Text & Interview: Alec Coiro
Images Courtesy of Ace & Jig
I don’t know if they were searching for inspiration on their road trip, but Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson from Ace and Jig are certainly inspired and inspiring. Touring in their absolutely adorable VW van by the name of Winnie (naturally), the trip was less of a getaway and more of a chance to connect. Specifically to connect with the Ace and Jig community at the garment swaps they hosted.
If you’re new to Ace and Jig, they take a textile first design approach that results in bohemian clothing that is destined to be the clothes you’re most comfortable in from the moment they’re created.
We asked Cary and Jenna about the trip, their Kaizen philosophy, and they gave us amazingly in-depth details on how their process and how their textiles and clothing are produced.
Where did you guys get that amazing van! And how did she get the name Winnie?
We rented Winnie from an awesome spot in Costa Mesa, CA. They drove it up to SF for us so that we could snake our way back down on our ace&jig team road trip! Everywhere we went people stopped to tell us their own VW travels back in the day.
What were some of your favorite stops along the way on your trip?
Our main stops were San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Ojai, and LA. All of these were highlights of the journey because we got to meet and interact with fans and followers of the brand. Our community is EVERYTHING. In San Francisco and LA, we held our first sustainable “swaps”, where customers brought in their gently-used ace&jig to swap with each other. We love this infusing of new life into an ace&jig garment and starting another textile story! The Santa Cruz boardwalk rides also brought out a little team spirit
How did the two of you meet and ultimately become design partners?
We met as interns working for a lifestyle store and clothing line in NYC called Language. We connected immediately over long hours working away and of course our shared love of textiles! We worked, traveled, and designed together for years, storing up all this textile knowledge for…well we didn’t know yet! But the shared love was immediate, and when the time came to branch out, we knew it would be together, and we knew it would be textile-centric.
Can you tell us a little more about the Kaizen philosophy, what it means to you, and how it manifests itself in your work?
The Kaizen philosophy is something we’ve borrowed from our Indian partners. The philosophy is based on the idea of perpetual improvement – one can always be better, things can always be done better, art should continue to improve and evolve. We believe all of these things and approach our business accordingly. Our values are inseparable from what we do.
We like each collection to feel cohesive, but also seasonless, beautiful and effortless, each piece something you want to wear again and again.
Where does the name Ace & Jig originate?
Our firstborns’ initials! We started Ace & Jig soon after Alice (Cary’s daughter) and James (Jenna’s son) were born.
How did you connect with your weaving team in India?
We researched and traveled TONS looking for someone who could make the custom yarn dye wovens we were picturing in our heads. We were laughed out of a few places, ha! We were trying to make something we hadn’t seen before, and many thought the idea was too narrow, or the weaves too complex…then we found this amazing manufacturer in India that not only seemed capable of making our fabrics but seemed excited by the challenge! Just as important, they pay their employee fair wages, offer free childcare, and use reclaimed water to grow fruit for their employees to take home. We knew immediately this felt right.
Did you start out doing the dyeing and weaving yourselves? How did you originally learn how to do this?
Each season we plan the design out to a T, drafting complex warp and weft details. The color and inspiration are often very whimsical, but the planning of each design is quite technical. We review these details with the weavers, who then translate these designs onto antique handlooms to create small “desk looms”, or first drafts of the patterns. From there we tweak and tweak until we get a version that gives us that magical feeling.
Your textiles are amazing and so central to your work? Obviously, the process of creating them is too detailed to get into here, but can you give us a sense of what sort of “woven story” you are trying to tell from season to season?
The story changes each season! We like each collection to feel cohesive, but also seasonless, beautiful and effortless, each piece something you want to wear again and again.