While having only relatively recently finished her studies, Hannah Jenkinson is already making her name in the American fashion world. Her very first collection featured in New York Fashion Week in the autumn of 2013 and following a number of requests to purchase these pieces she knew this was the right route for her. Between then and now she has been busy preparing the groundwork for her business. With everything nearly ready to go, Hannah is hoping to gain investment to ensure large orders can be fulfilled but also has plans to ensure made-to-order pieces are available on her website. The calm and assured designer is ready for the challenges the future may bring.
“I grew up knitting with my grandmother and my dreams grew from there. At the same time I’ve always enjoyed the clean aspects of fashion so my creative basis was formed through a fusion of these inspirations,” explains Hannah. “HJK Women is therefore a fusion of both – a new modern take on classic knitwear. The method I now use is a traditional technique using beautiful Italian material mixed with other fabrics.”
Hannah moved to New York to study a Masters in Fine Art after gaining experience working in various companies in London. After her collection was seen at New York Fashion Week she featured in a number of fashion publications, which described Hannah as a “cutting-edge talent” with an obsession towards fabric development – a likely nod to those knitting memories from her childhood.
Since then Hannah has been creating her new collection and working for a high-end knitwear company in Los Angeles. “A lot of people consider New York to be one of the great homes of fashion but LA has grown in stature and is now known as a great location for creation, manufacturing and production. Lots of garments are created there and it can be cheaper than New York.”
In the States Hannah is surrounded by a flourishing fashion industry but her reasons for staying put after studying were not linked to any advancement compared to the UK. “If I were still in England I would be looking to design and create all of my pieces there. London has a thriving young creative scene and America has slightly more of a fashion buzz. Being here has helped me gain experience and learn how to run a business at the same time.”
Although in the earlier stages of her entrepreneurial journey, Hannah has already laid the stones for future orders by securing a manufacturer in Bolivia. While some may question why South America Hannah is quick to point out that it is a women’s co-op that allows the women to bring their children to work, use skills from their culture and gives them a good living they might not otherwise have access too. “I chose this location because it supports the workers and
although I could have looked at potentially less expensive offers, this option is still one of the best because it is a good cause. In the future I plan to help more communities and create regeneration policies.”
As Hannah moves closer to finishing her second collection she explains how she will promote it. “I have numerous contacts who I have built over the years and previously interested buyers are the obvious market to begin with. I appreciate that I’m a new brand going into a competitive market so gaining support early is much more effective. Alongside this is investment and investing in a fashion brand includes the securement of stock and ensuring that ball gets rolling straight away.”
Hannah has self-funded her business so far and is now at the stage where investment is essential for growth. While collections are designed to ensure orders are fulfilled, money is needed. Hannah understands the importance of investment at this stage on her business journey and believes the money may come from the UK or America, so is
keeping both options open. The UK has helped many start-ups as it continues its support of innovation and America remains ‘the land of opportunity’ for many.
Hannah hopes to have two seasons a year, two less than most of the big fashion labels. “I just think four is too many. By keeping it at twice a year it shows the integrity of the brand and offers more opportunity for collaboration in the future. Especially cross-collaborations, which in turn will help raise awareness and allow the business to be creative in other ways.”
Hannah’s drive is clear to see, “This has been my life’s passion and not once have I ever thought I didn’t want to be doing this. My background included working for very small companies in London, fashion magazines, PR, high-fashion shows and large corporate businesses. All of this experience has helped paint the picture. I feel like I have been building towards this for a long time and gaining skills and understanding in many different ways along the journey. It is one that I hope will never end.”
As the world of fashion continues to move and shake, Hannah is returning to a more traditional style of knitwear and creating a fusion with more modern designs. Some trends are short-lived, so witnessing a return to a style that never truly disappeared is praise worthy. For it to come from a young entrepreneur who is sharing her life’s passion, it is even more impressive.
“I appreciate that I’m a new brand going into a competitive market so gaining support early is much more effective”