Emma: Hi Jillian! Thank you so much for sitting down to answer my questions.
Jillian: Hi Emma! Thank you for taking the time to ask such thoughtful questions :)
E: To start off, since we are fresh into this new decade, I’d love to hear one of your personal intentions or aspirations for this upcoming year and…if you’re feeling ambitious, for the upcoming decade.
J: Definitely to listen to my body more - resting and slowing down. I really struggle with a lack of body awareness and dissociation, so I’m hoping that I can work on that. Over the next decade I’m really going to focus on being less hard on myself. This will totally be a lifelong thing for me, but I’m looking forward to seeing the results of my self care over the next 10 years!
E: In that same vein, could you trace for us the story of 323: how you got started, evolutions since you first began, and where you see 323 heading in the future?
J: Yes! So, I started 323 five years ago. I was just coming out of a design job that completely emotionally drained me and was nannying full time. For most of my life, making art had been my identity, but I hadn’t made anything in years. I was feeling very depressed and lost at the time, and started 323 as a way to start making things again. It started with a pair of really poorly sewn shorts haha and just went from there. I’m a very obsessive person, so once I started I couldn’t stop. My whole life became working nanny jobs to be able to afford to keep making things. I would work a 9 hour day and then come home and sew in my bedroom until 2 am.
I’ve run 323 completely on my own up until this point, from answering customer emails to sewing production, and finally after five years I just started working with an incredible factory called Nana Atelier in Los Angeles. The atelier’s ethos is strongly built on sustainable and ethical practices, prioritizing a minimal and healthy work environment for their factory operators, who handle garments with care. Their team is made up of second and third generation immigrants and minorities. Nana is an agent of change in the fashion manufacturing industrial culture. They stand together to reduce waste and reject unhealthy working conditions, fighting low wages and unethical practices.
I’m so excited to finally be at the point where I can really focus on designing now that I have other (more skilled) people sewing my production, but I’m most excited to truly turn it into an art practice now that I’m at this point. I really want to make it weirder - make it more and more authentic to who I am every season.
E: 323 is both your birthday and your area code—what a beautiful intersection of time and place! I’d love to hear about what LA means to you and how it influences your work.
J: I love LA so much - I was born and raised here. I have so many incredible friends here, my husband is from here, and my family is here. For me, LA represents all of these amazing people and parts of my life, but it also represents where I was before in those darker times. I’ve been so many people here.
E: I truly can’t even with the glorious shapes and silhouettes you create with your garments—they are so fun and so smart and I want to put all of them on my body, like yesterday. What inspires you and can you tell us a little about how you arrive at such unique designs?
J: Thank you so much! I’ve always worn gigantic clothing, so for me the silhouettes are inspired by what I like to wear. I want people to feel special, comfortable, and funny - like they’re putting their most authentic selves out there.
E: As a follow up, the way you reinvent your dead-stock fabrics is so exciting. What is your selection process like and how does this inform the final garment?
J: When I’m designing I always pick the fabric first because to me it’s the most important part of a design. When I’m searching for something really special, I’ll usually go the deadstock route. I basically have an idea like “ok I want a weird floral jacquard that looks like the curtains in my childhood bedroom” and I go to the four story deadstock warehouse in downtown LA and there it will be. It’s literally like magic. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to make and I’ll just go walk around and get lost for hours and hours and leave having everything designed in my head for the next collection. It’s truly my happy place. The struggle in the future will be continuing to use deadstock now that I’m producing higher quantities, but we’ll see what happens I guess!
E: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share? A random thought you had this week or a secret you just can’t keep to yourself any longer?
E: Thank you, again! I’m counting down the days until I get to try on ALL your clothes at Burke!
J: Just that I’m so grateful and excited about what’s to come!
J: OMG same! <3
Shop the 323 Spring 2020 Collection HERE. Available Feb - April 2020.