Jessica Graham, 36, is a sales rep for Maharam, a textile company with offices in the Merchandise Mart. She makes clothes for herself and occasionally other people.
Heather Kenny: Do you ever use fabric from where you work?
Jessica Graham: I did a selection for a fashion show just for fun that was auctioned off. But normally I don’t work with our fabrics because it’s really hard to work with interior fabrics–they’re really thick. I go on eBay a lot; I also have favorite places around the city, thrift stores. I have a bunch of skirts out of vintage tablecloths. This skirt–I think it was drapery fabric I found on eBay. Underneath it’s a big poufy slip from a wedding dress. The T-shirt I cut up and then I attached some ruched fabric. Everything except for the shoes is salvaged.
HK: Your silhouette is heavily influenced by a 60s silhouette, but you also incorporate unusual touches like panels or aprons of different materials.
JG: I like to layer things a lot. I like the idea of having different dimensions–mixing two patterns together, one sheer and one that’s not. I love little belty things, collars. I’m working on a jacket that has a built-in pouch for your keys, your ID, money.
HK: You must have a hard time finding clothes in regular stores.
JG: I really do.
HK: Who buys the clothes you make?
JG: The majority of people that have my stuff are friends. It’s a lot of word of mouth. I don’t necessarily want to design for superrich people–I want people to be able to afford it. I just recently took a weeklong couture sewing class in San Francisco. Literally for eight to ten hours a day, we just sewed. I think I logged over 70 hours on a dress. It’s not really that fancy of a dress either. It’s a really labor-intensive process. If I charged for all the hours that I put into these pieces . . .
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.