“All my life I had been dissatisfied while shopping,” explains fashion and textile designer Jackie Villevoye over the phone, warm and direct in her manner. Everything from clothing to furniture felt too homogeneous, too lifeless, to appeal to her particular sensibility. “I had a feeling for styling. People saw that in the way I decorated my house, or the way I dressed my children.”
It is specifically when her children left the family’s home, in Breda, the Netherlands, that the first spark for Jupe by Jackie entered the designer’s mind.
With paintings, photographs and light installations hung wall to wall; ceramics, books and trinkets arranged artfully on surfaces, the house was already full to the brim with character. But it was the perspective of time spent practicing “yoga and bridge”, stretching interminably before her, that she realized that her curiosity and penchant for vibrancy could be the first breath into her new life.
Compelled by the possibilities opened up to her, she decided to apply her passion for design to the creation of a new venture, first turning her hand to women’s accessories. “I thought about a product that would be easy, and I stumbled upon a tie for women,” she continues, matter-of-factly, “because I knew it didn't really exist, and I thought it might be easy to make.”
Silk ties appealed to Jackie’s tomboy sensibility, but she turned to embroidery primarily out of practicality. She quickly realized that choosing this technique over printing would allow her to create limited quantities of each colourway and design, with minimal waste, and maximum commercial viability. “This is me,” she continues. “Very organic. There was no business plan.” She then travelled to New Delhi in search of talented craftspeople who could execute her ideas. With these first pieces, her sixth and final ‘child’, Jupe by Jackie, was born.
In the ten years since, the brand has established a reputation for itself as a joyous resource for playful, original, intricately hand-embroidered pieces, from ties, shirts, hats and dresses to, more recently, opulent throws and characterful cushion covers.
To this day, Jackie works with the same team of artisans in New Delhi, combining the finest Indian craftsmanship with a resolutely European aesthetic. While the brand plays a small but vital role in the fashion industry, that organic, spirited seed from which it first sprung remains at the core of all that the team does. “It’s so hard, fashion, nowadays,” she elaborates. “We are trying to do our utmost with a little team, making beautiful stuff, bringing it to the world, making people happy. We are fighting every day to make it happen.”
Jackie can’t – indeed, won’t – put her finger on where her ideas come from. “Everything is in my stomach,” she says. “It’s all about art. I have these instincts – wherever I am, always my eyes are looking for proportions, colour combinations, little things.”
This instinctive way of seeing has stood her in good stead. Despite initial rejection in the design community, the young brand was picked up by iconic fashion house Comme des Garçons and they have maintained their relationship ever since.
The collection, meanwhile, remains seasonless and vibrant—a fact that its designer puts down to the handcraft behind it. “A printed fabric is dull, it’s two-dimensional,” she says. “With an embroidered fabric, the work is laying upon the cloth, so the light catches it differently, there’s more character.” This character is central to Jackie’s definition of ‘good design’. It’s the same ineffable individuality expertly embodied in a navy silk tie, decorated with her customary red flowers -- its stitching demanding a closer look. “Fashion needs to underscore your personality, your style.”
“With an embroidered fabric, the work is laying upon the cloth, so the light catches it differently, there’s more character.”
“So too does one’s home”, Jackie continues, referring to Jupe’s range of homewares, which contains the designer’s favourite objects so far. “The Halabala chairs! Those pieces make me the most proud,” she exclaims. “They are one of a kind.” Each one uses a vintage Modernist chair designed by Czech designer Jindrich Halabala. Their covers are painstakingly hand-embroidered in India with an individual design, before being reupholstered in the Netherlands. They epitomize Jackie’s approach to interior design (“I have a carpenter’s eye,” she tells me proudly, “my eyes see when a painting is not hanging straight, or it's too high, or too low”) with perfectly balanced colour combinations, compositions, and the utmost respect paid to proportions. “They’re not chairs, they're pieces of art. They lift up the environment they’re in.”
As for her own environment? The family home sold, Jackie is now in between nests altogether, waiting on the 500-year-old building she bought a few years ago to be restored. “I'm a travelling lady right now,” she laughs vibrantly, seeming not to mind in the least living largely out of a suitcase, bouncing between visits to her children, who live around the world, her friends, her international collaborators and her manufacturers in India. “But I can tell you, when I move over to this place, living on my own, I want it to be an expression of all the art and books I’ve gathered—all the things that I think are beautiful.”