Jaclyn Bethany, age 23, was born in Jackson, Mississippi. She has a BA in acting from Fordham University. While working as a stylist and pursuing her dream as an actress, she founded the online fashion boutique Audrey Grace. Obviously she is a woman with many talents and a busy schedule. This interview is mainly about Audrey Grace but also the woman behind it, her thoughts about her work and the world around it.
When was the first thought of Audrey Grace born?
I have always wanted to start a shop of some sort. As a child I always loved dressing up and I was very creative and imaginative. My mother and grandmother are very fashionable. I always looked up to them and admire their wardrobe. I am from the American Deep South, where dressing up can be extremely important. Then I moved to New York which is very chic and slick. I think sometime during the past two years I defined my own personal style and I wanted to share it with others. That’s when I came up with the idea of Audrey Grace. I wanted to name the store after Audrey (Hepburn) and Grace (Kelly) - two elegant, stylish women who I believe are still relevant today. I wanted to bring back the concept of very feminine, girly clothing and elegant (not revealing) silhouette. I also love vintage fashion and Old Hollywood, so I kept that in mind when curating the stock for the store.
Why did you choose Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly to be a part of the boutiques name? Are they more than just fashion icons?
They are very inspiring to me and many women across the world. Not only were they actresses, and known as film stars but they were effortlessly stylish and also very involved in philanthropic efforts. Audrey Hepburn’s work for UNICEF inspires me every day.
Why was it the next natural step in your career? And how long did it take for you to make it real?
Well, I am not sure it was a career choice- as fashion has always been sort of a side project for me. I have been focusing on acting for about five years, and I think with Audrey Grace the fashion side of my career exploded! But opening Audrey Grace has opened up so many amazing doors for me, and I am so thankful. If I ever want to pursue a serious career in fashion, now, I feel like I could. Whereas, I did not feel that way before. I started buying for Audrey Grace over a year ago, so it took about eight months from the concept to the opening (in December) last year- and then with the New York City pop up in March, and the online store launching in June. It has certainly been a big year for me, and I think each of these steps (pop up stores, online stores, etc) have meant bigger things for me and Audrey Grace than I ever imagined.
Why did you create Audrey Grace?
I felt like there was a gap in the market for wearable, feminine clothing. I was really lucky because at about the time I launched Audrey Grace, the big designers had just showed the most playful and pastel spring collections (Louis Vuitton, Meadham Kirchhoff SS12). So, I was really lucky because I felt girls were interested in those looks. That sort of hyper feminine aesthetic is what Audrey Grace is all about. I admire people like Leith Clark of Lula and Tavi Gevinson of Rookie, who are creating a voice for something different within the fashion industry. Their publications are very unique and inspiring. I am not saying I am like them, but I wanted Audrey Grace to be unique and stand out in the fashion world. I wanted the shop to have a voice, instead of just be an average women’s clothing boutique that carries the same lines that all the other shops carry, which I feel like a lot of retail is nowadays. I was also inspired by boutiques I have visited across the world. A few years ago, I visited a magical place called Koh Samui Boutique in London, it is closed now, but I got to work with them on curating vintage pieces for my shop which was amazing.
What makes your shop different from other online boutiques?
I think it is unique and special. It is very girly, obviously, and we stock hard to find designers. A good portion of the stock was made especially for the store. It was such a fun process because I got to work with the designers as they brought my ideas to life. I also worked with many talented vintage sellers who sourced pieces for the boutique. I think there is something for every girl. I also wanted to feature girls of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes on the website. The main models were my cousin’s friends, just beautiful, natural high school girls that I felt like women could relate to while looking at the website. The other models are mainly bloggers I have collaborated with, so obviously they have a huge audience. I think in this way, the way the clothes are presented on the website, makes it interesting and not as though you are just looking at an online catalogue.
Do you sometimes wish to re-create the pop up stores? Maybe, just to meet the clients in real life?
I don’t know. It was such hard work and I did it while I was in school, so I think if I did a pop up again I would want to make it even more amazing than the two I have hosted. Both were great, but I am a perfectionist. I would absolutely love to do one in London. I think the way people dress over there is incredible and Audrey Grace fits in. I have so many great contacts there too. I think maybe that will be the next step in a year or so. Of course, I am interested in my clients! I love to see where they are ordering from. I have had clients from all over the world- France, Japan, England, Australia, etc!
Are you particular with the clothes you sell? I mean not fashion style wise but for the environmental issues?
I don’t really sell clothes that are mass produced. Almost all the designers and brands I stock are independently managed or handmade. So, I guess in that sense, yes, I think it is important that a garment is made safely and with care. Unfortunately, with my aesthetic, there are so few entirely organic labels to choose from, and I feel like that would be a different endeavor.
What are your main focuses while selecting brands and clothes for you shop?
I feel like I used to be very open when selecting but now I am very, very specific when selecting designers and vintage for the shop. I have learned a lot. I also know which designers and pieces/cuts sell well now, as I did not when I was starting. Aesthetic wise, I think they have to be special. I just discovered a Thai brand called Wila, and it is very dreamy, I will be stocking a few pieces from their collection. I think two designers that embody the Audrey Grace aesthetic are Erin Fetherston and Alexandra Grecco. Their pieces are beautiful and feminine. These two designers have also sold very well. I also found a vintage dealer the other day who had the most amazing pieces I have ever seen so I was very excited about that. One of my favorite designers, Katie-Louise Ford, who made some custom pieces for the shop that sold out, is designing a Moonrise Kingdom inspired collection to be released in September about which I am so excited. The process is all about research and discovery. I am constantly looking for new pieces that fit Audrey Grace. Although, now, I am more selective.
Why is fashion so important?
I think fashion is important because it is a way to express oneself. It is also evolving and always changing. That’s what makes it so exciting.
Do you believe that what you wear changes more than the visual appearance
Absolutely! Being an actor, what you wear on stage actually can elevate a performance. Your costume helps you transform into a character. This can be true in everyday life too. You can wear certain things because they make you feel confident or comfortable, or because you want to show off or have fun! I know some people have an accessory or something that they wear every day but I don’t. I used to wear a vintage 1960s leather wristwatch and leather school satchel every day. I think I was going through a Carey Mulligan in “An Education” phase.
How do you dress yourself? Are you one of the girls in flower patterned dresses in the photos on Audrey Grace?
No. I rarely feature myself on my blog or my website. As much as Audrey Grace is about me, and is about my own aesthetic and business, it is about other girls; these wonderful bloggers, designers, photographers, models and customers who share my same aesthetic. I like to feature them instead of myself. I do feature my styling a lot, and I think that might reflect how I dress or put an outfit together. But yes, if people know me and when I go out they will ask if my dress is from Audrey Grace. Sometimes it is. I really have my own dream wardrobe through my store. But I also wear casual things a lot of the time. I went through a phase where I only wore clogs. I have so many now- pink, red, blue, silver and gold! I like to dress up. Over the past year I have tried to be more passionate about what I buy, so now I am only buying designer things. I mean just a few things for myself. So I will have them forever and can give these pieces to my daughters. My favorite designers are CHANEL, Miu Miu, Prada, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino and Charlotte Olympia (for shoes.) But I have many more!
Any heads up about upcoming trends? For how long can we live with the precious collar?
I do look at runway shows, but I don’t really follow trends. I think a lot of the pieces in Audrey Grace seem relevant because fashion was so girly in general this spring/summer season. I think if you’re talking about the Peter Pan collar, as long as we have girls like Alexa Chung and Kirsten Dunst rocking them, they will be in style!