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Inside Steven Alan

Steven Alan and Pattern Pulp Visit Ace & Jig

  • We recently visited Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson, the owners and designers of  Ace & Jig at their new design studio in Brooklyn, where they were interviewed by Shayna Kulik, editor of design blog Pattern Pulp.

    {Cary, left, and Jenna, right, outside their new space}

    “At Ace & Jig, we’re not chasing trends, we want to make special pieces that you can wear year after year.”

    How many of us know how hard it is to make a fabric swatch? While we often focus on the printed surface at Pattern Pulp, it’s always fascinating to hear how various designers approach their craft. Last Wednesday, I accompanied the fine folks at Steven Alan to interview Jenna Wilson and Cary Vaughan, the talented duo behind Ace & Jig at their new studio. We spent an afternoon sifting through texture, munching on petit fours from Betty Bakery and diving into the incredible story behind their brand and business.

    {Discussing textiles with Shayna}

    While it’s understood that most designers buy their fabric, Jenna and Cary do everything from scratch, a laborious (but rewarding!) process that utilizes their years of industry experience and involves ongoing trips to India. The ladies work with a textile guru who is as obsessive about the outcome as they are. “It’s a great process working together, it’s really fun and inspiring. He’s as meticulous as we are, and we respect each other’s expertise.”

    {natural fiber}

    So what’s a day in the life like when the ladies are at the factory working alongside the weavers and dyers? Follow along with our Q&A as we discuss their successes over the past year, how they’ve set a high ethical standard, and what a dream collaboration would look like (a little teaser: it’s pattern based) . . .

    Pattern Pulp: So how did you meet your team? And tell us a little about global collaboration process…

    Ace & Jig: Well, it was a long process finding a team we were happy with. We’ve been in the fashion industry for over ten years and we knew who we weren’t going to work with. Through friends we were very fortunate to find our current team, as we’ve been able to create fabric that’s very specific and technically difficult to weave. When we’re in India working alongside each other, it’s so much easier to experiment. They have these walls of yarn and we can be like, ‘oh, let’s do these colors instead’. It’s so much more hands on. They also have a free daycare on site with kids just running around. It’s really beautiful. It’s a very atypical factory environment. It’s open-air, they reclaim their water and the workers eat in the garden and sit with their kids for lunch. It’s in an old school that’s very simple and clean. It was very important to us that the factory be ethical and have a sense of our values and a feeling of soul.

    {the antique metal loom, which sounds like a freight train}

    Pattern Pulp: Walk us through a typical visit to India…

    Ace & Jig: There’s a lot of stuff we do that’s less glamorous, like production, fittings, quality control. We usually go to develop fabric for the next season while simultaneously working on production that’s about to ship. We don’t work with our team like a normal factory where we just give them something to do. We’re almost like their family – we go out to dinner with them every night, we even went to their son’s wedding in Goa – it was so amazing! It was a three day extravaganza of the best food, the most color you’ve ever seen in one place, gorgeous beaches– everything was just beautiful. After each trip we’ve been known to bring back treasures (we’re hoarders!), everything from jewelry to leather sandals to textiles and lots of kids stuff. We got little wooden whistles and lanterns for Alice’s [Cary's daughter] birthday party last time.

    {stacks of fabrics at the 8th Cross Malleswaram market}

    Pattern Pulp: We’re noticing lots of stripes in your fabric, is it a coincidence?

    Ace & Jig: Everything is a stripe! We’re constantly reinterpreting natural fiber – it’s all cotton or cotton-linen blends and variations within. We play with weights and textures, but it all goes back to the stripe. So for instance we did a polka dot last season and were like, ‘what if we did rows of dots?’ That was another type of stripe for us. It could be a stripe of texture, or of color. It may seem limiting, but we find a lot of ways to expand on the idea.

    {Cary, Jenna, and Shayna discuss the stripe motif in an Ace & Jig design}

    Pattern Pulp: Would you ever consider a collaboration?

    Ace & Jig: We really love the Japanese designer, Tsumori Chisato. Her surface patterns are so colorful and whimsical, it’d be fun to have her prints atop of our yarn-dye wovens.

    Pattern Pulp: How do you fuse your personalities when designing?

    Ace & Jig: Well we both have children and focus a lot on lifestyle, which is inspired by our routines. With having kids, everything has to have a pocket, everything has to be easily laundered and pulled over your head, so it’s just easy. We started with a classic silhouette that’s made with special fabric that can be worn season in and out – nothing too trendy. We have people emailing us for things from our first collection or a collection from two years ago, which is cool.

    {Swatches hang on the inspiration board}

    Pattern Pulp: And finally, how has the past year’s success impacted your decisions for the future? What can we look forward to?

    Ace & Jig: This has been a super growth year for Ace & Jig. Our Spring ’12 season was a hit. We did a runway show with GenArt, and had a lot of big orders which have grown our business substantially. Prior to this season we shipped everything from the factory ourselves so we’ve had to get a warehouse , a computer system and we hired our first employee! We’ve only had a chance to celebrate for like 5 minutes. It’s all coming together though, we just finished shipping and the product looks great. So that’s really been the biggest challenge this year – growth. Good growth, which is a great challenge to have. We’re rewarding ourselves with a side trip on our way to India. We’re stopping in London.

    In terms of what’s next…because our story is a textile story, our fabric could easily translate into any number of things: children’s wear, and of course home is something we’ve thought a lot about. Up until now we’ve just been really focused on trying to grow in a small, measured way. But those are the directions where we’d like to take the brand eventually.  Cary is pregnant so a children’s line might happen sooner than we think!

    By Shayna Kulik, editor of Pattern Pulp

    Thanks to Cary and Jenna for having us over and sharing their stories (and petit fours), and to Shayna for capturing it. You can shop Ace & Jig in select stores or in our web shop, and head over to Pattern Pulp to read about all things print and pattern-related.

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at 5:28 am and is filed under In Stock, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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4 Responses to “Steven Alan and Pattern Pulp Visit Ace & Jig”

  1. Margaret Z says:

    LOVE this site…….Cary, you and Jenna are so beautiful and incredibly creative. I am SO proud of you! Keep on keeping on!
    XOXOXOX Margaret

  2. [...] and what a dream collaboration would look like (a little teaser, it’s pattern based)…click here to read the [...]

  3. Tom says:

    What a great story, I love the focus on traditional craft.

  4. Susan says:

    What a great article. Jim and I continue to be impressed with your work. look forward to seeing you again very soon.