Jaclyn Jones of Clover & Cobbler: “Be resilient!”

Be resilient! You’re going to fail multiple times on the path to success, it’s how you get up that will define you. Throughout my journey, I have been repeatedly greeted with “that’s not the way it’s done” or just flat out “no.” Not everyone is going to understand your vision or want to help you […]

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Be resilient! You’re going to fail multiple times on the path to success, it’s how you get up that will define you. Throughout my journey, I have been repeatedly greeted with “that’s not the way it’s done” or just flat out “no.” Not everyone is going to understand your vision or want to help you reach your goal. But if you’re determined and able to bounce back and keep trying, you will find the path that leads to one win after another, and eventually to success.

As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jaclyn Jones.

Jaclyn Jones is Owner of Californians and CEO/Owner of Los Angeles-based footwear factory, Clover & Cobbler. Clover & Cobbler opened its doors in October 2018, aiming to breathe the life of a new generation into a centuries-old craft while honoring the legacy of its artisans.

As founder and designer of her namesake women’s luxury brand, Jaclyn identified that footwear manufacturing in the U.S. had not adapted to the standards of ethics, technology, quality and cleanliness expected from every other manufacturing industry. Aiming to tackle these inefficiencies herself as well as integrate sustainability, she opened Clover & Cobbler, and launched an in-house brand, Californians.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been passionate about fashion, and especially shoes. After completing my degrees and gaining some amazing industry experience, I launched my namesake women’s footwear brand Jaclyn Jones USA (“JJUSA”) in 2017. The goal of JJUSA was to fill a gap in the women’s luxury footwear market, where high-end fashion was synonymous with discomfort.

Throughout the first 2 years of manufacturing my brand, I found myself frustrated by the inefficiencies and challenges I experienced in production, and I felt compelled to create the new standard. In October 2018, I made the leap from shoe designer to factory owner and CEO of my own Los Angeles-based footwear factory, Clover & Cobbler, creating the footwear factory I wished existed as a designer. Our aim at Clover & Cobbler is to breathe the life of a new generation into this beautiful, centuries-old craft, by building in sustainability, ease of communication, and comfort. Clover & Cobbler offers emerging designers and existing footwear brands a refreshed, organized approach to manufacturing in the U.S.A. Our goal is to redefine the perception of a long-standing industry and bring it into the modern day with an emphasis on mindful manufacturing!

Then, about 6 months after launching Clover & Cobbler, I was approached by shoe industry veteran and experienced footwear manufacturer, Bill Clark, who spent 25 years manufacturing shoes in Southern California with other brands. Bill introduced us to a new construction technique that expanded the capabilities of our factory, which in turn allowed us to collaborate on the creation of our brand Californians, which officially debuted in August 2019. We wanted to create footwear that was denim-friendly, vintage-inspired, but most of all — comfortable! Each of our shoes is designed with comfort in mind, with most of our shoes featuring a revolutionary 6mm memory foam insole!

Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since you started?

As a young woman entering a very male-dominated and tradition-focused industry, I was met with a lot of challenges and doors closed in my face. When launching my JJUSA brand, I was really focused on comfort. I had so many questions, one of the biggest was why people/brands weren’t trying harder to make women’s heels more comfortable. But ultimately, I wanted to know HOW to make them more comfortable. I came up with a plan and 3 comfort focus points. One of which seemed obvious — add more foam to the insoles! I went to insole supplier after insole supplier and was told time after time “that’s just not the way it’s done”. No one would even try what I was asking. Irritated, but not ready to give up, I found an insole supplier owned by a man, but run by his daughter. Finally another female! I explained what I was trying to accomplish, and she was on-board! She was willing to do tests with different density foams and see what would work. Her willingness to try something new and different satiated my determined spirit and gave me new hope to continue my mission of comfortable heels. Now, years later, I own my own factory and we make all our own insoles in-house with oodles and oodles of foam! Comfort is built into everything we do.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One moment we still laugh about is when we completely forgot about shoe boxes for our brand Californians! When building a new brand, it’s easy to get so focused on product development, sourcing materials, branding, building a website, getting orders, etc. that sometimes the most obvious aspects of the big picture are overlooked. We went to ship our first products, and all looked at each other when we discovered we had nothing to put them in. Ha! We learned to always make a to-do list and add even things that feel obvious, because when you’re so wrapped up in something it’s easy to overlook major items!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think we have a really great combination of benefits as a woman-owned, sustainable, made in USA business. On top of that, we prioritize comfort in all that we do. Each of our three in-house brands has a unique position in the marketplace at three different price-points. Californians, in particular, strikes the perfect balance of comfort, casual style, and sustainability at a very moderate price.

As with all companies, this last year and a half has been a rollercoaster! But we have been so fortunate to be in control of our operations stateside, and didn’t have to worry about our supply chain falling apart overseas. In 2020, when ‘work from home’ started to influence the trends, we were able to shift quickly and move along with it. We designed and launched a Californians slipper collection, and were able to turn it around quick enough to capture the market.

And now, 2021 has shown that consumers are itching to get out of the house. They’re sick of sweatpants and ready to get dressed again, but not quite ready to reach for those uncomfortable heels. That’s where Californians comes in! Since our brand is rooted in comfort, featuring our 6mm foam insoles, which are 2–3 times thicker than the industry average, they truly are so comfy, and a great option for people looking to transition out of their house and step out in style, but still feel comfortable. Mastering the perfect level of casual, our denim-friendly, vintage-inspired footwear is perfect for the weekend barbeques and outdoor gatherings that we’re all excited to jump back into.

The pandemic has also played a major role in shifting consumer focus outside of actual product qualities. There is growing demand for consumers seeking eco-conscious and transparent brands that they feel good about supporting. At Californians, we hold sustainability and ethical practices at our core, and it radiates throughout our company culture. As a ‘made in USA’ brand, we ensure that our artisans receive fair wages and a safe, healthy place to work. We also make eco-conscious manufacturing decisions such as minimizing waste, prioritizing locally sourced materials, and reducing our carbon footprint.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Encourage positive thoughts and a positive self-image! Our minds are powerful, so shifting our thoughts can be beneficial in every aspect of health and happiness! Don’t let your mindset be the one thing that holds you back and remember to take care of YOU! Whether it’s meditation, yoga, a hot bath, or something else, make sure to take time to reflect on your mental, emotional, and physical health. And don’t forget that the energy that you emit, radiates throughout your team.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I do my best to take small steps towards this every day! As an environmentally and ethically conscious leader within the fashion community, I’ve made it my priority to leave a positive footprint on the industry. By manufacturing in our own boutique factory in Los Angeles, I’m able to ensure that the manufacturing process itself and the space we’ve created for our artisans upholds the highest standards. We make sure that everything we do respects our earth and its people. I feel it is our responsibility to make eco-conscious decisions every step of the way. For example, we shifted our packaging suppliers to ones that help reduce waste. Now, our shoe boxes are made from 100% recycled cardboard and are printed with only water-based inks which are less harsh on the environment, and allows them to be recycled again. They’re also made right here in Los Angeles, so we’re minimizing our carbon footprint by sourcing locally. Additionally, our shoes are made in small batches in our made-to-order model, which helps to eliminate overproduction (often seen overseas due to huge production minimums). In doing this, we minimize our contribution to the fashion industry’s waste. Similarly, we do whatever we can to limit our material waste in the factory. Rather than throwing away our leather and materials scraps, we repurpose what we can internally (look out for some keychains coming soon!) and then pass along anything else to other businesses or local artisans who reuse the pieces for items such as bracelets and dog collars.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“What would Oprah do?” It might be a little unconventional, but it’s something I’ve said to myself and my team many times throughout this journey. I have always looked up to Oprah as an amazing example of a graceful, composed, and successful businesswoman. To me, it’s essentially a handful of sayings wrapped into one: don’t give up, you’ve got this, think outside of the box, if she can do it, so can I! It helps me power through and keep going.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

I feel energized and excited by the shift in the fashion industry to become more sustainable and move toward smaller batch production. COVID has become a huge wake-up call to brands large and small about the challenges our industry faces, including increasingly longer lead-times, supply chain issues, turning an eye to unethical working conditions, and massive amounts of waste and pollution. The consumer is becoming more and more aware of the gap between them and the manufacturing process and is gravitating towards more transparent brands. I’m excited to see so many brands dedicated to changing the process and to witness a transformation in an industry that has been historically very set in its ways. This movement is something that has been important to us since the beginning, but to see it happening in such a major way and ripple out on a global scale definitely makes me feel optimistic about the future of our industry and our planet!

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry?” Please share a story or example for each.

Be resilient! You’re going to fail multiple times on the path to success, it’s how you get up that will define you. Throughout my journey, I have been repeatedly greeted with “that’s not the way it’s done” or just flat out “no.” Not everyone is going to understand your vision or want to help you reach your goal. But if you’re determined and able to bounce back and keep trying, you will find the path that leads to one win after another, and eventually to success.

Establish YOUR voice. Don’t let others’ opinions derail you, remember that you’re the one holding the microphone. Decide what key factors are important to you and your brand and don’t settle until you make something you’re proud of. For example, you don’t always have to be “trendy”. If it doesn’t genuinely align with your brand or your vision, skip it. For me, comfort was my non-negotiable.

Never stop learning. There should never come a time when you feel like you’re done, or that you’re the smartest person in the room. Even masters at their trade will admit that they learn something new every day. I have made the mistake of acting like the smartest person in the room, but have found that being open to others’ opinions and suggestions is a much more rewarding experience and generally more productive.

Ask for help. No one is good at everything. You’re going to need help along the way, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for it. A lot of entrepreneurs think they need to do it all, all by themselves. This is far from the truth and will lead you straight to burn out. Get help and better yet, find a mentor! I was blessed with an amazing mentor my first few years in the industry, who taught me the ropes and included me in everything industry related. I learned so many good things to do and also a lot of what not to do. It was an invaluable experience!

Think outside of the box. Sometimes we get tunnel vision and think ‘this is the only option’. This is most likely not true. Don’t get stuck in a pigeonhole. You’ve got to stretch your ability to think and strategize outside of the norm. Be resourceful! A literal example of “thinking outside of the box” was when we were designing packaging for our brand, Californians, and decided that rather than sticking with the standard, rigid, pre-built boxes we had been strictly using prior, we could save space, money and benefit the earth by going with 100% recycled cardboard flat-build boxes. By stepping outside of our comfort zone of what a shoe box “should be”, we were able to create something even better!

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

I’m thrilled to see consumers making more conscious decisions when purchasing products, which helps, in turn, to shift manufacturing to be more transparent. However, I think the industry can do a better job of improving itself in this arena without the demand of consumers. We see the major impacts of manufacturing on our planet, with pollution and waste causing global warming effects. And additionally, the insistent struggle to make products at the lowest possible price, at the cost of basic human rights. The industry needs better standards and certifications for manufacturers, so that brands can be more mindful when choosing a supplier. Current certification options are limited and only available to massive manufacturing operations. Smaller, localized manufacturing is undeniably less harsh on the environment and reduces our carbon footprint. I would love to see major industry leaders move forward in this direction. And hand-in-hand, continue to communicate this movement to consumers, and how they can help support this shift.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Knowing that what I’m doing is making a difference in people’s lives is what fuels me and keeps me moving forward — from global movements of sustainability and green manufacturing to the small impacts of helping individual women feel more comfortable and more confident in their everyday outfits. My hope is that sharing my story will help empower young women and build more young ambitious leaders, because the power of women working together is the greatest movement I could perpetuate.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow my journey as a designer, factory owner, and dog-mom on Facebook and Instagram @jaclynlesleyjones. Additionally, you can follow our brands on Facebook and Instagram: @californiansfootwear, @jaclynjonesusa, @salpyshoes, and the factory @cloverandcobbler

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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