In Conversation with designer Jackie Fernandez

Whether you’re braving the early fall chill or need another layer on a summer night, army jackets are both practical and stylish for any time of year. The olive green tone, however, can often be boring and generic. If you want to make your outerwear stand out, look no further. Meet Jackie Fernandez, the brilliant mind behind Soul Threads by J, a San Francisco based line of personalized vintage military jackets. Fernandez creates these jackets for women, and each one is emblazoned with unique hand-sewn patches and sequined embellishments. I initially discovered the brand on Instagram through a friend, and I have received so many compliments on the jacket she created for me earlier this year. On the sleeve, she included my high school graduation year, and on the back, she included the name of my brand and website. The rest of the jacket consisted of my zodiac sign, initials, and other unique accents.

Fernandez’s creative vision is absolutely extraordinary, and as soon as I received my jacket, I knew I wanted to hear the story behind the brand. In her Zeitgeist interview, Jackie discusses everything from where she finds inspiration to her advice for young entrepreneurs.

When did you realize you wanted to start your own company?
I never thought of designing clothing or even imagined doing it myself. It was something that just fell into my lap. One day I was vintage shopping, and I ran into a merchant that was selling these vintage army jackets and I fell in love with them. So I purchased one and just started sewing embellishments on it.  While walking around town wearing my jacket, I received so many compliments and so many people asked me for my business card that by the end of the day I just said to myself, I really think I have a viable business here. So the rest is history and Soul Threads by Jackie was born.

Featured above is my own custom jacket made by Jackie. The right side of the jacket includes my zodiac sign (Virgo!), as well as an LA embellishment.

How did the name Soul Threads by J initially come about?
When I put the evil eye on my jacket, for me, it represented looking into my soul and my happiness, love and future. Threads came from sewing. It just sounded right.

Your designs are so distinct and unlike anything I have seen before. Where do you find inspiration for your jackets?
A lot of my inspiration comes from women, and what do women like? As women, we are more detail-orientated and love originality. I wanted to create something different for each person that purchases my jackets, and I decided to personalize them with special numbers, letters, and zodiac embellishments. While having that thought, I came up with the idea to thread all the pieces with metallic threading material to give it a pop of color.

A side view of one of Jackie’s creations. Image courtesy of Jackie Fernandez.

Why did you decide to focus on army jackets, rather than other clothing items?
It started so naturally while I was vintage shopping. I saw a vision, and I wanted to keep the history alive by making them even more beautiful than they already are. I actually had some really cool experiences where I’ve run into a veteran, where they have not only complimented me about the jacket, but they’ve also mentioned how much they appreciated the fact that it still had the original patches. It’s just such an amazing feeling. With that being said, I just ordered my first denim vintage jackets. Stay tuned.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced when starting your own business, and how did you overcome it?
I am still going through challenges; it takes so much to start a business and keep it going. I am still learning and will continue to learn so much. I think my biggest challenge was finding help that would be as detail orientated and as passionate for my jackets as I am. It was extremely hard, as each jacket is sewn by hand, so it’s a lot hours of work and time. Also, we keep each jacket different but with the same general concept– the eye and threading. However, I also don’t want the jackets to be the same. I like each client to have their own and the jacket to represent each one of them.

Another angle of my jacket.

Who is your personal style icon?
Hardest question of all! When it comes to fashion, there isn’t one person that I’m just extremely drawn to. I love the elegance of  Blake Lively, as well as the sexiness of Jennifer Lopez (sometimes she’s a bit too sexy but I like that its stands out, ha!) My true icon is heritage. My family is Colombian, and they love the brightness and ethnicity of their work. It’s all artisan creations. There is so much creativity in everything they do.

What piece of advice do you have to offer to young entrepreneurs?
It’s hard, and everyone will give you an idea or suggestion. Ultimately, you have to stick with what your heart and mind tells you. There will be bumps, but it’s part of the journey. Opening your own business is like a rollercoaster. The highs are high and the lows are low. You just have to to keep pressing forward and follow your dreams.

What’s next for you?
Like I said before, we are working on our first denim jackets, which is exciting. In the near future, we’re planning to start working on kids jackets. Keep an eye on Soul Threads by Jackie.

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