Every week, we shine a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homeware and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware, accessories and food, we bring you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week, we chat with Jojo Yan Jiao, founder and creative director of fashion brand Jovonna London.
How did Jovonna London come to life?
Both my grandmother and my mother made their own clothes – my grandmother’s skills were passed down to my own mother who would copy magazines and make her own clothes to feed her love of fashion when they weren’t readily available in the local market. The love for clothes has always been in our family and we pay extra attention to the details, whether that is going to great lengths to pick the perfect outfit or altering clothes so they are tailored to perfection.
I started Jovonna London in 2007 to pursue my own dream of starting a fashion brand. It all began after a brief stint in London markets such as Spitalfields and Portobello before setting up my own stall selling my own designs. The markets in those days were full of likeminded individuals who shared the same passion as I had and it was a tourist hotspot for people who wanted something special and in small production.
Our first boutique was established in 2017, back where it all began in Portobello Road. We now have four London boutiques: Portobello, Marylebone, Brent Cross and, most recently, Soho, which opened this month.
What three words describe Jovonna London?
Romantic, classic and contemporary.
Who is Jovonna London for?
The designs at Jovonna London are created for women on the go who love to spend time planning their outfits but lead a busy lifestyle. The pieces are versatile and can be styled up or styled down and work for multiple occasions, transcending trends and lasting season after season.
Tell me about your design and making process.
The process starts with an inspiration board at the beginning of the season. I take inspiration from everywhere – catwalks, street style, Instagram or trend-forecasting sites and put this all together to find what works. Most importantly, we then look back to previous seasons to highlight the bestsellers and the pieces our loyal customer base have particularly warmed to. We like to keep our signature styling details consistent throughout the collections to maintain the brand DNA and keep the collections authentic to us, for example pleats, fabric manipulation, a classic shirt with individual details or hybrid knitwear.
We then create a range of CADs [computer-aided design] and sit down with the full team to choose the best curation to send to the sample room. We spend a long time focusing on the fabrics as it needs to be perfect to bring the designs to life and ensure it is wearable, durable and functional.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I wake up at 7am to get my son ready for school and the rest of the family ready for work. By 9am I’m responding to emails and messages and using the first hours of the day to catch up with the team in China for sample approving, fitting and fabric sourcing. The rest of the morning will consist of gathering inspiration from social media, creating our newsletter for the website and speaking with sales agents across the world regarding exclusive collaborations.
I have a quick lunch at 1pm before checking through our own social media pages, responding to DMs and speaking with our customer base to gain feedback. We then have our team meeting for the next season designs.
By 6pm the day is winding down and I try to switch off (which almost never happens). I often will have a sneaky look at my emails. As an international company and with the time difference there is always someone working in another part of the world to talk to!
What’s the best thing about running your own business? And the most challenging?
The best thing running my own business is that I am bringing my own visions to life and doing what I love. It gives me the flexibility to be creative. The most challenging part is when you turn your passion into your work… you need a new passion!
The best moment so far?
It has to be being featured on Daily China and Forbes.com – that was amazing! I am also so proud to be stocked by some of the best stockists in the world.
Which piece is your favourite?
My favourite Jovonna piece will always be a Jovonna Trench Jacket, either the Nava or the Two-Tone Trench. To me it fully encompasses the brand aesthetic. It is also perfect to wear in the UK as it is always weather-appropriate, can be dressed up or down and always makes the look cohesive.
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
Lots of exciting things to come! We have a special exclusive line with a well-known retailer coming and we will also be expanding our own boutique locations. There will be lots more standalone stores to look out for, too.