Lawyer Monthly have the privilege to partner up with Jennifer Ison, an ex-lawyer turned fashion entrepreneur, who will for our future editions give lawyers and corporate professionals tips and guides to looking the best for their meetings and all-important clients.
This month, she shares her unique story and some of her staple pieces for petite women.
I was delighted to be asked by the Editor of Lawyer Monthly to write a fashion column for the magazine. I have worked for most of my career as a lawyer so I thought that I would first explain how this came about, as writing on fashion is not in the normal skillset for a lawyer! That is not to say of course, lawyers are uninterested in fashion. Far from it, not least because the way you dress at work is inextricably bound up with both how you come across to colleagues and clients and just as importantly your self image and confidence. For working women (more so I would say than for men), the choice of clothes can at times seem bewildering – an added stress when it is so important to get the right look for your professional environment. For those of us whose shape or height does not fit into the fashion industry standard ‘norms’, the search for your perfect working wardrobe can be even harder.
As a 5’1” lawyer who started out way back in the 80’s working in the City, this extra challenge was one I was all too familiar with. I found it a real struggle to source clothes for work that would fit. It was not just a question of length, the proportions were all wrong. The choice of work clothing available to me over three decades of working as a lawyer did not get any better. I grumbled off and on about it until finally the idea began to form that instead of just complaining, I could do something about it.
Years spent as a corporate lawyer and then later as an employment lawyer had, not unsurprisingly, left me a little short of knowledge on the ins and outs of the fashion industry but it had taught me that research is key. So in the autumn of 2016, I set about finding out what was needed to run a fashion label, enrolled on a short course at the London College of Fashion entitled “How to set up your own fashion label” and then spent months looking at fashion brands and the type of clothes I wanted to offer. I engaged a branding consultant, firmed up on my ideas for the aesthetics of the brand, sourced a fashion designer and appointed a manufacturing studio in London.
Jennifer Anne (www.jennifer-anne.co.uk) my new label exclusively designed for petite women was launched online in Spring 2017 and has achieved a heart-warming welcome from customers and the press. The Internet has given a fantastic platform for niche brands such as Jennifer Anne to find a route to market without the need for bricks and mortar. Consumers are looking for something special which is not available on the High Street, products that are tailored to them and their needs. There is a clear rise in niche brands with an authentic voice and led by passionate founders who really understand and identify with their core customer base – this is the way forward.
Our collection is made in London. Each piece is included after detailed consideration and designed from the very beginning for a smaller frame. Fashion Editor Emily Dawes of YOU Magazine, recently labelled us as “The workwear go to”, which was quite a compliment for such a new brand. What caught her eye in particular was our petite Merino Wool suit – Smith Trousers and Brookner Blazer. The luxury fabric (which comes in grey or navy) was woven in Yorkshire by Joseph H Clissold, a firm with a great heritage that has been producing cloth for over 100 years. The horn rim buttons on the blazer complete the professional look. Not only does it look super smart but is also really comfortable, which is so important when you are putting in those long hours at the office. A trouser suit is such a useful staple in a professional’s work wardrobe and it is easy to change the look with silk shirts or smart tops. For more of a smart casual look, I have taken to wearing the navy blazer with Paige jeans at the weekend.
The Carter High Neck Top [see dropbox for image and insert link on picture to https://jennifer-anne.co.uk/collections/tops/products/petite-ivory-carter-high-neck-top] is a wonderfully versatile and elegant top made from a gorgeous smooth fabric. Its long sleeves and high neck make it a perfect choice when you are looking for a really professional image at the office and will bring a touch of sophistication to any outfit (not just our trouser suit!). The top was picked out earlier this year as ‘a winner’ in the Independent and I was really delighted that Jennifer Anne was named as one of the top high-end petite brands in the UK. If you are looking to add a pop of colour, the top also comes in blue and fuschia, as well as ivory.
Anna Shirt Dress £198
A shirt dress is another must for your work wardrobe. Our petite Anna Shirt Dress has lovely details with mother of pearl buttons and V-shaped breast pockets. The ¾ length turned back sleeves are so flattering for the smaller woman. Marie Claire Magazine loved our petite blue shirt dress so much that they featured it twice, first in their round up of the very best summer workwear and then again in their focus on chic office wear. As Marie Claire pointed out, the Anna Shirt Dress is one of those great transitional pieces that can be worn right through to spring. If you want to style this dress in a different way then you can you can always add a woven or leather belt. One of our customers called it her ‘travel anywhere dress’ as it is remarkably crease free. If you are on a work trip it can be folded up really small and still look fabulous when you unpack which makes it so practical.
I am well aware that it is early days for my new petite brand but it certainly has been an exciting beginning. It has been richly rewarding creating something from scratch, to take an idea and turn into a reality. Not least because what drove me to take on this challenge was the goal of providing a solution to women like me who needed and wanted to look smart and professional at work and were finding it so difficult to be able to do that. I was well aware what a wonderful boost to your confidence it is, when you can walk into a meeting smartly turned out and feeling good in and about what you are wearing. I know that Jennifer Anne is providing the answer when I continue to receive repeat orders and read the feedback from happy customers, with comments such as, ‘fabulous clothes’, ‘felt so special’, ‘gap in the market for high quality luxurious petite workwear’, ‘delighted to find petite clothes that actually fit’ and ‘truly changed the landscape for young professional petite ladies’. It seems that niche really is the way forward.
Jennifer Ison is an ex-City lawyer turned fashion entrepreneur. She worked for Norton Rose and Baker & McKenzie as a corporate lawyer before setting up a niche employment law firm in Wimbledon. In 2017 Jennifer founded a new fashion label Jennifer Anne, a premium brand of petite womenswear designed and made in London.