Eco-stylist and entrepreneur, Jill Heller, is a key mover and shaker who’s taking the fashion industry from “fast” to “conscious”. Working in both European and American markets, Jill has been recognized in numerous publications for her savvy style and leadership in sustainable fashion. We had the privilege of visiting with Jill who offered us a look into her company PureThread, as well as Fall style tips and a list of her fav ethical brands to follow for the coming season!
What was your introduction into the fashion industry?
I was born into an industry where my grandfather and my father manufactured women’s clothing. As a young girl I often sat at the kitchen table, watching the fashion designers who came to our home create sketches of dresses, sweaters, trousers…everything fashion. I observed my father’s enthusiasm in his showroom every time a new line was introduced, and there I started loving fabrics and dresses, draped carefully on the feminine silhouette of the mannequins. I was fascinated with the idea of connecting the designers’ sketch to the fabric, to the product, and the people who bought them and wore them.
After studying marketing at Syracuse University, I launched my first brick and mortar retail store on Columbus Ave (1986-1990). My early years of entrepreneurship consisted of running a business from the ground up, forming seasonal buying plans to merchandise a retail store focused on the upper west side contemporary customer.
What inspired you to focus on ethical fashion?
I launched my second store Westchester County NY in 2003-2007 when the luxury fashion market was booming – “luxury” defined as high priced, and high quality, trend-right fashion, featuring both classic, elegant and updated high style. After 4 years of great success at retail, in 2007, I felt the wave of luxury shopping was unsustainable, and I made the decision to sell the business. This turned out to be the right decision as the economic downturn in 2008 revealed much uncertainty about our dollar, economy and jobs, all of which has a tremendous effect on fashion purchases at the consumer level.
In 2010 I launched PureThread, a small stylist company with the passion and expertise of two incredible stylists, Wendi Winshall and Tracey Perlmutter. Together our mission is to empower change through fashion. Dressing our clients fabulously and introducing more and more sustainable fashion into their closets, we not only addressed surface needs, but also added a deeper valued experience that was unmatched in the stylist universe. In addition to sending our clients out into the world looking and feeling confident and beautiful, we became dedicated to educating our customers and promoting sustainable fashion and the designers whose ethics and design sensibilities most resonate with us. By keeping our finger on the pulse of what is happening in fashion, environmental sustainability, fair trade practices, and where they meet, and then educating and dressing our clients, we continue to bridge the gap between the designer/manufacturer and the end customer.
You’ve worked on a number of projects with the goal of shifting the fashion industry. Is there one project that sticks out the most for you?
The PureThread Pop Up Store, Fall 2014, was the most exciting project.
The increase in sustainable products across all categories has also allowed us to grow from offering small, seasonal collections in studio to opening up massive pop up store featuring the best of ethical fashion, organic beauty products and home decor. The pop up offered a chance to test new brands, such as Nourish skin care from London, Myak scarves and hats, and Lago Di Como fine linens from Italy.
It’s was a special event in order to increase our current customer loyalty, by providing a venue to share more products and showcase personally meet the designers behind the brand. The schedule of events changed daily, which provided more opportunity to revisit and form deeper connections. Newness is fun, it creates a sense of adventure and a reason for our clients to come out and see what’s going on!
What are a few of your favorite ethical brands right now, and why?
When we first launched PureThread in 2010, there were few products on the market that could really set my heart a flutter. Now, just a few years later, the market for ethical fashion is booming with on trend garments from a global network of designers that it is so inspiring, and enables me to provide our clients with abundant choices for their wardrobes and lifestyles.
A few of my favorite fashion brands include Maiyet, Organic by John Patrick, M. Patmos, A Peace Treaty, Norlha, Callina, Indigenous, H Fredriksson, Loup Charmant, Skin, Samuji, Suzanne Rae, Titania Inglis, From the Road, and Myak.
What do you specifically look for when you curate for PureThread?
At PureThread, we take a very specific and curated approach to what we offer. Our clients lead busy lives and they tend to gravitate towards luxurious fabrics that are lifestyle friendly. Garments made of natural, organic fibers is often a key sustainable principle for us as we are doing our seasonal buying. Longevity of a garment is a principle we wholeheartedly embrace. It’s the quality versus quantity mentality that people sometimes forget is a very important part of sustainability.
Our advice: Build your wardrobe with timeless pieces that are going to last. I find that our clients love products that have a very unique backstory. For example, during one of our private styling sessions while our client was checking out how great she looked in the mirror, I mentioned that the dress she was wearing was composed of mud dyed silk, a process where the actual fabric itself it soaked underground in layers of mud composed of sweet potatoes and grass. As you can imagine, she was utterly impressed, purchased the dress and couldn’t wait to share the dress’s story with her friends.
What is your must-have Fall garment staple?
Everyone is loving the oversized, shawl collar, cashmere-ribbed sweater coat from the collection of Organic by John Patrick. Because we are experiencing an unusually warm Fall season- this piece has been a great transitional item that can be layered over everything and anything from jeans and pant looks to dresses. It doubles as a cardigan and a coat.
My personal sense of style is clean, simple, and classic. I love to experiment with layering pieces and unique color pallets. For Fall 2015 we presented a robust assortment of capes and coats in seasonal colors such as hunter green/grey, cognac brown tones, deep navy, and naturally, black and ivory.