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Designer To Know: Jilian Naiberg of Jonah Jay

Yesterday Startup Fashion Week™ commenced, hosting their 5th annual media launch party it was a night that had Toronto's fashion community buzzing.

Created in 2014 by founder Jodi Goodfellow, Startup Fashion Week™ is a one of a kind fashion event fusing together technology, innovation and of course, fashion. Since inception, Startup Fashion Week™ has aided numerous startups break into the industry and become successful entrepreneurs providing them with a space to make connections and showcase their own personal label/business to gain visibility and credibility.

Full of networking, forums and runways, Startup Fashion Week™ encapsulates it all, not to mention it holds an Alumni of 10 Wearable Tech Startups, 18 Fashion-Tech Startups, 20 Emerging Designers, 50+ Speakers and 100+ emerging models. A star-studded group of innovative and stylish individuals.

This Friday more specifically is an exciting day for Startup Fashion Week™. On Friday they debut their coveted runway where the aforementioned tech start-ups and designers will premier their collections in front of a notable audience.

With that, in honour of this wonderful event, we're interviewing some of the top designers showcasing on Friday that are on our "designers to watch" list. Kicking off this series we sat down with Jilian Naiberg, Founder of Jonah Jay, a fashion label that re-imagines vegan leather with modern sophistication. Through conversation, we talked about everything from the creation of her brand to the very exciting runway performance at Startup Fashion Week™. To discover more about this exceptionally talented designer and her upcoming runway read on!

You must be very excited about the upcoming show! How has the whole process been? In terms of getting everything organized and getting mentally prepared?

I’m very excited! The process has been pretty seamless actually. There are a lot of people working and volunteering on every aspect of the show who I couldn’t be more thankful for. They allow me to focus on the creative design aspect, which is the fun part!

That's amazing. So tell me, what made you want to join Startup Fashion Week™?

As en emerging designer it’s important to seek out and take advantage of every business or marketing opportunity you can find. Startup Fashion Week™ had a great reputation and they offer a great stage (literally) to showcase the brand. SFW also offers the opportunity to meet other designers in the same position as me. You never know what you can learn or what can come out of building new relationships.

Tell us a little bit about this collection that you’ll be showcasing at Startup Fashion Week™, what was the inspiration behind it?

Jonah Jay is a sustainable vegan leather apparel brand that offers classic but edgy core basics. This collection is about taking your favourite everyday pieces and amping them up a notch by adding that strong leather look.

Can you give us any hints on what we can expect to see walk down the runway? In terms of theme, piece-wise or even beauty wise!

I always aim to design clothes that real women want to wear, so this collection stays true to the minimalist look that Jonah Jay is known for. There is one piece in particular that I’m obsessed with - it’s an amazing cape that is perfect for the holiday season!

It’s going to be so exciting to watch the show and to see all the hard work really pay off. We’re so excited for you! Now focusing more on your brand, I love the concept of re-imagining vegan leather. I think it’s such a huge movement for brands to go cruelty free or sustainable. Were vegan pieces always something you wanted to emphasize?

From the get-go I was interested in creating a high-quality alternative leather brand. I absolutely love the leather look. I think it makes a woman feel strong and confident. But in the past I could never find a vegan option that truly had the same look and feel as a true leather. That’s when I decided that I would fill that gap in the market. I knew that if there was a comparable vegan leather option, there would be no reason I couldn’t convince people to shop cruelty-free. After a lot of research I sourced a 100% polyurethane fabric that stood up to my standards, and then some - it’s even machine washable!

On that same note, we’re absolutely obsessed with all your pieces (especially the Joey Culottes!). What made you go in the direction of mainly “leather” pieces?

Those culottes are a bestseller for sure!! My personal style really influences the collection. I’ve always been drawn to the crispness and fierceness of a leather look. I’m a minimalist at heart so the designs are streamlined and classic. But a simple switch of fabric creates a unique style identity without all the bells and whistles.

I think your story on developing collections for fashion bloggers and YouTubers and then transitioning to your own label is very unique. What made you want to create your own label from scratch?

I loved creating collections for other people and turning their visions into a reality. It helped me push outside my own creative box and allowed me to collaborate with truly amazing people. But there was only so long I could go before wanting to do the same thing for my own visions. I needed to trust myself as a designer and as an entrepreneur and just go for it.

Lastly, In creating your brand what would you say has been the most challenging part and the most memorable part?

The most challenging part is just putting yourself out there and creating brand awareness. There is so much content and information across social media that you need to find ways to stand out. Jonah Jay has such a focused point of view which has really helped us find our audience, but I still have to go outside my comfort zone to seek out certain opportunities. I think the first time we got orders in the same day from both Vancouver and Halifax was probably one of the most memorable moments for me. To span the country like that felt incredible, like I really created something that people everywhere were interested in. Next, we go global :)

For more on Jonah Jay visit their website here, follow them on Instagram, or watch the upcoming runway by purchasing a ticket here.

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