ELEVEN SIX WOMEN | ALISON NEWTON
Photography by Delaine Dacko | @delainedacko
We met with Alison Newton: the Co-founder of Friends of Jenny - an online boutique and community. We took a stroll around her home neighborhood in the West Village and chatted about her vision for the recently launched FOJ business, silver-linings of this wild, pandemic year and places we dream to travel soon! Ali selected her favorite ELEVEN SIX pieces from our Pre-spring 21, cozy alpaca collection. PS - Our ALI T-neck Sweater is a piece we named after Ali ...whilst dreaming up this staple sweater we were designing for an ELEVEN SIX Woman that Ali represents. We adore Ali’s modern yet eclectic style that is epitomized within the Friends of Jenny DNA.
Can you share with us your career journey in fashion to launching the Friends of Jenny online boutique?
After studying fashion merchandising at LaSalle in Montreal, I moved to NYC to intern with Kate Spade in the early days. I come from a background in buying, merchandising, and planning, and I’ve bounced back and forth from Canada and NYC, working on the design and merchant side at retailers like Aldo Shoes, Mendocino Clothing and Club Monaco. My business partner Beth and I have always had deep interest in the fashion industry and have a shared love of creativity and beautiful things. We would have long phone calls (we live in different cities) about what we saw as a white space in the ecommerce market in Canada and about wanting to build a community that felt like an expansion of our circle of friends. When the time was right, we decided that with our combined knowledge and vision - to launch Friends of Jenny in September of 2019.
Where does the brand name: Friends of Jenny come from?
My business partner and long time friend Beth Nicholson-Crago and I met in NYC through our mutual friend Jenny—yes, she’s real! We were inspired to create this ecommerce fashion community by the Jenny we ALL have in our lives—that friend who always lets you raid her closet, who you text for backup from the dressing room, who surprises you with the perfect gift you didn’t know you needed. She’s a connector, there to refill your glass and leave you full of inspiration and a new friend or two. We all know 'a Jenny' - we wanted to be able to give that to our community!
How would you describe the Friends of Jenny DNA and style and what do you seek out in brands?
Drawing on our love of the fashion industry, we’ve carefully curated pieces from global designers who are doing something special. It’s a big thrill for us to help our customers discover something that they can’t find anywhere else. We’ve also made decisions wherever possible to work with brands that are grounded in sustainability. Whenever we find a piece that’s super cool and interesting and also has a sustainable aspect to it, it’s an amazing marriage—whether that’s Eleven-Six knitwear, Machete which uses recycled materials or the fabrics that Rachel Comey has developed from recycled bottles. We know that this is as important to our community as it is to us.
Friends of Jenny recently had their 1st year anniversary and what a ride-of-a-year it has been! What are some of the way you have navigated the pandemic being an emerging business?
Yes, we are so excited!!! We just celebrated our 1 year anniversary back in Sept! Who knew when we started our business over 12 months ago that more than half of our first year would be in lockdown. Beth and I haven't seen each other in person since the last week of February - I miss her!
When the lockdown hit back in March, we truly did not know what to expect but within days we were so amazed and touched by the strength of our community. They showed up and supported us and have continued to do so throughout the pandemic. We realized during this time that communication was going to be key, so we reignited our story telling and tried to focus on fun and humor but in an honest way. By not hiding some of the day to day struggles that we were encountering, professionally and personally - I think that messaging touched and resonated with our community!
Have their been any silver linings for you during this challenging pandemic year - business and personal?
What a year. Period. The last nine months has forced me to slow down personally and professionally. Although isolation was difficult at times, I was not only a mother and entrepreneur but also a teacher and a line chef, I will always and will continue to cherish all of the uninterrupted family time that it forced upon us. Moments of doing exactly nothing together and loving it.
On a professional level slowing down meant that it allowed Beth and I to relook at initiatives and ideas that we had at the outset of the business. To take stock of what we really wanted Friends of Jenny to be, develop new strategies, and finally be able to put those ideas into action.
Where will be the first place you dream to travel once the world heals?
Oh my goodness, it's so difficult to choose just one place! After spending the majority of my career on a plane, it has been surreal to be grounded in one place since March... but if I had to choose, it would be Portugal. We visit my brother and his family every August on the coast outside of Lisbon for some surfing, eating and catching up with friends and family. It is pure bliss!
Last book/movie/series that you loved and were moved by?
This isn't going to be super inspirational but my husband and I have just finished binge watching "Indian Matchmaking". It's fascinating! Anyone else ready for the Aparna spin off!?
Do you have a daily mantra?
I don't have a daily mantra but I have been living by "one day at a time" since March...it is so hard to see the big picture and be forward thinking when you are unsure of what life has in store for you on a daily basis. Additionally, remembering to take a moment to breathe every day is critical during those moments when you are feeling overwhelmed.
What are you loving from the ELEVEN SIX latest collections and how would you describe ELEVEN SIX to your friends?
I have always been a huge fan of ELEVEN-SIX! I love it for so many reasons but first, the sweaters are beyond amazing! Secondly, my dear friend Catherine Carnevale is it's creator and co-founder and I am in awe of the company that she and Nick have built! They have been able to marry contemporary design, traditional yet sustainable production practices while also being able to give back to small communities in Peru through supporting women entrepreneurs and small businesses. Amazing!
This season, I am loving all the novelty and texture in the Pre-Spring '21 Collection. The ELEVEN SIX colour palettes are always amazing but I think it is the use of pattern and texture that I am most drawn to. Some of my favorite pieces are the KIT (love the unique use of color by artist Kit Agar in this collaboration piece), the NARDIA (the yarn in this sweater is like a soft cloud and I am digging patchwork right now!). Also kind of love the ALI turtleneck ( I am a sucker for an oversized, luxurious turtleneck every time!)