- Jen Swearington’s “Prism Dress” is made of hand-printed bamboo jersey and hand-dyed stretch silk charmeuse.
Jen Swearington took a winding road to her career as a full-time clothing designer. “Growing up in an unremarkable place made me want to get out, to travel,” she says. And she did.
The Indiana native hopped from the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis to a short-lived apprenticeship at a tattoo shop in Gary, all the way to the Pratt Institute in New York City to study sculpture. And she still wasn’t sated. So she applied to the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she earned her master’s degree in fibers in 2000.
Although Swearington worked stints as a professor, she felt her time was better spent in the studio. So she took a year to further explore fiber techniques as an Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts resident artist from 2001 to 2002.
But it wasn’t until Swearington became a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and participated in her first retail show in 2003 that her scarves morphed into a complete line of clothing and she established her studio, Jennythreads, in Asheville, N.C. Her initial pieces were fitted, with a lot of extras like zippers and pleats. Then she discovered “the magic of stretch fabrics,” she says. “It was an important step in the evolution of my product line.”
Now the product mix is split between silk charmeuse with Lycra and environmentally friendly bamboo jersey. Swearington typically dyes and then screenprints the large swaths of fabric first—adding details like flowers and birdcages that she’s drawn. She hand cuts every piece, but after the prototype stage, she hands off the sewing to an assistant. Her newest line has more ruffles and cap sleeves for added interest.
“Not every garment will work on every figure,” Swearington explains. “So I build a variety into my product line, from fitted dresses to looser, more relaxed cardigans to appeal to a broad demographic.”
What’s next? A new downtown studio space. Not only will she double her square footage, she’ll have a storefront and will teach workshops this summer.
Find more of Swearington’s clothing at http://jennythreads.net.