NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Entrepreneur Monet Jackson has the skinny on the latest denim trends.
Capitalizing on recent market statistics that show nearly 95 million selfies are posted to social media every day and that the global denim jeans market is projected to reach $129.8 billion in retail sales by 2021, she'll launch Selfie Genes, a riveting customization design concept that prints your selfies, group photos and text directly onto your favorite denim shorts, jeans and jackets, at the upcoming Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.'s 54th National Convention at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Jackson's passion for personalization is part of her DNA, but Selfie Genes' debut, from Wednesday, July 10 through Saturday, July 13, during the convention, may prove to be the ultimate acid test — whether or not the thousands of women attending will stop by Jackson's Booth #930 to decorate their boot cuts, low-rises and wide-legs in an innovative way to display their sisterhood.
"Delta Sigma Theta's national conventions generate millions of dollars in revenue that support not only the city in which we convene but the hundreds of businesses that support its production," said national president and CEO Beverly E. Smith. "As an organization we make it a priority to support as many minority and women owned businesses as possible. We have long standing relationships with our vendors, some spanning over 50 years, and their presence is critical to the success of our national conventions."
"My mom, who's a Delta, is very creative and she has her own personalized greeting card business called Ink Potions," said Jackson. "She designs cards from scratch and creates original photo collages for special occasions. I knew I wanted to start a customized jeans business, and when we were sitting around one day my dad came up with the idea of using selfies in some way since everyone takes selfies. That's when I thought of printing selfies directly onto denim, and I changed the spelling of 'jeans' to 'genes,' since selfies show who you are most connected to; your sorority sisters, your college friends, your family, those you love, and, of course, yourself."
"Our motto for Selfie Genes is 'Uniquely Created & Uniquely Connected,'" she said. "Our goal? It's to capture the unique gene that connects people together through customized apparel; your DNA displayed your way."
Jackson said Selfie Genes fills a niche, and with the help of her cousin's printing shop, aDigital Solutions located in the heart of Washington, DC, transforming your durable cotton twill textiles by printing poignant pictures directly onto your Levi's or Calvin Kleins is a snap. Customers start by uploading high-resolution images to Selfie Genes' website; use a template to decide placement and design; add their order to the cart; submit payment which includes a shipping label; and then send their prized denim directly to the print shop.
Gone are the days of unsophisticated iron-ons and decals. Jackson said she uses the latest in printing technology, and the new, high-quality images on the finished designs won't wash off. She recommends laundering printed denim in a washing machine, inside out, using cold water and the gentle cycle.
"After using my service, your apparel will ever be the same as anyone else's again," said Jackson.
Jackson may well have this new business all buttoned up, with a BS in Fashion Merchandising and a Minor in Business from Marist College and an MA in Luxury and Fashion Management from The Savannah College of Art and Design in her back pocket. In fact, the 26-year-old said she's certain her idea will fly, after being in the loop working at custom shoe retailer Shoes of Prey.
"I've done research on customization in fashion and apparel and found while many companies are using customization, they don't have the type of features I'm offering my customers and they're not using denim, which is a very popular clothing material found all around the world," she said. "When I was a top-selling shoe stylist for footwear startup Shoes of Prey, that had six stop-in shops in Nordstrom department stores around the nation, we helped clients design their own shoes by picking fabrics and colors. Shoes of Prey went out of business earlier this year because I don't think they truly understood their customer. The company gave people too many options, and it became too confusing."
Jackson said her prospective customers, male and female millennials who are willing to spend $30-$40 enhancing jean shorts, $50-$60 for embellishing jeans and $75-$80 for enriching their denim jackets, will find using Selfie Genes' designer tools and zippy options for adding selfies, group photos and text easy to use. She said her customers will not get overwhelmed in the decision-making process when elevating their straight-legs, stonewashed, flared and distressed denim.
Jackson also seems to have captured the attention of older patrons and pets.
"Selfie Genes transformed my denim jacket into a masterpiece consisting of photos of my children and grandchildren," said Johnetta Ford from Clinton, Maryland. "I really loved the personalization and the attention to detail the Selfie Genes team exhibited throughout the entire design process."
"I was so excited to see my daughter's face when her 13th birthday Selfie Genes gift was revealed at her party," said Karlotta Ford from Washington, DC. "The photo collage of pictures depicted from a toddler to a young lady on the back of her jean jacket will make this one of her favorite clothing items that she will treasure forever."
"I love Selfie Genes so much that I had them do two designs," said Monique Johnson from Charlotte, North Carolina. "Two denim jackets for me and my Pomeranian Petunia. I love having apparel that's one-of-a-kind, that is customized to my style and the style of my sweet dog. For there to be a company that listens to me and what my needs are along with being able to capture such memorable moments is absolutely incredible! Both Petunia and I are very pleased with our Selfie Genes apparel."
Jackson is getting ready to shop her business plan to investors, but she didn't exactly have to tighten her belt when getting Selfie Genes off the ground. Her parents, both federal government employees, proudly pitched in. Mom Christine works for the U.S. Department of Education as a senior risk consultant and is the author of "Pitch Black," and dad Timothy is a senior energy consultant with the U.S. Department of Energy. "Along with the money that I've saved, my grandparents, my family and close friends have all helped financially in supporting my business," said Jackson. "I'm so blessed to have them."
With five employees and an encouraging soft launch, Jackson is already thinking of scaling her company by offering customers an upscale denim wholesale component.
"Most people own a denim jacket or a pair of jeans," she said. "Everyone knows how their denim fits, which is why supplying us with your denim apparel is the best option. You send us your favorite denim jacket or pair of jeans or shorts and we will send them back to you customized in the way you designed it. In the future, I want my business to partner with a department store or denim company where customers can purchase their denim items and then come to the Selfie Genes area to design and customize their items on site. I also plan on opening an online boutique for women and creating my own fashion brand."
"I'm setting my goals pretty high, as I'm looking forward to bringing in significant sales at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority convention," said Jackson of the sisterhood of predominantly Black, college-educated women with more than 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters around the world. "As I started this business, I learned you have to be confident in what you're selling. When you're young, it's hard to be taken seriously, but I'm confident in knowing what I want to do with my business and I know the customers I want to target."
Information from: BIZ New Orleans, http://www.bizneworleans.com/