Female Entrepreneur in the Fashion World: Hannah Jenkinson
Hannah Jenkinson grew up in a small village north of England and first learned how to hand knit from her grandmother. Today, she is the founder of Hannah Jenkinson Knitwear, a brand that values the beauty of hand craftsmanship combined with modern techniques to create one of a kind garments. Yarns are hand chosen from the highest of qualities, and better yet produces zero waste products. Hannah also partners with Nest, a non profit company that provides healthcare and education to craftspeople. HJK reflects the true art of design from raw sourcing to one of a kind products, while maintaining zero waste and empowering other women worldwide.
Please visit her website at: www.hjkwomen.com
Q: Can you tell me about yourself and when you developed a passion for knitwear and textiles?
A: I grew up in a really small village in the north of England where I learnt how to Hand-Knit, Crochet and Cross-Stitch from my Grandmother's when I was a child. I always loved making things with my hands and being creative in that way and I followed it through school textile classes and onto University. Once I realized I could make a living from Knitting and designing clothes then I was set! I love the technicality of Knitwear design and how much you can influence the outcome at every stage of the process.
Q: What motivated you to start your own company Hannah Jenkinson Knitwear?
A: I started HJK: Hannah Jenkinson Knitwear after working in the industry for a few years. I found that some of the pleasure and joy of crafting something myself was lost once I was working for other people in the fashion industry. I needed to remain creative on my own terms. I also wanted to offer something unique to the market place that was made in a really special way - the antithesis of fast fashion.
Q: Where did you get your education in fashion?
A: I did my BA at Brighton University in the UK, and MFA in Fashion Design and Society at Parsons in New York, which helped me to establish who I was as a designer and what I wanted to put out into the world.
Q: What makes HJK unique?
A: I use very labor-intensive craft techniques to create truly unique knitwear pieces. I don't want anyone to feel like they could get something similar from another designer. The process of development draws on my whole lifetime of craft techniques, and knitwear development experience. The pieces either take many hours of hand-work or utilize the latest knitwear machinery to create something modern, timeless and uniquely special. Everything is made to order so you know you are getting something that has been made just for you. I have also partnered with Dance companies such at The Assembly Dance to create costumes for their performances and I love creative collaboration and working on different projects.
Q: Can you tell me about the importance of hand craftsmanship and how you pick your yarns?
A: Hand Craftsmanship is an essential part of HJK. As a culture we have become out of touch with what it takes to actually make beautiful and original clothing. Some of the sweaters I make take many hours, and sometimes days, of hand-embroidery. I always do the first sample and development myself but sometimes will partner with the charity Nest, which links up designers with Artisan groups all over the world. Through them I found a co-operative in India who are incredibly skilled in hand-work and the members are provided with healthcare, childcare and education. The tactility of wearing something that has been labored over by hand is really special. All the yarns I use are from Italy and are the best quality available.
Q: How does HJK implement sustainability and zero waste?
A: Knitwear is naturally a zero-waste process as the panels are shaped - or 'fully fashioned' - by the knit to make the garment - nothing is wasted. I never make anything that does not have a home to go to - the issue of over-stock is a big problem in the industry and I don't want to contribute to that. The factory I use for the machine knitted pieces is based in LA and I am really proud to support local business who do excellent work. For spring this year, I exhibited an art show of textile pieces which was inspired by using up all the waste that had gone into previous collections. I made large textile hangings, and patched together garments which may have otherwise been thrown away. I didn't want to waste anything! HJK allows me to have the freedom to express myself in different ways.
Q: What advice would you give to women who are aspiring to be business owners?
A: I would advise aspiring business owners to just keep moving towards your vision in whatever way you can, and at some point you will look back and realize how far you have come. HJK has been, and is, an amazing journey with many ups and downs! Stay true to yourself - you have to come back again and again to what works for you and what your inner voice is saying to you. Don't make comparisons with other people. Things probably won't work out exactly how you want or plan them to but you have to stay present with what is needed in every moment. There is space for everyone to do what makes them happy and the more you follow your heart the more opportunities will come your way.