The Girl with the Chanel Tattoo

Is East Bridgewater mom Jackie Fraser-Swan the fashion world’s next big thing?

By Courtney Hollands | Boston Magazine |

At home in East Bridgewater, Fraser-Swan lives three doors down from her parents, Richard and Sharon Swan. Her older sister Kelly, who owns a preschool in town, lives in between. Their houses abut the 80 acres of woods the family has amassed over the years, a refuge where Dad tinkers with antique cars—a red ’56 Pontiac, a ’58 British taxi, a WWII half-track from the set of Saving Private Ryan—as Mom plays with the grandkids. Horses, and sometimes ducks and chickens, share the grounds, which Fraser-Swan helped mow and clear as a child.

While her parents worked long hours building the family business—Atlantic Research Marketing Systems (ARMS), a designer and manufacturer of small weapons in West Bridgewater (her father holds nearly 100 patents and trademarks)—five-year-old Jackie would sell sketches for a nickel apiece to workers in the machine shop. Her mother remembers something unusual about those drawings: The people were always wearing clothing. “The arms were still coming out of the head,” she says, “but they had clothes on. If it wasn’t an A-line dress, it was pants and shoes with a shirt.”

After graduating from East Bridgewater High School in 1999, Fraser-Swan worked at her parents’ company while bouncing from Massasoit Community College in Brockton and Canton to the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, studying liberal arts, painting, and color theory. A drawing course at the Institute of Art, she recalls, “didn’t last very long because I didn’t like to be told what to draw.” When her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000 and then breast cancer in 2002, Fraser-Swan took time off from her studies to help. In 2005 she married her childhood friend Brian Fraser, who now works at ARMS and is also a part-time police officer.

A year after their wedding, Brian bought Fraser-Swan her first Chanel purse—a classic black flap bag with a lion’s-head clasp that cost $2,000. From there, Fraser-Swan would eventually transform her 19th-century farmhouse into a veritable museum devoted to both the Chanel brand and its current designer, Karl Lagerfeld. Today, Fraser-Swan’s house is filled with Chanel heels and clutches, and even a pair of skis and a bike bearing the iconic intertwined Cs logo. Near a stack of art books in her bedroom stands a Steiff Karl Lagerfeld teddy bear in leather boots and a crystal studded tie — only 2,500 of the toys were made. She keeps her most beloved pieces in a dining room hutch, including a numbered Coco rag doll that Lagerfeld designed for the reopening of the SoHo boutique in 2010. “I love Coco Chanel’s story,” Fraser-Swan says. “She was a true entrepreneur and stayed true to her ideas—fashion changed because of her. Women felt more independent because of her.” She’s so devoted to Chanel, in fact, that she named her dog Coco for the designer, and has two Chanel tattoos: a cross inspired by a 2009 runway show, and a likeness of Coco herself.

The jewel of Fraser-Swan’s Chanel collection is a Yazbukey acrylic glass necklace shaped like Karl Lagerfeld’s face—ponytail and all—that she bought at the Paris boutique Colette three years ago on the eve of the first Chanel show she attended. She waited for Lagerfeld after the runway cleared, and he signed it with a Sharpie.

  • http://BostonMagazine Cynthia

    I just do not understand how this “designer” who comes from mega-means and has been able to show her line (Emerson) in two Lincoln Center shows has not given you ONE image for this article of her clothing – not even ONE! I have no idea who she is, except that she has money, to do what she has a passion for. Where are the images of her collections? How can you write a piece like this without images? I just do not understand – at all. Please explain. I do not care to see a photo of her. After reading this very long article, I want to see the goods. Insane.

  • http://BostonMagazine Cynthia

    In addition, the photo taken of her sitting at her desk – with no education in fashion design – appearing to be sketching her latest collection, is totally false PR.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    She has no fashion experience, and it is reflected in the designs she put out on the runway- and won’t even show in the article. She isn’t an ambitious upstart, she is the daughter of a successful family that has given her money to keep her entertained. Take away Daddy’s money and watch her fizzle.