Zoe Jervoise’s self-made empire rests on a very basic concept: source the best in the way of vintage denim clobber, sew in your own colourful, striking tapestries, and retail the finished pieces for a modest charge. Four years into the project, Jervoise has customised items for a throw of reputable figures, from musicians Ellie Goulding and Marina and the Diamonds to high street brands ASOS and Topshop. As we spoke, she was busy finishing a commission for Tinie Tempah, and ensuring her project continues its awe-inspiring ascension skywards.
How did Jervoise start?
It started about four years ago now; tapestry was something I did as a hobby. I wanted to find a way to utilise them as it seemed a waste to put them on a cushion. My mum used tapestries in a practical way when she was younger – to cover holes in her jeans, so the idea sprung from here. But rather than using them to cover something up, it was used to change an item of clothing and give it a new lease of life, as they say. I’ve always loved vintage denim, so the concept worked nicely.
When did you know you wanted to start your own business? Do you have any formal training in design?
I didn’t finish my formal training, but I learnt a lot on the job at Jasper Conran. I learnt at home, too: tapestry unfortunately is a dying trade which people assume only pensioners do. I’ve always dreamed of starting my own business, but I guess I didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance to do it. When I did, I jumped at it.
Where do you tend to source the vintage items from? How does this affect the business, money-wise?
Unfortunately, good quality vintage denim is rarely cheap, even at wholesale prices as there is such a high demand for it. I look for quality over cost and acquire denim from various sources.
What does the tapestry process entail? Is it all hand-stitched or do you use other methods?
No, for Jervoise mainline pieces everything is individually designed and constructed by hand. The tapestries can take days, weeks or months to finish, and no design is the same. But with Jervoise Diffusion pieces [Zoe’s high street line], the tapestries are batch-produced by a machine that replicates my original design with thread instead of thick wools.
What about Jervoise as a company – is it expanding? Do you have a group working on the project, or are you continuing to go it alone? Do you have an office?
It is expanding, but I still design and create by myself. The newest line is a women’s shirt collection for S/S 12 – a collection of modern-style sheer shirts with different embellishments, like jewels, sequins and original Jervoise printed designs – all retaining the vintage feel, but brought up to date.
You’re friends with a lot of the bands that ended up either wearing or commissioning your work, like Ellie Goulding and The Horrors. Did you always foresee the Jervoise aesthetic working with musicians? Will you be working with any new bands in the future?
I started Jervoise by styling bands with my designs. I felt they best represented the Jervoise style at the time. Bands such as the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix are some of my key inspirations. I’m always looking for new musicians and people I’d like to work with or dress.
You’ve mentioned in the past a range of international and historical inspirations, such as Aztec and tribal trends. Is this true today? Where do your key sources of creative energy currently lie?
Aztec and tribal designs still inspire me, but there’re limitless sources of inspiration out there. I watch a lot of nature documentaries, partly because I love David Attenborough’s voice, but mainly because the designs you see on living animals are amazingly intricate and offer colour combinations you would never dream of.
Let’s talk about the ASOS range – how did it come about and what items did you sell the most of?
I was in Topshop as part of their S/S 11 campaign, and then decided to seek other options. I approached ASOS, who make finding and buying decent clothes so easy. The collection consisted of three denim jacket styles, three denim shirt styles and one shorts style. I know that it’s been selling very well and they sold out a few styles very quickly.
Words: Jack Mills