Jackie Fraser-Swan: The Girl with the Chanel Tattoo
Back in her home studio, Fraser-Swan gushes about the satchels and cross-bodies the models will carry down the runway during this month’s New York Fashion Week—fruits from a line she’s working on with the British bag company Bracher Emden, which is also creating belts to complement her peplum skirts. Fraser-Swan is also designing several pairs of shoes with Kork-Ease for the spring. These collaborations are steps toward her goal of making a return on her sizable investment in Emerson.
Experts like MassArt’s Sondra Grace have described the line as “marketable” and “not so experimental,” which can be interpreted as either a genuine compliment or being damned with faint praise. Marie Claire’s Kyle Anderson says Emerson has “shapes and cuts that would look great on everyone.” Boston Fashion Week founder Jay Calderin, who taught Fraser-Swan sketching during her short stint at the School of Fashion Design, adds that it’s easy to imagine women wearing the pieces down Newbury Street or Madison Avenue. The line’s little edgy details—the houndstooth knee patches on black pants, lace panels in a structured dress, and asymmetrical cuts—keep Emerson interesting. But it’s not necessarily avant-garde.
Then again, Fraser-Swan says she wants to design for everyone. But young brands like Emerson are often too pricey—$750 for a skirt—for younger buyers. (That’s because most such lines are made domestically and in low volumes, both of which can drive up manufacturing costs.) When it comes to hitting that $25 million sweet spot, the key for Fraser-Swan is to survive this difficult upstart period.
Meanwhile, Fraser-Swan and her team are trying to get their line into stores, meeting with retailers in Boston and beyond. (The Newton boutique Stash will begin carrying Emerson this month.)
To generate sales, they’ve launched an online store (emerson-collection.com) and will stage a pop-up shop after New York Fashion Week this month. Jay Calderin says that Fraser-Swan is playing it smart. “If you have the funds to do something, if you have the resources in terms of people who can execute what you see in your mind, then you can really push forward,” he says. “I think it’s a big story because she’s done it in such a big way. She’s basically created her dream job, and she’s learning on that job.”
In her studio as she preps for her upcoming show, surrounded by the muslin patterns and silks and jerseys, Fraser-Swan speaks as if Emerson’s success is all but assured. “I honestly just think that’s the way it was supposed to happen,” she says. “I was determined and that was the only way I wanted to do it. I think if you put something out in the universe that you’re really determined to do, you can make it happen.”