Jenny Joblin on Federation’s fresh start

Federation's Jenny Joblin Interview March 2017

Jenny Joblin, designer and founder of Federation. Image supplied.

A new year is a time for fresh starts and thinking ahead which is exactly what Jenny Joblin from streetwear brand Federation is doing in 2017 after a chaotic couple of years. The near-dissolution and last minute salvation of her brand was well-documented last year and now she is putting the past firmly behind her and moving forward, one day at a time.

Joblin sold pretty much everything she owned including her house to save her brand after it became clear how much support there still was for Federation. “It came to the point I was really open to how it would go after we put it into liquidation,” says Joblin. “I just wanted the best for the brand and for it to move forward and though it’s something I really enjoy, it doesn’t completely define me. I was ok with doing something else but then it became clear just how much love there was for Federation and I was way more invested. So it was a real chance to go ok well if we’re going to do this then it’s really a chance to take it to a 2.0. At that point you really learn what’s worked and what hasn’t and what you want it to be as well.”

Along with her new husband, Ben Dundas, who is the label’s general manager, Joblin set out to rebuild Federation, taking everything back in-house and getting systems and processes in place again for the brand. It also made Joblin realise that having the creative freedom she has with Federation is ultimately what she wants from her work and that knowledge reenergised the designer to move forward with the brand.

Federation's Jenny Joblin Interview March 2017

Campaign image from Federation’s winter 2017 collection.

Since the beginning Federation have done clever streetwear which has an urban cool and high-fashion edge. Joblin’s artistic streak is also evident in the brand’s designs and it’s her creative vision that has shaped the label and helped build its loyal fanbase. “I think that’s one thing that’s been really good for Federation because for the whole time I have been ultimately the creative director,” she adds. “Even though other people have designed lots of garments and other prints, which has been amazing, it has always had a bit of that signature of my handwriting on it which been quite nice for continuity of the brand.”

Joblin developed her design skills at AUT during her fashion degree after finishing her degree she worked in the industry for a little while before her desire to do her own thing led to the founding of Federation and she never looked back. “I love working for myself, I didn’t realise how much until recently and I think after this long I don’t know if I’d be a very good employee,” she laughs. Although when looking for her own employees Joblin is keen to hire people that have also worked while studying like she did as they have a more realistic idea of how quickly the industry moves. “In your job you’re not going to have that many weeks to do an assignment, you’ve not got months to work on a 5 piece collection. You’ve got a few weeks to work on 50 piece one, it’s just such a different pace.”

That quick pace certainly keeps Federation on its toes with the brand doing four different ranges as different drops and then smaller ranges as well to inject new pieces into a season during the year. Joblin has changed up their production model to be quicker to market where possible while still doing a full collection each season. It was while Joblin was thinking about Federation’s winter 2017 collection (which is in stores now) that New Zealand Fashion Week approached the designer to show at the 2016 event. While Joblin was initially hesitant to commit with so much going on with the redevelopment of the brand, in the end it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a strong comeback for Federation. “What’s a bit more pressure – just add it into the mix!” laughs Joblin.

Federation's Jenny Joblin Interview March 2017

Campaign image from Federation’s winter 2017 collection.

The return to the NZFW runway marked the brand coming full circle since first showing in the New Generation show back in 2002. Federation hadn’t shown on the fashion week runway since 2009 so the anticipation for their runway appearance was highly anticipated by the time the show rolled around in late August 2016.

A full house greeted Federation’s NZFW outing with Joblin backstage overseeing every detail as the models brought the attitude to the runway in Federation’s autumn/winter 2017 collection called “Birds vs. Bees”. It didn’t take long for that attitude to start bubbling over either with Joblin instructing the models to knock into each other on the runway in a move that left the audience wondering if the first shoulder-barge was accidental, but continued knocks made it clear that this was Federation’s way of bringing a bit of fun and feistiness to fashion week.

“It was interesting when we briefed the models as a few of them were like ‘Oh no, I’m not comfortable doing that’ and we were like no problem, if you’re not comfortable with it then don’t do it, but then some of them were just boots and all into it. A few of the models want to be actors so that helped,” laughs Joblin.

Federation's Jenny Joblin Interview March 2017

Campaign image from Federation’s winter 2017 collection.

Federation’s collection was warmly received with glowing reviews for the pastel-hued womenswear and camo-infused menswear. Joblin’s hand-spray painted F print which was a clever jab at a certain luxury fashion house also went down well and she was thrilled with the positive social media coverage generated by the show. “It was amazing to see the support, it was really cool,” enthuses Joblin. “It was nice to read such amazing reviews too and that everyone really loved it so much. Seeing everyone’s different perspectives from where they were sitting in the audience and tagging us in their photos was really special.”

Social media is a big part of Joblin’s business, with Federation amassing over 90,000 followers on Facebook to date and over 17,000 on Instagram. Joblin enjoys being able to communicate with the brand’s many customers in such a direct way and have a conversation that often carries over onto the shop floor when customers come in requesting styles they saw on social media. She’s noted that Instagram has helped with more frequent purchasing as often customers are aware of wearing the same outfit too close together and want something new more often to keep things fresh on their feeds.

That’s among the reasons that it’s important to Joblin that they’re keeping Federation’s prices affordable while still maintaining the quality the brand is known for. While the core of the brand has always been streetwear they do crossover a little bit with high fashion which is quite a nice place to be for Joblin. “For the last 3 years we’ve done a really good girl’s leather jacket which our market really loves as well,” she adds “I love doing those more designer pieces, I love a bit of juxtaposition of keeping it fashion with a more casual element.”

Federation's Jenny Joblin Interview March 2017

Campaign image from Federation’s winter 2017 collection.

While Federation has continued to grow and evolve over the past 17 years it’s no surprise that Joblin has matured as well as there is a big difference between how you view the world at 22 (her age when the label was founded) to now being a wife and mother approaching 40. “I think that’s the thing now that I really enjoy about being older, I’m just comfortable in my own skin and I’m not trying to be someone else,” adds Joblin. “I mean I still buy high heels in the hope that I’m going to be able to wear them for more than 20 minutes though.”

While Joblin and Federation may have been through the wringer over the past couple of years, she remains optimistic about the future of the brand and is working hard on building its future. She and Dundas opened a new flagship Federation store on Takapuna’s Northcroft Street late last year which also serves as the brand’s HQ and workroom. It allows Joblin to be close to the shop floor as well and get a feel for what’s working for the customers.

“We had to get everything really, really sorted and our structure in place and from there we’re going to really start to dream again,” says Joblin. “We’re not trying to take on the world we just want to have a really strong brand that people love and just keep evolving and moving as people and as a brand as well. I’ve still got a bit of a steep road ahead but we’re moving in the right direction every day.”

Images supplied.

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