Jessica Jesse, creator and co-founder of BuDhaGirl, an eclectic New York-based accessory company, is no stranger to taking the front row and making a lasting impression. For the most recent New York Fashion Week this past September, Jesse aspired to take the road less traveled and forgo the de riguer presentations and cocktail parties (been there done that). She decided to call upon her Chinese Terracotta warrior of antiquity instead. She placed a fully made-up ancient Adonis (of course, in a custom, handcrafted costume) smack dab in the middle of the steps at Lincoln Center. Her BuDhaGirl Warrior drew attention from everyone from legendary style photographer Bill Cunningham, the Hilton sisters and blogger extraordinaire, Natalie Joos, consultant stylist to the world’s top fashion magazine editors. This out-of-the-box thinking is just how BuDhaGirl was born.
BuDhaGirl is taking the accessory and retail industry by storm, with a mission that is changing the way people shop and buy. Jessica’s goal: to highlight the importance of quieting our brains through daily ritual and purpose. The visionary and former fashion pro decided to sit down with Bella NYC to tell us more…
Looking through your fashion curriculum, we can tell you were really there when fashion was the place to be (not that it isn’t now) –an original model for Hubert De Givenchy?! Fill us in about your fashion background, please.
I began working as a runway model at age 14, which was not so common at the end of the 70s and early 80s. I was very fortunate and had great mentors; they helped me rise very quickly and work for designers like Adolfo, Calvin Klein and Bill Blass … of course, my big break was working for Hubert de Givenchy. Fashion has really been my calling and I quickly decided that modeling was not the road to take so I studied fashion merchandising and immediately began working. I have worked for both great retailers: Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. I have seen both the store-side of the fashion business and the buying side. I was a buyer in London, Paris, Milan and of course New York. My favorite projects were opening designer boutiques for Gianni Versace, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent.
That leads us to the question we’ve have been dying to ask… You’re a princess?! Can you tell us about your background?
I think this is kind of funny how I am always asked about this! My father was from the Von Hohenberg family in Austria, and my great, great uncle was Franz Ferdinand (not the band). Technically I would be a countess, not a princess.
I assume that sitting on the board of the Center for Brain Health in Dallas helped you develop BuDhaGirl?
Not so much develop but certainly reinforce. At this point in time – really, at this point in history – we are about to monumentally advance our understanding of how the mind functions and how to keep it healthy. You see focus on the brain everywhere, from the President’s brain initiative, the NFL, the military, Google, child development, Alzheimer’s, autism … everywhere. And the funny thing is we do nothing for our brain like we do for other things.
You stress the importance of daily rituals and intentions and how they can truly change your brain. Tell us more.
Of course! Much like exercising and eating well to keep you fit on a daily basis, our brain, too, needs attention. But we have never paid attention to that. By briefly quieting the mind for 20-30 seconds at certain intervals during the day, you are insuring that your brain can perform deeper thinking tasks.
With the recent public news of Google, as well as Facebook and Twitter holding meditation classes for their engineers, these companies are purposefully making mindfulness and contemplative practices a part of their company core values and ethos. You are definitely on to something, however, you are the first in the retail market to do this with jewelry.
Yes we are the first, but my feeling is that we will soon have company. Now you can see brand names we all recognize that have proven to be highly successful companies and have vast workforces are recognizing the benefits of quieting the mind. For BuDhaGirl, it was a natural and integral part of the company. Susie Hoimes and I did not want to create another jewelry company – that has already been done. Ritual and purpose had to be at the core of every product. Its function is to bring the wearer back to that place of quiet and, more importantly, to remind the wearer of their daily intention placed upon the jewelry.
We at Bella NYC love how you took jewelry, which is an absolute must have for any fashion girl, and turned it into more that that. It is more than adorning the body; it really has become a spiritual ornament for the body.
You know, jewelry is such a natural for this process … and here is why: We dress each morning and usually the very last thing we do is accessorize with jewelry. We are already making decisions on how we are going to finish our outfit. I don’t care if you are a bold maximalist or a dainty minimalist, you are still making a statement of who you are and what you stand for. If you just take this process one step further and create a tiny daily ritual that makes you pause, think of your day, what you want, what you need and who you love, and create a mental image of the outcome you want for one or all of these things, you are well on your BuDhaGirl way!
Tell us about what’s next at BuDhaGirl.
We want more BuDhaGirls. We continue to base our collections on what we love: statement pieces based on vintage jewelry, color, whimsy, drama. And, of course, we create a way for our clients to interact with each and every piece so that the moment of ritual and purpose continues.
For the holiday, it is pearls and velvet, gold and enamel crosses, BuDhaBoys with Bling and layering bangles and bracelets … each has an intention. And, oh yes – the debut of our men’s wrist wrap. For Spring 2014, it is all about ribbons, flowers and long, long necklaces that can be worn flapper style or doubled, even tripled, to give you the ultimate collar.
Find out more about Jessica James and BuDhaGirl by visiting www.BuDhaGirl.com.