!

Love now because…
It is worth it. I have always followed my heart and I feel that is the most honest way to be.

Cake makes me…
Get to know a city. Whenever I travel alone at least one day is dedicated to touring the town aimlessly, which inevitably means stopping at every pastry shop to photograph the cakes and choose the prettiest one for tasting.

If I could…
I would spend one entire week learning how to surf. In a beautiful silver sequined bikini of course!

I once thought…
I would always be shy…

My dreams are…
Sometimes about dresses. I have thought of basing a collection around these subconscious designs. My sleepy collection would be a series of fluffy glittering cloud gowns paired with yellow duck-faced rain shoes that quacked with each step.

My vice is…
More than one. Mini skirts, vintage cocktail hats, leotards, costume jewellery, tights…my dresser drawers are overflowing. Oh yeah, and saving everything!

There's a new...
Collection, S/S ’09! The muse for S/S 09 entitled "Office Barbie Garden Party" is the early 80’s "Office Barbie" and her day-to-night approach to dressing. "Garden Party" describes a desire to "sprinkle" floral pastels and vivacious print as contrast to crisp navy and inky black for separates. The concept behind the look book is a connection of these keywords created by placing the model among the spring flowers sprouting on the medieval buildings that line the tiny streets surrounding my boutique. This backdrop warmly frames the textures and colours of the materials, all of which are special and researched fabrics from some of the most innovative mills in Italy.

My goal…
Is to design your favourite dress.

My first crush...es…
Were pop stars or really any 80s MTV video celebrities. As a 4-year-old, I would sit and stare at the album cover of Cindy Lauper’s "She’s So Unusual", completely mesmerised by her asymmetrical shaved orange hair and red pouf dress. I am still a pop fanatic and love scouring magazines to see who is wearing what.

I like making...
Outrageously frilly, sparkling, and sculptural headpieces. And I love watching people become giddy when they try them on!