Julia Sherman for JF & Son beaded collar and tunic.
Mother Mary Magdalene had a dilemma. She had started a new Anglican Catholic order, the Community of Compassion, in Fort Worth, and she needed something for her and her Sisters to wear. “You can’t just go to the store and buy a habit,” she says. “Every order has to have a distinct one designed by the foundress, and you’re not supposed to copy anyone else.” Not only that, Mother Mary explained, but many old habits — many of them gorgeous — have been forgotten altogether as the order who wore them has died out. “There are no patterns, no documentation. It’s really sad.”
Her research led her to the Web site of Julia Sherman, a New York artist who had photographed a collection of nun dolls housed in the Cross in the Woods museum in Indian River, Mich. Her images document the different layers that make up a habit — something most people never think about, but which a nun looking to make a habit would be very interested in. Sherman came to such arcane knowledge after working on a project about wigs worn by Orthodox Jewish women; it was a natural leap to wondering about where one would buy a nun’s habit and how they are made. After she photographed the dolls, she says, “I had a lot of nuns contacting me looking for patterns, which is how Mother Mary found me.” Their first conversation lasted two hours, with Mother Mary expressing her desire for, as she put it, “a snazzy special habit for the high holy days.”
Before she knew it, Sherman, who is Jewish, was designing a habit for the Sisters of Compassion (with the only other requirements being modesty and the use of natural materials). She also convinced her friend Jesse Finkelstein, one of the owners of JF & Son, to collaborate on the design and to manufacture the Sisters’ habits along with a collection of layman’s garments inspired by the original design. These elements — a cape (with ceramic toggles also made by Ms. Sherman), a hood, a beaded collar based on Celtic imagery, a sleevelet, and a harem pant and camisole (meant as undergarments) — will make their debut at JF & Son on Friday, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Community of Compassion. (JF & Son donated the habits themselves to the order.) “We had to find things that were cool and funky that would also work for her,” Sherman says. And Mother Mary is thrilled with the results: “As long as the order exists we’ll wear these garments, so I hope there’s an awareness of not letting things just evaporate.”
From the start, Jesse Finkelstein and Katie King - the brains behind Manhattan’s JF & Son boutiques, namesake clothing and (most recently) furniture line - have been redefining what it means to be a fledgling fashion company. Clothes are made in smaller runs at one of JF & Son’s three studios in Delhi, New York and Shanghai. This helps keep prices low and, more importantly, labor practices healthy and workers a priority.
That, and they’re producing quality and timeless pieces. Having launched their second boutique and home goods line in just the past month, Finkelstein and King have been busy, to say the least. We caught up with them following a trip to India and just before they feted their latest collaboration - a collection with industrial designer Kevin McElroy - at their new University Place storefront. Here, they muse on their creative process, their favorite NYC shops and the number one destination on their travel wish list.
Katie King, the co-designer behind the cultish men and women’s label JF & Son, has whipped up something new, and all on her own this time: Using the tried-and-true sweatshirt as the line’s canvas, the Brooklyn-based whiz found an outlet for all her out- of-the-ordinary textile ideas. “Since we design so many styles for JF & Son, I loved the idea of having a fixed shape with an easy fit and applying various prints and fabric manipulations to it. Plus, it can be a little sister and steal fabrics and textile swatches from JF & Son,” the Parsons grad, who started out in the costume-design realm, says.
Katie groups her just-crazy, completely wearable creations into themes, or families, as she calls them—a concept that also points to the line’s name. “I liked the idea that there would be little groups centered around a visual idea or textile technique,” she says. But that’s not all: Each of cluster of styles is shot on a real brood, an idea that came from Family’s very talented photographer, Dan McMahon. “I liked that they could be worn by people of all ages, sexes, and sizes, and I think families are a great way to convey that,” Katie explains. “It also makes the shoots themselves really enjoyable because everyone is comfortable and has fun together.” That’s right: good, old-fashioned Family fun. —alisha prakash
90% of the time i find it obnoxious when people do those “Head To Toe” aka “Let me brag about some expensive shit I have while masking it behind a blog post” posts, so all I will say about this outfit is that those are JF&Son shorts, one of the pairs of silk shorts that I wore all summer and will continue to wear through the winter. Bonus: I discovered a pair of Marc Jacobs silk shorts in the bottom of my dresser that I forgot about. IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS, BUT NOT. and if anyone is actually curious about the rest of the shit i’m wearing (you’re not), go ahead and ask. k cool.
also, two pictures of myself in one day?! does this make me a narcissist?!
GPOYW: this is an actual coat from JF & Son’s most recent collection. I wore it around the store for approximately half an hour, and asked them to keep it hidden for me to wear every time I come in to shop (which is at least once a week). JEALOUS?!