Today we continue our series of posts highlighting participants in our Boutique Sewer Program by sharing a recent exchange with Sandy Stewart of Virginia Beach, VA–ringleader of the all-in-the-family a.j.jacks clothing team.
Sandy, can you tell us a little about yourself and the others who sew with you under the a.j.jacks name?
In a word, “family.” a.j.jacks is a family business, established by my daughters and me and financed by our generous husband-dad-grandpa extraordinaire. What really makes this possible is the time, talent, and dedication of our daughter Jenna Stewart Mahon who lives in Toronto, ON, (center) and our daughter by marriage Billie Jeanne Stewart of Atlanta, GA (left) and the enormous support of their husbands. (Editor’s note: Sandy is at right in the photo.)
The garments you create as part of the boutique Sewer Program all have a distinctive look that says a.j.jacks. How do you do that?
I have eight amazing grandchildren, and they are our inspiration. There are five girls and three boys. The initials of seven of them and the name of the one born in the year of our start-up inspired our name and everything we do: Ava Jacqueline Jordan Aidan Cecelia Kirsten Jack and Savanna.
You always choose interesting fabrics. What are some of your favorites?
Our upcoming fall/winter line is my favorite so far. It’s a mix and match selection from the Tina Givens designer collection. This fall clothing collection will be our first line with a name, “The Ava Collection.” (Ah, yes, the grandchildren!)
When we started out we picked any and every fabric that caught our eye, with no real sense of continuity. But as we have evolved over these 10 months, we have become a bit more aware of “themes.” Our first full line consists of many bird prints, and the name Ava means “like a bird.” Well, you can see how that all came together.
How do you determine which fabrics to match with a pattern?
That part is so much fun. For me, I picture one of the little ones, and since there are eight of them, I have eight very different children with eight very different personalities. My daughter by marriage has an amazing eye for matching colors and designs, and I just love the combinations she comes up with.
You’ve sewn from many of the Oliver + S patterns. Do you have any favorites?
My personal favorite is the 2+2 Blouse. I really enjoy mixing and matching the body of the shirt with the placket and the trim, and I think the finished shirt looks just adorable. I also like that it can be short or long sleeve.
Jenna really likes the Swingset Tunic. I think it’s because she grew up a “beach girl” and this top has that look!
Billie Jeanne’s favorite is the Puppet Show Tunic. Even though it is a bit more time consuming to make, she really likes the way it turns out. I think it would be so cute as a dress, and we will do one in the future I’m sure. She also really likes the Birthday Party Dress, and who doesn’t for that matter? It’s very, very sweet!
Where do you sell your garments?
For now, through our Etsy store and word of mouth with friends and family. We will be in a trade show here in Virginia Beach on Thanksgiving weekend, which is where we will showcase our fall/winter line. We are really excited to see what that experience will bring to our business.
How do you determine how to price each garment you sew?
This is by far, the most challenging aspect of our business. Since I am attempting to build a business that our family can one day benefit from financially, I am aware of the fact that even though we are having so much fun doing this I still have to price our items fairly with both the consumer and my hard-working and talented daughters in mind.
What have you done to market your business that has been successful for you?
We all have personal blogs and our a.j.jacks blog with a loyal following. We did a spring giveaway that generated a few orders. In July we will have a one-year anniversary giveaway that will be different from the first and really fun. Because of the changes in this giveaway we hope to produce more orders from this one than the previous one. Our giveaway is unique!
Do you have any plans for the future?
Oh my goodness! My head spins with future plans–way too many to bore you with in one sitting–but definitely to have our own web site as soon as possible. The girls and I would just love to visit you all in New York City. That would be so inspirational! Since my dream is to build for the future Stewart generation I’m constantly thinking of future plans. It’s all such fun!
See more recent photos in the a.j.jacks photostream on Flickr.