As you know, a leather jacket is one of my Fall Essentials. So I decided to go the master of cool when it comes to leather jackets, Pablo Pantoja. He is the creative force behind the ultra chic women’s contemporary line, JUNE.
How did you get started with the line?:
I had been designing menswear since I got out of Otis/Parson’s School of Design. I never wanted to do womenswear. It was more selfish. I wanted to make clothes I can never find, but once I had all I wanted, I got bored. I finished my men’s career designing all of the jackets and leather for men at Kenneth Cole. It was fun and I loved working with him, but the line got repetitive and it was time to move on.
Womenswear gave me a whole new challenge. Everything changed. Fit, artistic license, choices, themes, and women are just so much more into designs than straight men are (myself excluded).
After leaving Kenneth Cole, I wanted to do some sort of licensing deal with a women’s brand, and out of nowhere J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez) came to me and asked me to put together something for Jennifer. I put together presentation boards and met with her in Westwood, LA in her offices three days before her wedding to Chris, the dance. She is more beautiful and harder working than you can even imagine. Three days before her wedding? A four hour workout and dance practice, meet with me at 1pm and who knows what else? So, eventually after meeting with her again three days after her wedding in The Four Seasons Milan, on her honeymoon, while she was sick from a cold, no less. She is an inspiration to me in that sense.
Finally after months of work and development of samples, the J-LO company, Sweetface Fashions, decided to just run a lower priced line and it didn’t match with our plans… but from that long winded story, I got the bug to do my own women’s contemporary collection! So in the evenings and late into the night, I was putting together my own designs for a collection to pair up with a friend of mine that was also looking for something new. Et voila! Time to start my own collection!
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?:
I usually start my concepts by walking around and shopping, going out and seeing real people and what they are wearing. If something is too much, I stay away. If I see something I’ve never seen before and see it again suddenly, it’s something I pay attention to. From there, I develop my concepts. The concepts usually have something that has to with JUNE, the month. A famous person’s birthday, or an event that occurred fifty to 100 years ago in the month of June, or just flowers and friendship. Always something that happened in JUNE though. It’s such a memorable type of month. Filled with moments we cherish for years to come, so I work with that in my head the whole time.
What is the JUNE girl like?:
A JUNE girl is a friend of mine. Someone whose company I enjoy. She’s fun, adventurous and into expressing herself and her opinions. She may be a Banana Republic girl in her office, but she isn’t that girl inside. She needs to be more comfortable, which is my first requirement, but not my last. She is smarter than the average girl and she seeks more, sees more, and finds the beauty in the details.
The JUNE girl is not the one that shows off how much money she has, but how much style she embodies.
Who would you love to see wearing JUNE?:
J-LO just for the irony of it! Haha! But seriously? All of my GF’s, or is it BF’s, or BGF’s around the world that inspire me and fill my life with joy and happiness and all of their friends, and their friends’ friends, and so on and so on. Yup, that would be nice. It would be like Facebook, but only in clothing. You would know we are all connected by what we are wearing! Hmm… a JUNE fashion social network?
What is your favorite thing to see on a woman?:
Confidence, intelligence and humor. These are the things I see in her eyes, her smile, and her face. The rest is just a result of what’s going on upstairs. If you were asking about what I like about the body or clothing, I’d have to say the skin. I work with leather, after all. Nothing but skin and silk linings, of course.
What trend do you wish would just go away?:
Skinny jeans on 95% of the guys that wear them, but for girls? I like freedom of expression and individuality, so the lack of freedom of following a trend is what I would like to disappear. If you are following a trend, you are not a leader, just a follower. Don’t dress like everyone else. Don’t follow the trend. Know what you like, and knowing how to wear it is the most important. Do it so well that people see you and want to dress like you. That’s what got me started as a designer. Back in highschool anything I wore would eventually be copied by my peers. It’s the best form of flattery.
Style advice for women?:
Simplicity with your overall appearance so you don’t come off as garish. And focus on details and accessorize! Don’t be a billboard for any designer or brand unless they are paying you or give you the clothes. Wear what expresses your individuality, feel confident about it, and most of all, smile. There’s no makeup or clothing that will fix a sad look, easier than a beautiful smile. (New Yorkers will think you’re crazy, but like I said, I don’t care what people think!)
Gossip Girl- Serena or Blair?:
Sorry, never seen the show or know who they are. I did see the posters announcing the show though. Whoever wears my clothes… both of them? Can I make like Palin and “get back to you on that?”
Favorite place to travel?:
Brazil, any city! All over Europe and staying with friends I’ve made over the years, and China because it’s such a culturally rich country with massive potential. Then most of all, back home to Souther California where my family is.
Any funny stories regarding the brand? Seeing someone wearing it? Being recognized, etc?:
The first season I put my collection together, it was from the work I did developing the J-LO collection. Ironically, one of the garments I made ended up in US Weekly in a spread called 10 Best Essential Items of the Year. My little fur vest, which Jennifer, herself, called the “Glam Vest,” which I re-did for my line, was right there, exactly next to a photo of J-LO! Somehow the magazine got the name from our linesheets and there it was. They wrote Glam Fur Vest by JUNE.
Do you think you’ll expand into mens again?:
I don’t think so, not in the near future. I see the brand having more meaning as June Swim, June Babies and of course, June Wedding.
Who is your style icon?:
I don’t think there are many these days. There’s too many starlets to keep track of. I don’t read many of those magazines about stars so I don’t follow what’s happening on the Red Carpet. I don’t do evening wear, so I choose to be inspired by the people I associate with. Maybe when I am hanging with those Icons, I will pay more attention, but I did get to escort Audrey Hepburn when I was in Otis/Parson’s at my fashion show. The department head told me I would be escorting her. So I walked with her holding her arm in mine, for a little while, from table to table, as she said “hi” to all the other stars. She would ask me if I was excited about the show, what year I was… and then finally, I seated her at her table. All of my friends wanted to touch my arm because I just was with Audrey, and I asked them… “Who’s Audrey Hepburn? Who is she? Katherine Hepburn’s sister?!” The next day someone brought me an old picture of her, and I freaked out. I never knew her name, but had seen her before, I loved her style, but wasn’t really into old movies when I was a kid.
What’s something that every woman should own?:
I could get into so much trouble with this question, so I will keep it simple. A leather jacket that expresses the feminine and masculine side of her.
Very wise advice, Pablo. Below is a sneak preview of his Spring 2010 collection. Check out their website for more details about where to buy!