When you ask emerging fashion designers about the start of their careers, their stories are very similar. They range from getting an early start during youth to being discovered after pursuing a fashion design education. During this interview, I want to share a different story. I want to introduce to Jahi’ Fitzgerald of the label of Evoli by Jahi’. His story includes its share of accomplishments, setbacks and inspiration from his family. By the end of this piece I hope emerging designers and readers get inspired to continue to pursue their dreams despite being faced with potential obstacles.
Me: Let’s begin by letting readers know a little more about your fashion brand.
Jahi Fitzgerald: EVOLI, the brand, is about elegance, class, style and longevity. It’s about how a woman expresses herself. My desire is to present women with timeless pieces that can be worn for years to come. EVOLI, the name is about vision, dreams, hopes and desires. It’s about love, family and my desire to create a legacy for my family. EVOLI is ILOVE spelled backwards and it encompasses the initials of my 4 sisters and my mom. The placement of each initial has a significant meaning as well:
E – Evelyn
V – Vivian
O – Olivia
L – Lillie (mom)
I – Ida
EVOLI is not just a one-dimensional brand! The meaning and style of EVOLI is multifaceted and I intend to share it with the world.
Me: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
Jahi Fitzgerald: I’ve always loved fashion. I can remember as a little boy back in my neighborhood, watching my sisters get dressed and how they would pass each other different garments to try on with other garments. They would try new things and come up with something that none of their friends would be wearing. I could honestly create collections from the things I saw on my own block. Everybody had a sense of style back in that neighborhood.
Designing is like breathing to me…literally and figuratively.
Me: Does EVOLI have a signature look, specific style or etc.?
Jahi Fitzgerald: I’ve thought about that myself. I would say, I’m big on details, buttons, sleeves and linings. My favorite eras are the 1930’s and 1940’s. I used to jokingly say that I was alive during those times.
Me: You used crowd funding to finance your upcoming Spring collection. What made you decide to pursue this method?
Jahi Fitzgerald: I wrestled with the crowd-funding idea for 3 years. I couldn’t decide which group to go with or what I would ask for. It felt weird to ask for money. Although, I had no investors and no major money to invest myself, something had to be done. I didn’t want to sit out another season without being involved. I had 3 friends who talked me into going this route and they pushed me to ask for the amounts that I did. As I said before, designing is like “breathing” for me. I finally decided to do it, and I thought of how I could give back. On the Go Fund Me campaign, I offer gifts back to all those who donate, but what I’ve also done is created some t-shirts that will be for sale soon, which will benefit two separate charitable organizations.
Me: Evoli has showcased at several fashion weeks. You also designed a 60th birthday gown for singer Chaka Khan. What would you say is your favorite moment & why?
Jahi Fitzgerald: I’ve showcased at NY Fashion Week (EMERGE Fashion Show), Presidential Inaugural Fashion Show in DC and in Connecticut with my first fashion show. I’ve also been featured on ABC Ch8 – CT Style. I have to say, the Chaka Khan opportunity was awesome. I think I was in another body when I did that. I still think about that night. Chaka Khan is an amazing person and was the first celebrated person I’ve had the pleasure of dressing. The favorite moment for me was when a coworker looked across my desk and saw one of my sketches – she wrote a check based on a sketch. She inspired me to do something I would never have imagined – “live my dream”!
Me: What advice would give to a fellow emerging designer from your experience so far?
Jahi Fitzgerald: I’m still learning myself and not sure how much I can influence anyone. I’d say, if designing is what’s in your heart of hearts, by all means keep pushing. Keep dreaming.
Make sure to follow Evoli on the links above. Also, you can find a link to his GoFundMe here.