An Introduction to Jennie - the Woman Behind the Cashmere
Before I dive in, I want to introduce myself to you all. My name is Jennie, and I’m the woman behind this little cashmere brand. Thank you all so much for being here and supporting me through this amazing journey. To put more of a face to a name, I thought I’d share a few things about me and how I went from law to fashion with Lois Avery.
Jennie at a glance
I’ve been in love with fashion for as long as I can remember. I’d dote over clothes and play “fashion designer” growing up as a child. So, naturally I became a lawyer! The people closest to me sometimes said they were surprised at my first career choice, but I like to think of it as a valuable and enlightening detour on the road that eventually led to Lois Avery.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m actually Australian, not British, and grew up in Adelaide, home of the best red wine in the world (sorry Italy!). I moved to London when I was 23 years old as a way to cure the heartbreak I was feeling from breaking up with my boyfriend. After all, a European adventure can cure anything.
I ended up working at an American law firm in London, where I met my husband. He’s from North East England and speaks with a lovely Geordie accent. We have three children, none of whom have our accents, but just speak like BBC newsreaders. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Our son is nine and the younger two are seven-year-old twins. They keep us pretty busy.
It was after having a family that my life and career started to take a turn. I stayed in the legal profession as long as I did (13 years), as I worked with some great people and I wasn’t desperately unhappy until the final year before I left. And I was pretty good at it! However, there was always something that wasn’t quite right.
The tipping point was probably realising that my legal career just wasn’t right for my family or me. The commuting was tiring, the hours unsocial, and I was not the best version of myself. There were also huge industry-wide changes that had a fundamental impact on my line of work. It was a very traumatic time for me and my family, but in hindsight I can see that I needed to be really unhappy to make a change. And perhaps if I had felt more complacent in my legal career, the idea of doing something inspiring and exciting would have remained an unfulfilled dream. I guess I had to reach a point where leaving the law was an easier option than staying.
Given the conditions of my employment contract, it was never going to be an option to carry on working as a lawyer and run a business. Once we launched, that was it! I had a three month notice period and resigned on 8 June 2016. Lois Avery launched on my twins’ 6th birthday: 28 October 2016. The rest is history!
A few fun facts
Now that you’ve got some background on me, here are a few fun tidbits about my favourite things in life.
“Only You” with Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei. I love this movie and it definitely inspired my Italian travels and a desire to stay at Le Sirenuse in Positano—it only took me about 20 years to stay there!
My dream holiday would definitely be on an Italian island in a beautiful hotel with a pool and a view. Location is important, and ideally I like to be able to walk everywhere. I'm not massively fond of traditional five-star luxury hotels as I find them a bit cold and soulless. I love a bit of luxury, but friendly staff, a stellar location and a comfortable bed with fab sheets are far more important to me than chandeliers and marble floors.
But there is one exception ...
One of my fondest hotel memories is at Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli on Lake Garda. It’s at the luxury end and probably one of the most expensive hotels I will ever stay in, but the staff were so thoughtful—coffee after dinner came with an entire box of chocolates, a glass of crisp Lugana whenever you wanted it and the rooms were filled with Acqua di Parma products.
At the other end of the spectrum was our four days in a tiny pensione in Peschici in Puglia. It cost 10 euros a night. The hot water ran out on day two, as it was the end of the season. My husband's passport was accidentally given to a departing guest who was 2 hours down the coast when the error was discovered. But it was fun not stressful and we laughed and loved every second of those four days!
Favourite place I’ve ever travelled to
I have a thing for cliffs and water. I have very happy memories of Ponza, Stromboli, and Ravello.
Favourite shawl in the collection
This is a tricky one, as it depends on the season and my mood, but I can honestly say that I wear the Classic in Slate more than any other shawl in the collection.
Why I chose cashmere over other fashion-driven paths
Given my legal background, I was not confident at designing clothing and dealing with pattern cutting and sizing. I just felt this was too complicated for someone with no formal fashion training. I have always been an 'accessories girl' and a scarf business just made sense and seemed doable for a fashion newbie.
Everything about Lois Avery has to wow and excite me. I can’t think of a material that does that as effectively as cashmere. All of my friends coo every time they discuss cashmere, and this level of excitement had to be at the heart of Lois Avery.
What I love most about Italy
There is just something magical about Italy, and so many of those moments when my heart's skipped a beat have happened to me there.
As a control freak, I am strangely drawn to the chaos of Italy, as it can't be controlled, you just have to go with it. Luckily, Italy is also known for producing some of the most luxurious cashmere in the world!
What inspires the design behind Lois Avery’s shawls
I follow my instincts. When I look at colour swatches and samples I need to feel something. If I don’t get that feeling of excitement in my chest, then it's not good enough for Lois Avery. I remember the first time I saw the samples for our Sea colour. My heart just about leapt out of my chest. I saw my husband and my children's eyes in that colour and I knew it was right. It's been our best seller other than grey!
The process for designing our Leopard Print in Bengal Kitten was an amazing experience. I was determined to create the perfect leopard print. My friend, Sonia, had a gorgeous Bengal kitten called Mya and I worked with a mill to replicate that stunning coat on a cashmere shawl. I am very proud of that shawl!
All Images: Marlene Lee