Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day weekend, a few years back.

Well, 7 years back to be exact. That was a memorable summer. I launched my little clothing company that summer. JAR Clothing. It feels funny to talk about, like it was another lifetime ago. I think that summer was special for a lot of reasons. It's the summer that made me realize how much I really loved making and designing clothes. I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. I never wanted to go to college. I was good at school, but didn't like it at all. I took classes at the comm. college during high school, but that was it for me. No more school, or so I thought. But then it changed. The thought of going to school for something I loved gave the idea a new ring. Going to school to get trained for fashion design. I sort of like the sound of it. And so the process started...

Let me back up a little bit first.

I started sewing in Jr. High. My first project was an large patchwork quilt. My sister and I both made matching ones and even carted them with us when we moved across the country. Mom made us use the cheap sale fabric, so our selections were far from pretty. It has more of a rustic, mismatched look. My next project was a little skirt I had drawn up but couldn't find a pattern for. My oldest sister Allison said she'd help me make it. We worked on it together, and it turned out perfectly (as good as a first skirt can be). I was so proud of my accomplishment. I now felt like I could create anything. That's when it happened. I was hooked. I could create anything. It was (is) such a thrilling feeling. I feel the most alive when I'm creating. I spent most my high school weekends shut up in my sewing room listening to music. I was happy. I would sometimes make stuff for my friends who went to high school (I was home schooled), and they acted as my walking advertisement. I got some custom orders and hand-made lots of birthday and Christmas gifts for people.

I'll never forget one of my very first sales to a stranger.

Those were the day of thrift shopping with our crew. We did it weekly, if not everyday. One day we were on our usual run, stopping by our favorite spots. I was browsing the racks when a very sweet lady approached me. She was in LOVE with the skirt I was wearing and wondered where I got it from. I told her I made it and she just went on and on about it. Finally, after a few minutes of talking together, she asked if she could buy it. Buy if off me! Right there in the store! I honestly didn't know what to think. I told her I had to run home and change clothes. She met me a short while later and paid me $50 for it. I was in heaven. Someone, someone I didn't even know, liked what I made and paid me good money for it. I was more than happy, I was encouraged that I really could do this.

Another incident pushed me along.

My sister was wearing another skirt I made while shopping downtown one day. She was in Banana Republic when one of the sales associates complimented her on her skirt. She told her that I made it. The sales associate proceeded to tell her that I should start selling them, that people would pay good money for one-of-a-kind clothing items. My sister came home and told me what she said. It got me thinking...

That brings us to Labor Day weekend 7 years ago.

That incident happened in early spring and I was 16 years old. I decided to sign up for a booth at our city's annual Pig Out In The Park event which happened every Labor Day weekend. It is a big food, music, and craft festival that took place the first week of September. I reserved my spot and paid for it, and it was time to get to work. My best friend split the booth cost with me and sold her handmade jewelry alongside my skirts. I obtained a business license, bought a tent, got a logo and business cards designed and printed, purchased packaging and labels for my items, got the banner made for my tent, and got to work on my products. I spent the entire summer sewing over 100 one-of-a-kind skirts from recycled, vintage t-shirts. I had never done anything like this before, so this was a new, stretching experience for me. It turned in to a family/friend affair. I was so supported by all the people in my life, and I know I couldn't have done it without them. We all took shifts manning the booth the week of the event. My Mom would send down food for all of us working, and periodically Dad and the kids would come check in with us. I hardly wanted to miss a minute. I was thrilled at each and every sale. The city newspaper interviewed me before the event and featured the article in the paper, complete with a large photo of me in my booth. It was a blessing because it brought me so much business. I had little old ladies (who had sewn their whole lives) come to the park just to see me.

That was an experience I will never forget. I sold over half of my product, and made over 5k in one week.

I went on to attend the fashion design program at the Art Institute of Seattle where I studied for 2 years. I have since started a business with my husband called Tuck & Bonte. While we aren't designing clothing at the present, we sure will be in the future. Our dream is to have a full-fledged design house featuring clothing, furniture and home accessories.

I want to encourage you (whoever you are) to pursue your dreams. Pursue the dreams in your heart. With enough work and motivation, anything is possible. That experience put something in me that I'll carry forever. It gave me a drive to work hard for the things I want. It taught me that I can learn anything... even scary, unknown things like business. It's scary to put yourself out there and to be vulnerable to people's opinions. I could have done all that work and not sold a single item. You never know. I didn't know what the outcome would be. But 'what if?' is no way to live your life. I could have felt bad I didn't sell every item. I wasn't, though. I was thrilled that I had a vision, that I put my idea into action, and that the result was a success.

"Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." 
- Oscar Wilde

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
- C.S. Lewis

Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy your Labor Day!


  1. SO awesome! SO encouraging!! Loved reading your story and seeing the photos! :)

  2. Best ever. Love reminiscing!!!!

  3. Thank you for sharing!! Such beautiful encouragement =)

  4. Such fun of the skirts you made during this time (the blue, black and red one 7 pics from the bottom) was given to our daughter Hailee when she was about 6 or 7 years old and has since been passed on to our middle daughter Emma and finally Gracie our youngest. They all loved it and felt so special wearing something that NO one else had! You are such an inspiration!
    Jessica (Lotze) Hieronymus....Kristina's sister :-)

  5. aw i remember visiting your booth! This is the summer we met and became friends. :)so proud of you julie - i know you have great things ahead!

  6. Love this post. It is SO important to remember and document our journey at its various stages. I am so proud to be your friend Julie. I think you are one amazing devoted and determined woman who will reach her dreams. That haircut however, I am so not proud of. PTL for the evolution of personal style ;) Love ya!

  7. I love this post! What a beautiful encouraging story about following after your dreams! I adore your blogs and really enjoy seeing the clothes you make and wear. You and your husband are such a talented, adorable fun couple. I remember you and Carrie gave me a dress years ago in D.C. It was black, purple, other colors :) I loved the dress and wore it often. It was so unique and flattering. It fit me perfectly too. I'm so happy your business is doing well. The little bird cake toppers are precious. All your products are amazing and done with excellence. God bless you as you pursue your dreams and live out your destiny as a designer, fashion, artist and more :)

    1. thanks girl! such sweet words. It's been fun to re-connect/stalk you via fb. It looks like you're doing well. I still love that season we had in DC. Such amazing memories with amazing people!

  8. i remember seeing these photos and hearing all about this via penapal letters :)
    so crazy, and awesome. I'm pretty sure when i came to visit you it was the labor day after that... pretty wild :)

  9. how have I gotten so behind on your blog?! Reading this and seeing these old pics brought back such vivid memories of this season :) You inspire me. I am amazed at who God has made you to be J.