Jillian Ann, the Designer and Visionary of Ritual Fashion, is truly a renaissance woman. A musician, model, writer, environmentalist and world traveler, she brings all of these influences into her fashion designs. Jillian was one of the first models to use the internet to get work, eschewing the conventional agencies in favor of developing a professional network that quickly made her one of the top models online.
Income from modeling helped her launch her music career, and as she toured the world, playing small venues to massive shows at Burning Man and EDC, she kept looking for the coolest clothes to wear on stage and off. While a great admirer of many fashion designers. she decided that her style was a bit different from what was readily available, and so Ritual was born. Her passion for environmental issues, the ethical treatment of workers and the endless search for style is the foundation upon which Ritual was started, and has since grown. This largely self-financed startup has been featured in top magazines and worn by some of the biggest film, TV and music stars, as well as being featured in television and film.
Jillian Ann designs and oversees production of her clothes, as each is hand made by skilled artisans, using eco-friendly materials. Jillian Ann can often be seen at the world’s top music festivals and calls Bali, NYC, Los Angeles and London home.
ICON: When did you first know that being a designer was your thing?
JILLIAN ANN: I used to draw all the time as a little girl. I spent most of my free days in nature alone, drawing, playing piano, singing, and reading. One of my favorite things to draw has always been big beautiful gowns, and I have always loved creating characters out of the people (or fairies, or aliens,) that were wearing them.
ICON: Did you have a sense of style when you were young and how did you express it?
JILLIAN ANN: I remember being really young and going to thrift stores so I could take things apart and sew them back together as my own creations. I was obsessed with vintage clothing and the style of classic French fashion. I covered my walls with Vogue magazines, and would go to the library to look for books about fashion, art, and style.
ICON: Tell us a little bit about your years modeling and
how that influenced your sense of style.
JILLIAN ANN: I started off as a commercial model doing catalogue work as a child. Which was pretty basic: look cute and smile. In my teens I was picked up by an agency and I started to work with all kinds of photographers and clients. When I was younger I was just happy to model, or act, or get on stage at all and I knew this was my job. So if the client wanted fresh, clean, All American, then I was that. If they wanted a punk rock chick, then I was that. I wore everything from ball gowns to combat boots and everything in between. It was a great way to explore different characters and wear looks I would never put together for myself.
But the one thing that always stood out to me was that things never quite fit me correctly. There were always clamps involved and I never understood why the designers didn’t make clothes that actually fit the models. In a way that felt kind of dishonest. So when I finally had a chance to go from being the model to being the designer the first thing I focused on was fit. One thing I’m most proud of about RITUAL is that we are able to dress all different body shapes and sizes, and we have options for everyone.
ICON: Was there a person, class or experience whose influence was pivotal in your artistic development?
JILLIAN ANN: There’s a really long list of people. My best friend in childhood, David Kirby, inspired me to explore and share parts of myself that no one else encouraged. That led to me making my first two records with him, Beta and The Fallen. Then Brian Sirgutz came into my life and also helped me expand as an artist in so many ways. Grant Chambers and a band called Heavyweight Dub Champion definitely changed my life. We traveled the world performing in front of thousands of people. Grant and I also went on to found a project called Liberation Movement, and we wrote so much music together.
When I went off on my own as an electronica artist my good friend and mentor Jean Renard pushed me to believe in my own abilities and create the best possible art that I could. Eric Hart from Glaus Haus Studios also was hugely influential in mentoring and inspiring me in life, art, and creativity.
As my music career was having this sort of resurgence as a solo artist, I met Cassidy Haley, who really encouraged me to design. He helped me believe in myself enough to work in a new creative medium. Alexander Willems helped me do my first big LA show, and encouraged me to expand further and further into color, and to express myself bigger in so many ways.
Ric De La Rosa and Clayton Beck have been working with me in so many creative ways for almost a decade, and both inspire me daily both creatively and as people. I have been extremely blessed to have more than I can even list here as mentors, guides, teachers, and inspiring beings. It is such a long list it would be a book... and maybe it should be, someday.
ICON: Who is the man or woman you have in mind when you design, i.e. your ideal customer?
JILLIAN ANN: My goal with RITUAL is to create fashion for every kind of person who wants to support eco-luxury, artisan made, ethical labor fashion. I dream of a day where we can do away with sizes entirely just have people send in measurements or eventually have a 3D scan. Everything and everyone has a unique beauty, and we hope to celebrate that and welcome everyone supporting our mission.
ICON: How would you describe your style of design?
JILLIAN ANN: Vast, endless, a constant evolution of the question: What is wearable art?
ICON: Where did you get your training?
JILLIAN ANN: I learned about fashion first as a model and actress, and then by surrounding myself with the most talented people I could find and asking them to help me learn. The teachers have sometimes come from the most surprising places, like in the rainforest.
ICON: What kind of clothing have you had experience designing for those in the entertainment industry?
JILLIAN ANN: We have been getting more and more attention from the film industry, which is amazing, and most of that interest comes from the superhero or edgy type films, and TV series like Gotham, The Flash, and Black Panther, which is great fun to do when time allows for it. We have also done a lot of music and fashion projects, most recently Evanescence (“The Chain” ) Nicki Minaj (“Only” music Video), Iggy Azalea (“Sally Walker” Album Art and Music Video) and for dozens of fashion editorials and celebrity profiles ranging from Paris Hilton (Numero Magazine Feature) to Laganja Estranja (From RuPaul’s Drag Race for New York Magazine).
ICON: What do you wish there was more of in terms of fashion?
JILLIAN ANN: Less plastic, and the total abolition of the sweat shop factories, which continue to grow.
More education on how clothes are made and its impact on the human body and the environment.
More awareness that many of the workers who make what you actually wear make $140-$160 USD per month to work 6 days a week and only see their families 10 days a year. Also we can’t continue to allow cheap knock offs and fast fashion. I have seen the impact that this has firsthand, and I want it to change.
ICON Magazine is proud of what Jillian Ann stands for and supports her mission 100%.
Jillian Ann on Fast Fashion:
Next time you shop, ask yourself:
Who made this garment I want to buy?
Were they happy? Were they being exploited? Where did the materials come from? What was the environment this garment was made in? Was there love and inspiration in its conception? Or greed?
We haven’t been programmed to think of fashion this way because it would destroy our convenient ignorance about our purchases and the impact those purchases make on others and on the planet. The flashy ads tantalizing us with great deals on super cheap fashion are the creations of the worst con artists, because there is nothing cheap or great about the “deal” we are getting with fast fashion. The cost is just deferred to a later date in a different place. The cost to a human who lives in virtual slavery working for a factory that pays just enough to keep them coming back each day but not enough for them to actually thrive is part of this “deal.” The cost on a community whose river is polluted beyond repair next to a landfill filled with last season's best is part of this “deal.”
Fashion is the second most damaging industry to the planet. We are all up in arms about Fracking and GMO’s, yet we shop at Forever21 and H&M with little thought to its impact. If you knew someone died in Cambodia to get that t-shirt price down to 10 dollars, would you still buy it? The “deal” is written in the blood of those who sacrificed their lives and livelihoods as the last resort in communities out of options and desperate to survive.
At the end of the day the industry of fashion has impacts on human life and the environment that you can’t even imagine unless you go to the places these garments and fabrics are made and see the results first hand. It is as mind altering as eating plants in Peru. So next time, visit the village your $20 cocktail dress was made in instead, and have a radical awakening of what's really happening in this world of fashion.
Next time you consider buying a great “deal,” think about those communities. Think about the power you have to influence these companies. Capitalism is filled with cronies and crooks looking to cash in on our ignorance and take this world for all it has, but one of the brilliant things about capitalism is that the power is truly in the hands of the consumers. This is why these companies spend billions and billions to convince you to buy something. Because, in the end, you have the choice.
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