KCFW Q&A: J.Tierney

Silhouettes, lines, and movement are essential elements of Jennifer Tierny’s work. Her 17-year career in professional ballet informs her design philosophy, providing inspiration for the voluminous shapes and pastel shades she creates. Tierney has presented at KCFW before, but each season has its own unique theme and look that’s vastly different to what came before. Originally from Sacramento, California, she now lives in Overland Park, and serves as director of American Youth Ballet. We spoke to Tierney about her current collection, and what to expect from the J.Tierney Designs show at Kansas City Fashion Week on Friday.

How long have you been in the fashion business, and what inspired you to start designing?

My French grandmother, Jeanne inspired a love for sewing and designing when I was very young. But it was ballet that brought me to the fashion business. After my professional ballet career, I was directing American Youth Ballet, and was having a difficult time communicating ideas with costume designers and seamstresses because I didn’t “speak the language.” So, I decided it was time to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, and used a Swan Lake production to teach myself how to sew. Next, I planned out the following two ballets worth of costumes so that at the end of both I would know how to make everything in a ballet except a classic “pancake” tutu. On the fourth ballet I created my very first original design. After all of this I realized that I was absolutely in love with the process and began making lists of other pieces and fabrics I wanted to try to make, work with, and use. Eventually, in July 2015, I started J.Tierney — my designer brand.

Your T-shirts promote the adage “be kind.” Why is this the message you want to send, and how does your clothing express it?

Once I make it big, I’ll rent a billboard for the message. Ha! For now, designing t-shirts is the next best thing. I believe that our clothing and our style is an extension of who we are that day. Kindness is something we should all try our best to wear every day. It is one accessory that will never go out of style.

Your designs are feminine — pastel colors, ruffles, and bows. But they’re also bold and modern. Could you speak to the process of bringing classic femininity to the modern woman?

As far as my designs go, I know that I am still finding my voice. Also, I feel as though I wake up a different person almost every day and am inspired by so many things. I love feminine flattering curves and lines — which I believe appeal most to the modern woman. Although the element that I believe will always be distinctive to my designs is their movement. I am obsessed with movement in every design. I have movement goals and curiosities for each. I do not feel truly finished with a collection until I can see it walk.

What can we expect from you at KCFW?

This season my collection is inspired by American marketing in the 1960s-90s, and how it both reflected and shaped us. Key fashion elements from those time periods were used to inspire a feeling around a product or service not necessarily fashion oriented. Because of this, we as a culture feel a certain way about different fabrics, shapes, colors, and garments in part thanks to marketing campaigns for unrelated products and services. This collection attempts to touch upon the pulse of 60s-90s fashion through the lens of marketing and advertising. 

Where is J.Tierney headed next?

That is a very good question. After KCFW F/W ’19, I will be presenting at the JCCC Fashion Show on April 26th and at West 18th Street Fashion Show on June 8th. I’ve been accepted into both NYFW and Paris FW in the next two years. I’m not sure if I will accept either or both opportunities. I’m still deciding what is most important for my designer brand.

I do know that this summer I will be starting a personal project that I am incredibly excited about that disrobes the design process for the consumer. In the world of custom pieces, I’d like for women to be able to build their ideal formal attire. I will be diving into this project, creating a liaison between myself as the designer and my clients. Other than that, J.Tierney Designs will be headed wherever the inspiration takes her.

J.Tierney Designs
Friday Night Runway Show
March 29 at 6:00 p.m.

The Grand Hall at Power & Light
1330 Baltimore Avenue
Kansas City, MO, 64105