You might think that starting a fashion company would be the furthest thing from the mind of a 24-year-old artist living in Los Angeles. But that's exactly what Jessie Willner, the self-taught designer and founder of The Mighty Company, did last week when she launched a line of classic jackets re-worked in metallic leather and tweed.
As the energetic and bubbly Willner explains, her attraction to fashion was similar to that of art. "When done right, you can create this tangible, functional, 3-dimensional thing that can stir one's emotions," she says.
Willner's "honest luxury" approach to fashion is what sets her apart from many other budding designers. For one, she believes in selling directly to her customers online which is exactly what she's doing, starting today, at a special shop-in-shop event at Curve, the women's boutique in Los Angeles.
"One of my biggest life aspirations as an entrepreneur is to inspire others," Willner says. "Whether it's to paint for the first time or to say, 'This crazy-ass, 24-year-old girl is completely self-taught and starting her own company. Hey, maybe I can, too.'"
Here, Willner tell us more about her "open company" policy and why jackets, more than dresses or T-shirts, are a keepsake item.
Why was an honest fashion approach important to you?
When I started creating the collection, the normal pricing structure was telling me to sell my jackets at a few thousand dollars. I didn't agree with that. I wanted to fight harder in building my brand so I decided to knock out the middleman and reach our consumer directly.
Do your friends think that the approach is important?
I think so. As an artist, I'm a part of this larger artist community and that's how we operate. We're really transparent and open—that's the kind of world I'm used to.
What is their reaction to The Mighty Company?
Actually, three of my friends are helping me build an art installation for a launch party. They're happy for this to finally be out and available.
Before this, you hadn't worked in fashion, had you?
Not at all. But my design background made the transition easier.
As a new designer, why start with jackets? Why not T-shirts or dresses?
There wasn't an "Aha!" moment in deciding I would design jackets. I designed a number of other pieces. I kept going back to jackets because I didn't want to create a passing thing. When you have an incredible jacket, you keep it or hand it down.
What's your advice to those who want to start their own company?
You have to say, "This is my vision. Some people may like it or not, but this is what I want to put out there in the world." Honestly, that's the biggest lesson that I've learned.
To view more of Willner's jackets line, see themightycompany.com.