Deidre Jeffries won the Chase and Lands’ End inaugural Banking on Style Competition in partnership with ESSENCE Communications. (Courtesy photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Spy movies like Bond…James Bond to be exact, the polished looks of government workers and her mother’s glam style are all sources of inspiration for D.C. native and award-winning designer Deidre Jefferies, owner of luxury clothing brand Espion Atelier.

Jefferies, a seasoned designer, takes pride and time in her work.

“The materials I use in the collection, I can spend somewhere from $30,000- $40,000 building a collection and so I just didn’t want to ever have my fashion to be fast. We have enough of that. I love Zara, H&M and all those things, but the things that I make are the things my mom wore. I’ll be giving to my grandchildren, so I want my clothes to stick around in that way and be loved that way for a few generations. And also save the planet while doing that,” Jefferies said in an AFRO Live interview. 

It’s Jefferies’ detail and determination in designing that has taken her to worldwide recognition and her recent accolade as winner of the Chase and Lands’ End inaugural Banking on Style Competition in partnership with ESSENCE Communication. Within the competition, three emerging-designer finalists are chosen for a year-long program that offers access, exposure and networking.

“I was blown away,” Jeffries recalled. “I felt so good about the three of us being able to go through this program, because as they described it to us, it was going to be something each of us has been waiting for. That kind of support and this kind of visibility. And ESSENCE pledged a whole year of exposure for us, which was fantastic. We just don’t get that kind of exposure in the luxury space because we don’t have a 400 year heritage story to tell. And so each of us are building our legacy, building our heritage right now,” the designer said.

Jefferies explained the competition also helped her appreciate the value of collaboration.

“I’ve been fiercely independent my whole life, my poor mom,” Jefferies said jokingly.  “Fiercely independent. I work very well alone. But, in this such collaborative space, during the Banking on Style competition, during the whole program with Advancing Black Pathways, there was a huge collaborative effort from the factory floor, to the fittings, to selecting fabrics, creating our own fabrics, things like that, that I hadn’t had access to before. So I got to see the entire ecosystem work, and with full creative control for me. But with full creative control, they did give us a set of parameters to work within, kind of guidelines to make sure that we make something that really represents Chase, and I thought about it and thought about it, but the brands closely aligned with mine. I really liked having the guidance and I really liked working with a large group of people,” the designer said. “It just felt good and it felt like you have people in the room that’s on your team and really rooting for you,” Jefferies added, before shouting out her family and friends who have been supportive of her design journey for 30 years.

Every year Chase and Lands’ End releases new apparel for employees, but Jeffries’ designs will be featured in a special release in February 2021.

The award-winning entrepreneur talked about the importance of Black people supporting Black businesses and brands, but explained that hesitations about “buying Black” surround issues of trust.

“We spend so much money on luxury brands that are just like ours, but we found out that most of us there are trust issues. But they don’t understand that their trust and them buying with us is going to create that luxury house that we’ve been longing for,” Jefferies said passionately, before further emphasizing the importance of buying Black.

“We have to depend on each other.  We have to include each other as part of the culture, because when we talk about the culture, we think about the people who can afford luxury clothing, but we’re thinking about athletes and entertainers.  But, there are many wealthy Black people who still shop in those spaces, but they’re just not famous and that’s the problem- trying to reach others that way.  Get them to spend money with us so that we can grow.” Jefferies said.

For more information on the Chase collection go to visit https://www.espionatelier.com.

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor