A fashion designer from a small country town is on a mission to contribute to the Australian fashion industry in a big way.
Jacqui Hayes, 26, who hails from Orange in New South Wales, recently released the second collection from her fashion label, Barney & Jacq.
The label is not trend-driven, said Hayes, but rather adopts a holistic approach, where pieces from her first collection can be mixed and matched with pieces from her second and subsequent collections.
The collections feature ready-to-wear casual pieces and classic staples, from shirts and trousers to blazers and skirts.
“Going seasonless is the direction that I’m heading with my brand,” Hayes said.
“I refer to my brand collections as season one or season two, rather than spring/summer or autumn/winter. I can work at my own pace and drop my seasons when I’m able to, and there’s no push to put out products just for the sake of meeting a seasonal deadline.”
This shift away from the traditional production cycle, where brands release a new collection in line with seasonal fashion week calendars, is becoming more prominent across the industry. Earlier this year, Yves Saint Laurent announced it would not release its collections “in any of the pre-set schedules of 2020”, and Gucci declared it would go seasonless and “abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities”.
Hayes said focusing on the wearability and long shelf life of her garments was key to creating a sustainable fashion label.
“It was really important to me that my first season was made up of classic pieces because I knew that being a new brand people will take a while to find me, so I still want my products to be relevant when they come across my brand in 12 months’ time,” Hayes said.
When deciding which garments would make up each of her collections, Hayes said she carefully considered the pieces she wore the most and the pieces she always turned to.
“In my first collection, I thought it would be strategic to have a statement blazer – something a bit eye-catching to draw people to my brand – which is where the watermelon blazer came from. And then I wanted a more staple blazer as well, so I’ve got the same cut in a biscuit (colour), which is more understated,” she said.
“I also wanted to create matching blazer sets, so I’ve got the shorts to match the watermelon blazer, and the mini skirt for the biscuit blazer. Then I looked to a classic white shirt – I wanted to do my own take on that and so my staple shirt was added in.”
Hayes’ second collection uses similar cuts and fabrication to her first collection, building on existing staple pieces and allowing for easy mixing and matching.
“I do design my seasons thinking of the previous one because I want every new collection for Barney & Jacq to be paired with the last. I’m merchandising my two collections together now and I love pairing my new blue shades with the watermelon colours of my first collection.”
A focus on local production
Hayes is passionate about keeping Barney & Jacq Australian made – the label is designed and managed in Orange, and production takes place in Sydney.
“I do this for quality control,” she said.
“It’s really beneficial for me being able to physically visit my factory in Sydney. Being able to get on the phone and talk through any issues rather than an email to a different country is so much easier. If anything comes back and I’m not happy with the quality, it’s an easy fix because I can talk it through with the garment makers.”
Hayes said it was advantageous being a new and small brand that can produce modest quantities, as she doesn’t have to adhere to the large minimum quantities that international factories require.
“This means we are producing less so there is less waste,” she said.
Hayes also uses sustainably sourced fabrics, and local production means she can keep the carbon footprint of her collections to a minimum.
“It’s really important to me to produce locally. I think it is important to support our own industry. And people are really starting to appreciate locally produced products. Now, consumers are taking more time to research where their clothes are getting made, and if they’re being ethically produced,” she said.
The value of experience
Hayes began her career by studying fashion at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, but she always knew working in the industry would provide her with valuable experience.
While she was completing her studies, Hayes interned and worked for several brands including Cooper Street, Vogue, Sass & Bide, Ellery, and Rebecca Vallance.
Eager to soak up as much experience as possible, Hayes worked in roles across different areas of the fashion business including public relations, sales, design, and production.
“Having an appreciation for each step of the process is really important – to know how important the quality of your production is or to know those relationships you need to have in sales. It has really broadened my perspective,” she said.
Some of her most notable experiences include working at London Fashion Week for Sass & Bide, in a Paris showroom for Ellery, and in Cambodia for an ethical clothing company.
Following several years of working in the industry, Hayes launched Barney & Jacq in early 2019 and her first collection was released in October of the same year.
She has learned many business lessons along the way, and emphasises the importance of clear communication.
“Set your expectations and when you’re working with people, whether that be the pattern makers or your factories, tell them when your deadlines are, and be clear about your standards. You need to be clear in your communication… because it can be a costly experience when that goes wrong,” she said.
Beyond working in a profession that she loves, Hayes plans to continue building her fashion brand while being based in a regional town.
“My intention is to remain based in Orange, NSW and I’d really love to build up my own creative team here. I found growing up in regional Australia, you always had to move away to be able to find creative jobs. So, a dream of mine would be able to hire a full-time graphic designer, a design assistant, and a marketing manager, to create those jobs for people living regionally.”