In order to envision a brighter future for fashion, sometimes it's necessary to look into the past. Like many vintage aficionados, the Highland Park-based marketing maven Amanda Singh peered into her own closet and lamented that the threads of her modern-day pieces just didn't hold up to her stylish finds from decades past.
Her quest to understand fast fashion inspired her to be the change that she wanted to see in the industry, and thus, Jean Franklin was born. Inspired by the bygone days of California and the cool girls of French New Wave cinema, the made-to-order brand is comprised of jumpsuits available in denim, cotton, and linen ($288 and up); gauzy blouses with peter pan collars ($188); corduroy shift dresses in mustard, rust, and denim ($248); and many other retro essentials that might have style admirers ask, "Is that vintage?"
Everything's available in sizes XS to XL, and because of Jean Franklin's slow fashion approach, your soon-to-be wardrobe favorite will be sewn and delivered to your door in about three weeks. Even cooler? The sustainable label is produced in Los Angeles entirely from deadstock fabrics and handmade by "seriously rad women" who are paid fair wages. The brand also offers a selection of affordable vintage finds to complement its styles, and as business grows, Singh plans on expanding trim options as well as a wider range of inclusive sizes.
So who exactly is Jean Franklin? The imaginary muse is a mix between Singh's mother — whose "rockin' style" in the '60s and '70s inspired the label — and fashion icon Jane Birkin.
Here, we get to know Singh (who still works full-time in marketing) to find out how a fashion documentary set her on a path to create her own clothing line, the common misconception of the "Made in the America" label, how LA inspires her designs, what JF pieces she's wearing all summer, and the smart style stars she'd love to see in her silhouettes. Read on below, then shop Jean Franklin online here.
Tell us more about yourself: What's your professional background and how'd you get to where you are today?
In college I wanted to do something creative so I focused on writing and photography. After I graduated, that wasn't paying the bills so I had to find a job. I was working at a coffee shop and wasn't making enough to live off of so a friend told me about an entry level job at a marketing firm they worked at. I thought, I can do that, I'll figure it out — and that's how my career in marketing started. While marketing can be creative, I have never completely felt content or fulfilled with the jobs I've had, and I've always loved vintage clothing and personal style.
Several years ago I started thinking more about my own shopping habits, buying things to stay on trend, and how they often times just weren't made that well and would fall apart after wearing a couple times. This got me curious and I wanted to know why clothes were being made this way. Having a lot of vintage pieces, I wondered why clothes made now weren't made to last the way they used to be. It was important to me to create a brand that makes quality clothing that easily fits a variety of body types, works for everyday, creates as little waste as possible — is environmentally responsible, and pays fair wages.
Just like in starting my marketing career, I knew with this business, I could make it happen but I needed to find a team who specialized in making clothing. I've since found women who help make my designs a reality through pattern making, cutting, and sewing. It truly is an art and I've learned so much.
We're also big fans of the documentary The True Cost, which we know inspired the creation of your brand. What were some of your other moments that motivated you to take action and found a sustainable fashion label?
Watching The True Cost documentary was one part of a much larger questioning, digging, and researching that I did to better understand the fashion industry today. Learning about the issues facing garment workers, even here in the U.S. and in LA was shocking. The U.S. Department of Labor, among others, have published reports documenting that garment factories in LA have an 85% rate of violation of federal wage and hour laws. Many people‚ including myself at the time that I learned this don't know or maybe even think about how their clothes are made or in what conditions.
I think we also have tendency to see something labeled "Made in the USA" and assume it's made to certain standards. Another was learning about all of the waste in the fashion industry from production but also the amount of clothing that goes on sale or unsold in general.
How does Los Angeles inspire your designs? Is there a particular neighborhood that you've evoked?
I'm inspired by the sunlight here, especially in the afternoon. The wildflowers and wild grasses that turn golden and succulents and cactus planted here in the 1920s. I'm inspired by the Western aspect of LA, Craftsman architecture and buildings that are used and repurposed, not just torn-down and made brand new, and the fact that you can drive anywhere in LA and know there is a story behind every place, street, and the people who live here or moved here to pursue their dreams.
If I had to pick one neighborhood, I would say Highland Park where I live now. The majority of our photography is shot locally right here in beautiful, mundane locations. The canyons all around LA are are also very inspiring to me.
Who are your favorite Jean Franklin style muses?
My mom and her rockin' style in the '60s and '70s. Vintage photographs of people in that time period as well, I find most of my style inspiration from actual photographs or vintage pieces I wish existed. If I had to pick someone well-known, I'd say Jane Birkin.
Which JF piece are you loving for summer, and what's your favorite way to style it?
It's hard to pick just one. I love the Eva peasant blouse, it's so easy to wear with jeans, denim shorts or even our jumpsuit and it's lightweight and airy. The Delia Jumpsuit is also one of my go-to's and it's great for transitioning into Fall. For summer, I wear it alone but will layer it with a top when it gets cooler. But then I also have a couple favorite dresses (with pockets!)
Who would you love to see wearing your pieces?
Rashida Jones, Phoebe Robinson, Emma Watson, Abbi Jacobson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Zooey Deschanel, Olivia Wilde, and Stacy London.
What are a few of your favorite places to shop, eat, and play in LA?
Flea markets at the Rose Bowl or Pasadena City College, if I'm buying new I look for independent brands who make sustainable clothing. I also like taking denim to get tailored or repaired at Dr. Blue Jeans. For eating out: Kitchen Mouse, Red Herring, Lemon Poppy Kitchen, and My Vegan. I enjoy walking my dogs and finding hikes to go with them on, Eaton Canyon is a pretty easy and quick escape out into nature.
Follow Jean Franklin at @jeanfranklinshop and shop the brand online here.