Ace & Jig Design Duo | Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson
For Ace & Jig designers Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson, collaboration is queen. From textile soul sister design interns, to conscious clothiers with a faithful following—Ace & Jig's signature style and spirit transcends trends and seasons. With a focus on saturated stripes and sustainability, they craft custom textiles for each collection—working closely with India’s master weavers on ancient looms to produce heirloom garments. It seems that Cary and Jenna were cut from the same clothe—a yarn dyed, hand woven ethically made textile crafted to stand the tests and trends of time. Find out how they got their start in fashion, tips on bi-coastal collaboration, the power of community, and the need— now more than ever— for charity and conscious consumerism:
YOUR COLLECTIONS ARE A PORTRAIT OF A BEAUTIFUL PARTNERSHIP. HOW DID YOU TWO MEET? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN FORCES AND BRANCH OUT INDEPENDENTLY TO PIONEER ACE & JIG?
We met as interns at the design house Language NYC. We instantly bonded over our shared love of textiles, and worked together for years before deciding to branch out and start Ace & Jig. But the shared textile love was immediate.
WHAT INSPIRED THE NAME ACE & JIG?
We started Ace & Jig after the birth of each of our firstborn children. ACE & JIG are their initials.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PROCESS? HOW IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS INFLUENCED BY COLLABORATION?
Cary is based in Brooklyn and Jenna is in Portland, so there's a lot of Skyping, and trips across the country! We also journey to India as often as family life allows to work one-on-one with the weavers. We start each season with a freeform grouping of inspiration drawn from travels and just daily life - this includes a wide array of sources from a scrap of vintage textile scavenged at a flea market, to a painting from one of our children, a landscape from a travel, or a piece of art - and on! From there, we refine color and texture and pattern, plan out the warp and weft, then send our designs to our weaving partners in India. They weave the first trials of each fabric on ancient wooden looms, then they send us the "first drafts", and from there we refine again, until we get them just right!
It's collaboration in the greatest sense - hands contributing to each fabric from across the country and across the globe.
WHERE SHOULD WE STOP IN YOUR RESPECTIVE NEIGHBORHOODS? ANY FAVORITE SPOTS FOR GOOD GRUB OR FAMILY FUN?
In Brooklyn, we love Little Neck for delicious seafood and mini doughnuts for dessert. Stories is an incredible new children's bookshop on Bergen Street.
For Portland, in the words of Sleater-Kinney—"Cross the river to the east side!" We recommend eating at Porque No, drinking at Angelface, taking in a $4 movie at the historic Laurelhurst theater (w/ pizza and beer if you're hungry/thirsty!), or stopping into Nationale for a good read.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE COMMUNITY OF ACE & JIG DEVOTEES FORMING REAL LIFE FRIENDSHIPS THROUGH FASHION (#ACEANDJIGCOMMUNITY). HOW DOES COMMUNITY INFLUENCE YOUR PROCESS?
One of our favorite aspects of the Ace & Jig community is how women are meeting each other through their mutual love of Ace & Jig and becoming friends that support each other in real life. Our clothing is recognizable —so a fan of Ace & Jig will spot another fan at PTA meetings, in grocery store lines, etc! Online through social media is a big one. Women who love Ace & Jig hail from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they also tend to connect on some basic core values. For one—they tend to be a very smart and funny group of women. When these women connect, good things come out of it.
We feel so lucky to have this close-knit and passionate community! We are always looking for ways to meet and connect with them. Last Fall, we did a team road trip down the California coast with stops in SF, Santa Cruz, Ojai, and LA. We've also held community swap & repair events on both coast, where devotees can come and swap past season pieces with each other, or repair an old piece to like-new condition. In everything we do, we are looking to include and connect, and to reduce waste.
YOU’VE HELD MULTIPLE CHARITY SALES THIS PAST YEAR, DONATING A PORTION OF SALES TO PROMINENT FEMALE FOCUSED AND CIVIL LIBERTIES CHARITIES. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GIVE BACK IN THIS WAY?
We've always made it a point to give back, and right now it seems more important than ever. Human rights are being threatened, the art world is being threatened, the environment is being threatened —it's not the time to sit back. These things matter to us individually, and they matter to us as a business as well. Our contributions and fundraisers for the American Civil Liberties Union, Circle of Health International, the Women's March, Earth Justice, and more, are our way of protecting what is dear to us.
AS INDEPENDENT BUSINESS OWNERS, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH SOMEONE INTERESTED IN STARTING A DESIGN COMPANY?
When we were starting Ace & Jig, we were told by many that the idea was too focused or narrow. But we leaned on our own love for the craft and pushed forward. So our advice would be to trust the aspects of your craft that you feel most passionate about to pull you through, and that will be enough.