When you’re building a timeless wardrobe, one of the most important shopping decisions you’ll ever make is to buy chic, contemporary outerwear. When you invest in well-constructed pieces that are designed to last for years (and possibly decades), you elevate the look of any outfit, exuding sophistication and effortless style.
Whether you’re looking for a versatile moto jacket that can take you from the office to cocktails, or an elegant belted coat that’s perfect for wearing over an evening gown, buying quality outerwear (that’s designed to fit and flatter your silhouette) is a must for any stylish woman.
A woman whose expertise lies in designing and constructing outerwear for women that not only fits well and utilizes top quality materials, but is designed to look stylish from season to season is Bay Area-based fashion designer J’Amy Tarr.
About Fashion Designer J’Amy Tarr
In today’s fashion designer spotlight, we learn about what inspires J’Amy Tarr, how her professional background (designing for notable fashion brands, Levi’s and Michael Kors) has influenced her career, and her description of the type of woman who loves her outerwear.
Based just outside of San Francisco in the charming town of Mill Valley, J’Amy Tarr launched her contemporary womenswear line just a few years ago, in 2012. With a design studio set in a loft-style space in the heart of downtown Mill Valley, J’Amy Tarr takes pride in working with a locally-based mill (in the SFO area) for the production of her outerwear line.
When she got her start designing outerwear for women, her first knockout piece was a moto jacket that women responded favorably to. She calls it the “essence of a moto jacket”, as it combines the classic style of a moto jacket with the “comfort of a cardigan” sweater. After that, she went on to design a line of bomber jackets, belted blanket coats, tuxedo jackets, and capes in a range of luxurious fabrics, from jacquard to wool and leather.
In addition to her affable personality and design know-how, what sets J’Amy Tarr apart from other fashion designers is that she not only takes a hands-on approach to guiding the production team (ensuring high quality control and impeccable construction), she also makes herself available to customers to tailor their pieces. This is a major bonus for Northern California customers who buy her pieces online and from West Coast retailers and want to get it altered to perfectly fit.
Jokingly calling herself a “Type A” personality, J’Amy Tarr works diligently to make sure that each garment is carefully made and precisely crafted, resulting in exceptional quality and workmanship. In addition, the high-end fabrics she sources to produce the pieces (like Japanese Wool and Napa Leather) add to the durability of her garments, making them must-have luxury investment pieces for any woman’s wardrobe.
While the quality and construction of her outerwear might lead you to assume that each piece would cost thousands, surprisingly – her designs range from $540-$700 per piece, which makes them an affordable luxury to say the least.
CLP: Why did you decide to focus on designing outerwear, in particular?
JT: With over two decades of experience in the fashion industry, I have seen how a fashion business operates from all sides. After receiving my double Masters of Fine Art degrees in fashion design and textile design, I had the tools to truly create my vision a reality. I initially produced my first full collection in 2012, but soon after I discovered my passion for outerwear. I loved the power that a coat or jacket holds to anchor an outfit.
CLP: Since fashion trends come and go, how do you maintain your signature style, while still creating pieces that look contemporary or on-trend?
JT: Fashion trends come and go, but quality fabric and craftsmanship are forever. In my opinion there are a select few of simple silhouettes and shapes that carry over season over season. I am personally attracted to garments that have longevity, from the shapes to the fabric and craftsmanship.
When designing, I look to uphold these standards throughout my collection. During the initial design stage, I always ask myself how I can make these of-the-moment fashion trends look elegant, sophisticated and stand the test of time.
CLP: Tell us about your design process, and why you chose to produce items in California.
JT: Because I am heavily inspired by my hometown of the San Francisco Bay Area, it is a priority to consciously manage the effect my clothing has on the world. Through local production, quality construction and a longevity-focused approach on design, I am proving that it is possible to create luxury garments at a local level.
Each garment I create is intentionally crafted with a keen eye for detail, from the design stage to the final seam. I personally conduct quality control for each piece, ensuring clients receive the best product possible. Each collection is designed to surpass trends and the turnover associated with them, which allows garments to carry on with customers’ closets over time.
CLP: How has your background influenced your design process?
JT: Looking back on my learnings from working at Levi’s and Michael Kors, I see how they have influenced me today. Working at Levi’s, I learned about the power of a San Francisco based brand steeped in a rich history. From Michael Kors, I learned what designer American sportswear is and how luxurious fabrics are a very important component. Today, in my own company, I am keeping my manufacturing in the San Francisco Bay Area and my customers value this element of the brand. I seek beautiful fabrics as starting points to creating my outerwear pieces.
CLP: What types of fabrics and materials do you use and why?
JT: I am particularly drawn to fabrics and materials that wear well over time. Particularly, I am drawn to luxurious wools and fine leathers. Because my outerwear collection is heavily focused on longevity, every factor like design, quality and fabrics truly matter.
The majority of my current and past collections are made of Japanese milled wool and Italian lambskin leather. Recently, though, I have been looking to lighter-weight fabrics to add to my future collections, like voile and lace.
While using lightweight fabrics is a new endeavor for me, focusing on quality and longevity throughout my fabric choices remains constant. I will always use wool as the core fabric in my collections, but look forward to giving my customers a broader offering with lighter fabrics!
CLP: When designing a collection, what (or who) influences or inspires you?
JT: When designing a new collection, I look to my own fashion compass. As I look inward, I evaluate what I want to wear and how I see beauty then create my designs around my own desires. I constantly keep in mind that because my collection is devoted to only outerwear, each garment should stand on its own and be unique.
Over the past few seasons, I have focused on tailored silhouettes and neutral colors. This upcoming fall, I am pushing myself to experiment with tonal embellishments, bolder textures and new shapes.
CLP: Why do women love your designs?
JT: Women love my designs because of each garment’s precise tailoring, which flatter a feminine silhouette and ultimately elevate any outfit. The proportions are modern while maintaining a slight edge; each piece has a sense of refined ease. All of these characteristics collectively give my designs an appeal to women of all ages.
CLP: How do you differentiate yourself from other fashion designers?
JT: A significant part of my business is creating genuine and lasting relationships with my customers. I feel truly blessed to have such close connections with them.
At each fitting, I go the extra mile to ensure that each customer feels confident, even empowered, in my designs. During these fittings, I get to know my customer, their lifestyle and their needs. I make it a point to ask these women for their feedback, which, for me, is worth its weight in gold.
After meeting and connecting with hundreds of women, I use their feedback in my future designs. I want each and every customer is in love with their J’Amy Tarr Outerwear piece.
CLP: What has been the highlight or most exciting moment in your career, to date?
JT: I have many exciting moments! From the time my friend wore her Metallic Leather Bomber Jacket and was photographed by Bill Cunningham, The Sartorialist, during New York Fashion Week to the time I made the cover of the Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle to winning an award in an international design competition.
The most favorite part of my career is when I see someone wearing one of my garments or I hear how much they love their jacket and/or coat. It absolutely makes my day every single time.
CLP: If you were to give budding fashion designers any piece of advice, what would that be?
JT: First and foremost, I would emphasize that there is not one certain path that budding fashion designers should take. There is no set path to success. Do not believe the hype in the fashion industry. Budding fashion designers are often told what exactly needs to be done or what exact path to follow to be successful in the fashion industry. Try to take this specific advice with a grain of salt.
Like any other industry, fashion is hard work and it takes time to truly gain a foothold in it. If budding fashion designers have a point of view and find their niche, I would advise them to keep on going!
To learn more about J’Amy Tarr and to shop her collection, visit JamyTarr.com.