Cary and Jenna Geek Out on Fabric
Thankfully, they’ve found an equally enthusiastic partner in India.
For Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson, the best way to make their chilled-out clothing line Ace & Jig feel special—feel like theirs—was to deep dive into the world of fabrics. “Most of the time in the contemporary fashion world, people go shop for fabric at mills or with an agent,” says Jenna. “You flip through books and say, ‘I want this,’” adds Cary. They’re doing everything from scratch, from choosing the color and size of the yarn to determining the texture and pattern, working with a small factory in India that weaves each material by hand. Here, they give us a tour of the process.
Scoop up the edition Cary and Jenna made just for us from our very favorite of their spring textiles: a spirited red-and-pink plaid.
Jenna: Through a friend of a friend, we met a man in India who’s part of a textile family and owns a factory that was passed on to him. He loves what we’re doing, so it’s a very symbiotic relationship. We love the way he runs his business, too. The garment industry can be very unethical and cold. But his place is very warm. The women who are working there have free health care, and he gives fresh fruits and vegetables to his employees. We felt aligned with him in what we are doing.
Jenna: One of the first steps of weaving the fabric is winding the yarn. This bicycle contraption is a new invention that the factory owner has come up with that he is so excited about—a more automated way of winding the yarn onto a spool.
Cary: He thinks it is so cool because he’s really into recycling.
Jenna: There’s a board that looks like it has corks in it. That’s how the weaver plans out what he’s going to do to create the textures that we want—different unders and overs, different kinds of yarn.
Jenna: Then the weaver sets up the loom to create the colors and patterns that you want. The warp goes from top to bottom, and the weft is from left to right. So he’ll have the warp all set up, and then he uses the shuttle to create the left to right, going under-over, under-over. It’s really complicated to create certain textures, and it’s a very tedious process.
Cary: This plaid from our spring 2011 collection is made the same way as the red-and-pink fabric that we used in the dress we made for Of a Kind.
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Cary and Jenna Are Big on Japan
Some very avant-garde labels are their biggest inspirations.
Jenna (left) and Cary in Tokyo.
After putting in their time ruching and beading while running design for LaROK, Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson set out to make their line Ace & Jig all about loose, sophisticatedly free-spirited clothing. “We were new moms. We wanted functional clothing, and we didn’t want to try too hard,” explains Cary. For them, that meant looking to influential Japanese brands that take structure and fabrics seriously but don’t overcomplicate things. That approach has gotten them respect on the flipside. “We are in nine or ten stores in Japan, including Opening Ceremony. It’s a lot for our business, just in its second season,” says Jenna. These four lines get them excited about evolving their aesthetic.
Jenna: They do amazing indigo dyeing, and their wovens are amazing as well. Japanese lines are known for having great, artisanal, specialty fabrics, and this one has some of the best.
Cary: Kapital is one of those lines that just goes for it. We love the bizarre aspect of it—the prints, the colors. They do a lot of patchwork and a lot of layering, and we love all the models—they use interesting-looking people and older women. They try to portray the brand for all different kinds of people.
Jenna: I think what we admire most is their menswear. It’s mostly knits, but it has a vintage-athletic vibe to it. All of these Japanese fabrics are just amazing.
Jenna: We love things that are really authentic—but then we love whimsy. That’s sort of what you see in Ace & Jig, that feeling of authenticity in really fun colors.
Cary: We specifically like Tsumori Chisato’s prints.
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Cary and Jenna Go Way Back
And we have the photos to prove it.
Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson met on September 10, 2001 as interns at now-defunct New York lifestyle store, Language. For these two, that first encounter would have been significant regardless of the hard-to-forget date. “Through the years, we worked together at different jobs and had a design team that moved with us. We got married around the same time, we were each other’s bridesmaids, we had kids around the same time—it’s kind of awesome,” Cary says. “We lived together for a while, and when we didn’t live together, we lived two blocks from each other in the East Village,” Jenna adds. “Now we both live in Brooklyn.” And now they also have their own line, Ace & Jig—named for the initials of their firstborns: Cary’s daughter, Alice, and Jenna’s son, James. Here’s a very smiley tour of some of their adventures along the way.
Day at Coney Island, 2002
Jenna’s on the left, and Cary’s on the right. Ed: Can you believe how adorable they are? Because we seriously can’t.
First trip to Paris together, 2003
Jenna: We went for work, and the hotel that we stayed at was super cheap. We had ten dollars a day for food, so we would just eat baguettes and sit at little brasseries.
Cary: And remember? We bought those vintage dresses?
Jenna: At Mam’zelle Swing in the Marais. We spent most of our time in the Marais.
Trip to Atlanta, 2004
Cary: We were there visiting some friends, and that was the beginning of a wild evening.
Party on Jenna’s roof, 2004
Jenna: That was my housewarming party—my boyfriend and I had just moved into an apartment
Cary: And my boyfriend was living in London, and he was coming back. So it was kind of an all-out celebration.
Jenna’s wedding, July 2006
Jenna: My dress was vintage, and we designed Cary’s dress and had it made out of antique lace.
Another trip to Paris, 2006
Jenna: This is at Clignancourt, the big antiques market.
Cary: It was an awesome time of our lives—we were working for LaROK. We got to travel all over.
Night out as a couple, 2007
Jenna: This is at a super-cheesy gay nightclub in Chelsea, and everyone thought that Cary and I were together.
Next generation of besties, 2010
Jenna: Our kids hang out all the time—our babysitters are actually related to each other. Alice and James think they’re like brother and sister. It’s really cute. They’re nine months apart.
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Ace & Jig
By the time Cary Vaughan (left) and Jenna Wilson finally got down to launching Ace & Jig, they’d already had a lot of time to figure out what a Cary-plus-Jenna line would look like. They had worked together on-and-off for about ten years, starting with internships for a lifestyle store in New York’s Nolita called Language. “We got to know each other doing all that late-night stuff like ironing and seaming, cleaning the office, and emptying the trash,” Jenna explains.
Eventually, the work got more interesting: The nearly inseparable duo headed up design for LaROK, during which time they got to travel the world—Paris! Tokyo!—and eventually came to realize they were ready to do their own thing. “We wanted to start a line that tapped into what we’re the most passionate about, and Cary and I both have an intense love of textiles,” Jenna explains. “We both have textile collections—we both love