What happens when you fuse the talent of a hip up-and-coming designer with a brand that’s been in business for 150 years? How about “heritage chic”? Well, that’s what we all hope to see come of the new position Gretchen Jones recently took on with Pendleton, an American clothing company based in Portland, Oregon. Though the brand has certainly had its second wave with the development of the American-made The Portland Collection and Surf Pendleton, Jones’ unique bohemian aesthetic, recognizable to not just the sustainable design community, but also mainstream fashion worldwide, might just be the right stride for a brand needing an updated jolt.
Since Jones’s Project Runway win back in Season 8, the young designer has traveled an oftentimes slippery slope in the design world of touting sustainability and still getting mainstream buyers and consumers to consider her on equal playing ground. With her recent appointment at Pendleton, the designer hopes to stay on trend with some Pendleton classics while still infusing her bohemian aesthetic into future collections.
Ecouterre caught up with Jones to see what she thought about her new position, coming full-circle back to Portland, Oregon and how heritage brands are perfectly placed for the next wave in sustainability.
How do you feel about being part of Pendleton, a brand that’s so deeply rooted in American history?
I’m really excited to be a part of the Pendleton family. =Especially, I relate to the history and roots the company has in the culture and aesthetics of the American West. My creative style and my interest in community complements Pendleton’s story. The opportunity to work for Pendleton will add to my understanding of what it means to be “Made in America,” both from a manufacturing and a design perspective. I’m being afforded an opportunity to add to the tools in my own tool box.
What are some ways you feel your experiences (that are so deeply entrenched in your western roots) compliment Pendleton?
My aesthetic values lean toward the Native American influence due in part to my experience growing up in the Southwestern U.S. I see embracing these quintessential values as a part of Pendleton’s ethos and of mine as well. Extending these influences into a contemporary expression is pivotal for Pendleton and I feel as a designer I can be a complement to that strategy.
Before Project Runway, you were living in Portland as an independent designer. How do you feel having done a full circle to come back to Portland? How does it feel different and how much do you you feel you’ve changed?
I feel like I went full circle while doing a few back flips along the way! The last four years of my contemporary design career have been rich in learning, refining, risking, succeeding, mis-stepping and then doing it all over again.
Independent design provides real-life experiences you can’t get anywhere else. They can be difficult but rewarding. Coming back to Portland and stepping into a new career direction feels right. I have had the advantage of experiencing a unique initiation into the world of design as an independent agent, and now I have the opportunity to work for a company I admire and respect. I’m privileged to have both experiences of growth, creatively and professionally.
Portland is a beautiful place and affords a lifestyle I’ve always hoped to have, so this is an exciting chapter for me.
Do you think heritage brands like Pendleton are in a real position to be game-changers in terms of getting people to consider where their clothing comes from and how it’s made?
Yes, I do. Heritage brands have a huge following right now and they have great potential going forward. It’s all about authenticity and moving the needle in a new way.
Heritage brands have the unique ability to draw on their past and to reinterpret the best of that past, and they also have the ability to create a new archive of inspired products that are based on innovation, technique, functionality, and unique detail to create a modern heritage, if you will. And that’s why Pendleton is such an exciting place to be—it has that genuine history as a foundation and also an interest in exploring new ideas.