It’s no secret that the fashion industry generally does not cater to all body shapes, nor to the enhancement of self-esteem for women who fall outside of the industry’s mainstream sizes and shapes. Fortunately, one Canberra fashion designer has worked hard to crack the code to helping athletic women with fit and strong bodies feel empowered, confident and sexy outside of the gym.
Jessica Brice founded the label, Feather & Barb to give athletic women the impetus to adorn their beautiful bodies with styles designed just for them. I contacted Jessica to learn about this new wave of style that’s made its way into the fashion industry.
RA: When did you launch Feather & Barb and how long has it been in operation?
JB: The idea for Feather & Barb has been around for a really long time, but we only launched in September of this year. It took us about 18 months to get it off the ground from the initial idea to launch.
RA:What’s your background? What was your job/career before you started Feather & Barb? How long did you do that?
JB: I studied Fashion Design straight out of school and then followed that up with an undergraduate degree in Marketing and then further studies to complete my Masters in Business Administration. I wanted to be a Fashion Designer since I was 12yrs old, but my career took me on a different path. I have worked in many careers, from an alcohol company to working at the Australian Sports Commission. My current job and what triggered the idea for Feather and Barb is as a coach and Personal Trainer. I have been doing this full time for about 3yrs and part-time for over 10. I’m currently working at Hale gym in Barton, which I love.
RA: What is the concept or philosophy behind the Feather & Barb label?
JB: The philosophy of Feather & Barb is all about helping women to feel empowered, confident and sexy outside of the gym. We have created a range of stylish pieces that really are a new kind of fit. By using specially made stretch panels to give you extra comfort and allow you to move, each one of the garments is specifically designed to complement your body. Through this label we hope to make fashion more accessible to women who don’t fit into conventional sizing. Whether that is through lifting weights, playing sport or just genetics. While comfort and fit were two of our driving factors, structural lines were also a big influence. We wanted to accentuate those parts of the body that women work really hard on, like strong shoulders and legs.
RA: Can you share the experience(s) that initiated the creation of Feather & Barb?
JB: Training has been a part of my life since I was young. Starting off in school sport, which lead to training at the gym, boxing, bootcamps, triathlons, you name it. After having my two children, I started training in CrossFit. CrossFit transformed my body, it made me fitter and stronger, but with that came a whole lot more muscle! I had more confidence, I was more comfortable in my own skin and when wearing active wear I felt great. But when it came to going out at night, I felt like the hulk. The clothes I liked to wear stopped fitting. If they actually did up around my back or waist, they felt tight and were really uncomfortable. I thought why spend all this time training and feeling amazing, sexy, confident and empowered in the gym, when you go out at night and feel horrible about yourself. This did not sit well with me at all and I knew a lot of other women had the same problem. But no one was addressing the issue. The only options we had were to wear something super stretchy, which wasn’t the look I was really going for, or I ended up wearing the same jeans and top. So Feather & Barb was created!
RA: What kinds of problems do fit girls experience and why are they an issue?
JB:There is nothing quite like the feeling of being fit and strong. The only issue with that is that sometimes fit and strong doesn’t allow you to fit into the clothes you want to wear. Strong, muscular women often have broader shoulders, bigger backs and strong legs. While you feel great in active wear that is stretchy, trying to fit into other conventional size clothing proves more difficult. Conventional sizing has standard measurements, which doesn’t suit the majority of women, particularly those of us who are more muscular. If they do fit, they are often really uncomfortable and allow for minimal movement. When you feel uncomfortable, it certainly doesn’t make you feel great about yourself. We work hard on our bodies and we want to show them off. Feather & barb is about celebrating muscles, not trying to hide them.
RA: How receptive is the market towards fashion for fit and physically strong women?
JB: We have had a great response to the idea and a lot of support within the industry. As it is a new idea and we are addressing a need that has been overlooked for so long, our main focus at the moment is growing brand awareness. What we have found is that once women have tried our clothes on, they are surprised that they not only fit, but they also accentuate those parts of their bodies that they might normally try to hide, like broad shoulders.
RA: How do you help women support themselves?
JB: Through Feather & Barb we are trying to help change the idea of what is traditionally considered beautiful. We want women to feel empowered and confident no matter what size or shape they are. We want them to celebrate having muscles by making clothes to fit their bodies, instead of trying to make their bodies fit into the traditional sizes in which the industry considers the right fit. We want woman to have confidence and show the beauty in being strong, having muscles and being proud of their bodies. Our clothes allow them to feel Confident, sexy and feminine.
RA: Talk about some of the pieces in your collection and how they embed confidence in women.
JB: All of our pieces are designed to mould to your body, allow you to move and accentuate some of your best features. By being comfortable, you will be able to move with more confidence and feel sexy. The Passerine dress was one of our first designs and still a favourite. This dress highlights strong shoulders, has stretch panels through the side to stretch around your waist and lats. It also has extra room through the skirt for strong legs and booty. This dress is fun and flirty and is the ultimate go anyway piece (cream photo below).
Another popular piece is the Kite top. This was designed to again accentuate strong shoulders through its cut-in neckline. It also has a cutaway back to show off a strong back and allow extra room for your lats. The stretch panel allows for extra comfort and movement. The beauty of this top is that it can be paired with our Crane skirt for a black-tie event or dressed down with jeans for the weekend or work.
RA: What’s your vision for Feather & Barb in 5 or 10 years from now and the long-term future?
JB: Our goal for Feather & Barb is to have the brand as a leading name within the fitness industry. To be solving fashion problems for strong women all over the world.
My long-term goal is to be able to have this as my full-time career. I love both fashion and fitness, and to be able to combine the two would be an absolute dream. I’d still coach on the side as It would be hard to give that up, I enjoy it too much.
The day I see someone I don’t know where one of my dresses or being tagged by someone on social media will be so exciting! We have big plans for the brand, including new collections and new prints, this is very early days and only the beginning. Watch this space!