Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jillian Robertson is a globetrotter and fashion designer. Jillian enrolled at John Casablancas Institute to take the Core Design Program where she wanted to further develop her understanding of fashion and sewing. Upon graduating the program, Jillian had the opportunity to showcase her first collection Shoreline at Vancouver Fashion Week SS18.
“I’ve been sewing as much as possible lately since I’ve decided that I want to own my personal clothing line. I now have a small studio set up in my den and a 1980s industrial sewing machine.”
As of now, Jillian has moved to Toronto, Canada where she is working with a tailor on Queen Street West, in the Fashion District. She has also officially launched her brand Jillian Isabel Clothing.
How are you enjoying Toronto so far?
Toronto is a great city for anyone interested in working in the fashion industry which is why I felt like it was the right move for me. Although, I can hardly wait for summer and to really get to know the city. The cold Toronto weather makes it difficult to wander outside. I forgot what a real Canadian winter feels like!
As previously mentioned, you are working with a couturier in Toronto. How is that experience?
I work with three women at a place called 3rd Floor Tailors based in the Fashion District of Toronto. We offer high-quality alterations, custom tailoring, prototype and sample making, and garment remodelling. We focus on bridal wear and suiting and also offer custom design work for those looking for truly unique pieces. We do a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and love to work one on one with our clients to ensure they are getting exactly what they want. It’s definitely not your run of the mill alteration shops!
What can we expect from your latest collection that you are working on for Jillian Isabel Clothing?
I have been working on a spring/summer 2018 collection, and just recently showcased a couple pre-spring items on my website. As soon as an item is ready for purchase, I publish it on the website! I view my label as a sort of personal collection development that I’m putting on sale to the public. And so I want the world to be the first to see my latest designs that I have created.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
I draw a lot of inspiration from vintage Chanel and Dior. I really love the minimalist look, but with that comes the need for perfect execution. I tend to look at vintage and original design houses for construction methods and detail. Japanese minimalist style is also a big inspiration for me, as I love anything slightly oversized.
My SS18 collection is inspired by the French countryside and pastoral landscapes but in an urban setting. I’ve been using timeless provincial silhouettes, such as pinafore dresses and overalls, but with luxury fabrics and modern fits.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from the JCI Core Design Program?
Trust your instincts! The Core Design Program showed me how to develop a plan for a collection but also showed me how switch gears if your designs just aren’t working. I tend to overthink things and plan every detail, which often allows me to get caught up in the minutia of it all that I forget why I’m doing it.
I was struggling to get my ideas off the ground when I first moved to Toronto because I was trying to develop pieces that I thought I should be creating, instead of pieces I wanted to create. Once I decided to work on the more creative and more difficult pieces, I began to visualize my collection.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?
Don’t be afraid to network. I’m a rather introverted person, so networking is honestly the most dreaded aspect of business development for me, but every time I talk about my brand to someone I learn new things. Toronto has a lot to offer to its fashion designers and entrepreneurs. I’ve definitely been taking it very slowly, but in the five short months that I’ve been here, I’ve made more connections through casual conversation with fabric shop owners, co-workers, and friends of friends. Reaching out through email and taking full advantage of social media is a great way to network if you’re someone like me who struggles with face-to-face networking. Every bit counts!