21 Questions with @JLBABE: Her 2021 Vision for MODISTE
I sat down with the brilliantly talented founder/creative director (and dear friend of mine!), Jami-lyn Fehr Hall, to discuss all things MODSTE. In this one-on-one Q&A, Jami-lyn opens up about the challenges she has faced since her business launched back in November of 2020; it is clear, however, that the global pandemic has not slowed her down in the slightest. Jami-lyn’s admirable drive, strong motivation to create a stunning space and showroom in Nashville, and her personal commitment to working with sustainable/ethical clothing brands have carried her through, as she has leaned on her passion for fashion (as well as her desire to provide exceptional customer service on www.modiste.shop) to overcome all obstacles to date. She also shares her hopes and vision for the coming year, and let me tell y’all…MODISTE’s future is lookin’ extra BRIGHT with @jlbabe at the helm — there’s nothing this beauty and creative visionary can’t do when she puts her mind to it!
1. The thoughtfulness and design behind MODISTE — including its name and scissor motif — are just a few ways in which the brand’s uniqueness shines through — where did this idea stem from, and do you have any plans to continue carrying out MODISTE’s French origin?
I knew I wanted the name of the brand to nod at fashion in some way. When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, I took a course on the history of fashion, where we learned dozens of terms that described garments, professions, and accessories of fashion’s past, and the word ‘modiste’ was one of them! It wasn’t the first word that I looked into, but once I found it and refreshed myself on its meaning, I knew it was the perfect name for the brand. France and many parts of the country’s culture are so beautiful and romantic to me, and I would love for it to play more of a role in the brand. I do have a few things up my sleeve as far as tying in some French elements goes, but you’ll have to wait and see!
2. How has your background in the editorial and influencing space, coupled with your BFA in Fashion Merchandising from Belmont University and Master of Marketing education from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, served you in launching your own business?
Everything I’ve done thus far has certainly both led me to where I am today and helps me every day as I attempt to wear every hat for this company. So many of the courses I took in both of my degrees have takeaways present in nearly all that I do, from tearing through Excel workbooks for the buying portion of MODISTE to working on SEO and web analytic skills that I picked up in my master’s program.
3. Looking ahead and setting your sights on the brand’s first full year in existence, what is your vision and hope for MODISTE in 2021?
I think goal-setting is important, so I’ll list a few out in a bullet-point format in no particular order:
- Have pieces styled in an editorial photoshoot for a magazine
- Be mentioned in a major publication
- Grow the following on Instagram to 10k
- Open the showroom
- Have a launch event at the showroom
4. What have been some of the greatest challenges you have encountered thus far as a small retail owner?
Customers expect me to provide the same services as well-established, big-box retailers. That being said, I can offer services they don’t offer, but with the money behind them (shareholders, plethoras of investors, etc.), there are certainly things they offer that I can’t. There are some companies that have ‘providing customers with the best deal’ in their mantra, and while that’s great, that’s not MODISTE. In lieu of that, we have ‘providing customers with the best pieces, brands, and ethics’ in our mantra. For that reason, and the fact we’re a startup and small business, I am unable to price-match companies like Bergdorf Goodman or Nordstrom, who are able to mark pieces down to below the wholesale cost. While we can’t do that or accept returns three months after purchase, we will remember your name, email you back almost instantly, and do our best to provide the best service we can. Not to mention the plethora of issues I’ve come across with securing a showroom space, but luckily that’s been resolved and we’re finally moving forward.
5. ...how about your greatest victories to date?
We’ve received some amazing support from local publications like Good Grit Magazine and Nashville Edit, which has been fantastic. It was also very special to have Ruby Barker (Miss Marina Thompson in Netflix’s Bridgerton) share a post in a dress from us, which we’re still not over. Community support has been and will always be our greatest victory!
6. What does a typical day-in-the-life look like for you?
It’s not a glamorous thing by any means. Most days it involves me answering emails, looking at line sheets and lookbooks, and sending both domestic and foreign wires to pay for all of the inventory (the least fun part, naturally). Things may be a bit more chic when I’m able to finally move into the showroom, but for now, it’s me sitting in my home office with a constant rotation of lattes keeping me going.
7. When can we expect the flagship showroom to open in Nashville?
Well, we've had yet another change of plans. If you read this before March, you likely saw we were moving into an Edgehill space in May. However, with that being so far away at the time, things understandably changed. Now, we're excited to say we'll be in the heart of Downtown surrounded by art galleries on the second floor of Nashville's historic Arcade.
Fun fact about that actually—in the early 1900s, the Arcade was built loosely inspired by the historic Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II arcade in Milan, and in its hayday housed many of Nashville's best retail stores. Maybe we'll help it get back there.
8. Speaking of...any fun surprises or sneak peeks you can give us...details on café MODSTE for the caffeinated folks out there?!
We just launched our first in-house candle! It smells like a divine little vanilla dream, and it’s available for pre-order now. The café MODISTE Instagram is a fun little place where people can tag their lattes and coffee drinks they get in the showroom (on the house)! Eventually I’d love to have a full-fledged café within the showroom (croissants & all), but one step at a time I suppose.
9. Which brands are you most excited to carry?!
Soon we’ll have our first shipments of Altuzarra, Sandy Liang, Nanushka and La Detresse coming in, and I’m so thrilled. For many of these, we’re the only stockist for the state of Tennessee, and the entire region! If you haven’t read their bios yet, I would definitely do so, so you can appreciate the stories behind the clothing.
10. Currently LOVING Brownlee x MODISTE’s terry pullover ...any collaborations on the horizon that we can look forward to? :)
We’ve got something really fun planned with LA-based brand, Studio Constance. Also a one-woman show, Rebecca and I have had many FaceTime calls planning an exclusive t-shirt collaboration, with possible exclusive knitwear in the near future as well. We couldn’t be more excited to work together!
11. Which MODISTE pieces have you been living in this winter — your faves to shop online as we patiently await the showroom’s grand opening?!
I have such an admiration for Studio Constance, and the ethos behind her brand. Her pieces are timeless, so you’ll never find them on sale, and they’re all designed and made with the utmost quality, so you know you’ll have them forever. We are very honored, too, because we’re her only stockist at the moment. That being said, I’m living in the Myrtle Oversize Cardigan (seen illustrated in the header image). I could wear any size from S-L (I bought myself the large because I wanted it to be really oversized and comfy!).
12. Any pieces to look out for and/or trends to watch in the coming year?
We don’t carry anything we wouldn’t want you to have in your closet, but if I had to pick something for you to look out for, I’d have to say our first pieces by Phoebe English. All of her pieces are sketched, sourced, and constructed in London, and won’t go out of style. She designs with sustainability at her core, and any purchase will live in your wardrobe forever.
13. Can you explain the idea/vision behind your most recent campaign: ‘MODISTE in the city’? Bright lights, big city bby!
We wanted to make sure our name was out there in the USA’s fashion capital, and what better way to do that than with a stunning, eye-catching image? NYC-based Brett Warren did an absolutely incredible job preserving the aura of MODISTE in his photograph, and his work coupled with Bridgerton’s constant mention of their ‘modiste’ was amazing for hopefully increasing some brand awareness.
14. As a London lover yourself, how thrilled were you to see that Netflix’s Bridgerton had a MODISTE of its own? Just a hop, skip and a jump over the pond from Nashville, Tennessee ;)
I had many friends send me texts about MODISTE being mentioned in the show before I watched it, and I was over the moon when I watched it for myself. Wish I had something to do with it, but it was pure coincidence.
15. It is no secret that the MODISTE brand is designed specifically for icons who share their (inside and out!) beauty with the world — who is your biggest icon?
For quite some time it’s been Blake Lively. She’s known for styling herself, and like myself, she doesn’t drink (it’s rare to find someone in Hollywood who’s open about that), and stands up for important causes that she believes in. She’s stunning inside and out, without a doubt.
16. On a related note, where do you find your inspiration — whether that be fashion #inspo or otherwise? Are you most inspired by a particular person(s) or a beloved place?
I’m really inspired by my friends, the designers I carry, and interior design. Many of the women I’ve met on or through social media have incredible style, and I turn to them to look for advice on buying when I need it. The designers I carry speak for themselves. They’re constantly turning out brilliant and innovative silhouettes and fabrics that deserve to be shown to the world, and I’m honored to be a vessel of introduction. If I wasn’t in fashion, I’d definitely go into interior design, because the field is always inspiring me. Furnishing and bringing the showroom to life is something I’m very excited for and passionate about. The space needs to reflect the brand, and it’s my goal to make it a special place where everyone feels both inspired by and comfortable in.
17. ...and while we are on the topic of inspiration and admiration, your husband Christian Hall (@yourfriendchristian) is an AMAZING photog/videographer — please give us a window into your working relationship with him. How fun is it to collab creatively with your mans?!
Working with him is ideal, and that’s an understatement. He understands my vision completely and is possibly more excited than I am to watch it all come to life. He knows all the brands and is constantly brainstorming, coming up with new concepts and ideas. I’m so thankful.
18. What is your most memorable campaign shoot (abiding by the CDC guidelines and taking all the necessary COVID safety precautions, of course!)?
Our first shoot is definitely our most memorable. We rented a stunning location and only had one model, so our team was limited to Syra, my husband, and myself (and a kitten that found its way onto the set). We spent a few hours making videos and photographing the looks until sunset. It was perfect!
19. Your mission to reduce fashion’s carbon footprint is evident in the brands you choose to work with — can you give us any insight into MODISTE’s sustainable practices?
We make it an effort to support sustainable brands and highlight them whenever possible; a few that err on the sustainable side of things include (but aren’t limited to) Anna October, Paloma Wool, Studio Constance, Bevza, Nanushka, and Helene Stahl Holm. In addition to this, with every shipment we provide funding to offset our carbon footprint, which currently benefits the Jarí Para Forest Conservation Project in the Amazon Rainforest.
20. We would love for you to shed light on the ‘why’ behind working with leading and independent womenswear designers!
We want to be a destination of carefully curated pieces from designers that are making an impact in the industry, small or large (regardless of whether you shop online or in the showroom). There aren’t many online shopping destinations that are as thoughtfully put together — to the point where they feel like you’re shopping a small boutique, while also feeling like you’re shopping with an established retailer. We hope to be the happy place within that juxtaposition.
21. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years, and how does MODISTE fall into that picture?
I’ve never been great at envisioning very far into the future, because five years ago I couldn’t have imagined MODISTE to be a tangible thing. Hopefully, MODISTE is nationally, if not globally known, I have some great employees, maybe an in-house line, and we’re working with some amazing brand ambassadors. Maybe a little Karen Elson or Lily Aldridge action? Or in my dreams, Blake Lively?