Sustainable Style: Thrifting an Eclectic Look with Jabellafleur

Alissa Bertrand on social media.

Jabellafleur on Instagram

Interview on Junior Style

Alissa’s Next phase: She is attending Art Institute of Atlanta!

Things Mentioned in the episode

Sewn Magazine

Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash’s 1991 film

Lemonade, Beyonce visual album

LOL Dolls

Alissa’s phone: iPhone XR

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Read Full Transcript

Episode 17 - Ja Bella Fleur

Lisa   0:14

Hello, stitchers.  Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Welcome back, stitchers. I am delighted to have this great conversation with Alissa Bertrand, who is the creative genius behind JaBella Fleur, this fantastic Instagram page that speaks to just a portion of her vast creativity. Alissa, thank you so much for joining us today.

Alissa  1:15

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Lisa   1:18

So, I wanted to talk about your approach to fashion overall. But first, to get a little bit of your background. When did you start sewing? And when did you start to create such a unique vision for your work?

Alissa  1:31

I started actually sewing, you know, probably about 10 to 15 years back. And, it kind of occurred, I used to get these little cross stitch kits from my aunt who was also a seamstress and had her own shop. And I used to hate it because I get cross stitch and everybody would get these really cool gift cards to somewhere and I'm getting a cross stitch kit. And it just kind of stemmed from there of, like, really hating it. And then just kind of like evolving into enjoying it. And just picking it up. And I actually started taking my first official sewing class when I was in high school for an elective rather than cooking. So, it started there with, like, making boxer shorts and scrunchies. But my actual aesthetic and what I create now stemmed from just, you know, years of loving patterns and textiles, and just putting them together and creating what I liked and enjoyed seeing. So, that's how mine came about. Yeah.

Lisa   2:31

That's really fantastic. I mean, this idea that you started from being like a slightly sullen kid who's like, how come I don't have gift cards to the movies? Yeah, how come my present is this hoop and this big needle and some tapestry thread? Like, what kind of, you know, gift-giving foolishment is this? And you transitioned into taking sewing voluntarily. Like, what made you decide between cooking and sewing in school?

Alissa  3:00

You know, I was just like, I don't want to be in cooking. I took cooking when I was in junior high and I thought it was the most boring thing ever to have to sit and listen to a teacher tell you, like, measuring and scooping and powdered sugar. I was just, that was just not me. And I was like, this is so boring. So, when I got to high school, it was either cooking or sewing. And I was like, well, I am not doing cooking. And I cook and I can cook very well but it's like I did not want to learn cooking, though. It wasn't an interest like that. So, when I did get that little, you know, tapestry kit with cross stitch, I was like this is awful. And now to this day, the funny thing about that cross stitch is, one of the coolest things that I've made to this point was some jacket, like, some really nice coats for my girls made out of all kinds of tapestry pieces sewn together. So, it's, like, ironic.

Lisa   3:53

It's like it's come full circle.

Alissa  3:55

Yeah, right.

Lisa   3:56

Kind of come full circle.

Alissa  3:57

Exactly. The thing I hated the most turned out to be one of the most gorgeous things I've ever made. So it was like, yeah.

Lisa   4:05

That's amazing. It reminds me in some ways of my story. I didn't start sewing until I was in graduate school. And so, my mother sewed, my grandmother sewed, my aunt sewed, everybody sewed, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I was like, ugh, you know. My mother would make me these gorgeous outfits, and for my two sisters, and I'd be like, why can I just get my clothes at the mall, like everybody else? And, when I started graduate school, I was like, no, I'm doing my, you know, radical Black feminism. I do not want to be, you know, chained down to some domestic tasks, blah, blah, blah. Then girl, I started trying to write that dissertation and I was like, ooh, I need a hobby. I was like, this is really hard.

And my hobby became sewing and then, ever since then, I have not stopped and I got out of graduate school 20 years ago, and so it has been the same idea. My mother, like, marvels now. She was like, I remember when you didn't like sewing and now you're, like, better than me. And I was like, I don't know if I'm better than you, but I do love it. And so it's really, I think, ironic is the perfect word for it. So I want to talk about your approach and the blending of textiles. You know, I love the images. I was thinking actually about the image of your girls on the back of Sewn Magazine from I think this is the September, October issue? And again y'all, if you are not subscribing to Sewn Magazine, why are you not? Because, the thing that I saw in that image of your three girls… Well, before we get to that image, tell us about how you came up with the name JaBella Fleur.

Alissa  5:49

Okay, so JaBella Fleur is actually my name combined with my three girls that I design for. So J, A in the beginning is my two oldest twins, which is Jayla and Jada; the A, B in the middle, which is my name, Alissa Bertrand; and then the Ella at the end is for my youngest daughter, who is Ella; and then Fleur, which is flower in French, because I love anything flower -- flower friends, flower anything. So, yep, that's a combination of us and who we are.

Lisa   6:26

It speaks so well to the project itself. And I mean, it's just, it's so, the name itself is organic. You know, it's because of the "fleur," because of the origins. And it just works so beautifully. And, it reflects so beautifully the work that you create and produce. And that's something that I think I see when I look at your work is, I think organic. I think that the creative process that inspired this look is seems it's a sign of someone who trusts themselves and knows themselves. And something I love about it is that it's teaching your girls to do the same, it seems to me. And so, I was asking you about the Sewn cover. Can you talk a bit about that process and where that photo was taken?

Alissa  7:14

So for Sewn, I did a repurposing of jeans material for that issue. But the back cover, which is what you're speaking of is a picture with them wearing white dresses that were all recycled from just white garments, skirts, blouses, dresses. And I took all that apart and used those materials again to create three dresses for them. And that picture was actually taken in Florida at the Bach gardens, which was just gorgeous and beautiful and the dresses just blended in so well with this, like, lush green background. And that's how that was created for go... and I purposely created it to go out there. And I was like I want to do something in white. So it just happened to work out perfectly.

Lisa   8:04

And the first thing I saw, and this is something that I see when I see some of your other photos, I kept thinking about Beyoncé's Lemonade, the video, the visual album. And I think what Beyoncé is pulling on there is, you know, scenes from Daughters of the Dust.

Alissa  8:23

I love that movie, by the way. I love it. I love it. In that movie alone, though, I'd hate to say...I wish I could recreate so many of those scenes.

Lisa   8:37

I mean, you can tell. I can see it in the work. And for those of you all who might not know, Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust is this beautiful story set in the South Carolina Sea Islands, and about home and memory and progress and love and intimacy. It is, I think, a Black feminist classic would you say? Is that how you would describe it?

Alissa  8:59

I definitely would. And just, you know, somebody looking for their own... versus having to follow what somebody else has said, no matter what it is. So that movie is just amazing. And just the cinematography alone is just worth watching as well.

Lisa   9:18

Absolutely. And that's, I think that, I think it's really an underappreciated classic. I think maybe people, like, for me, I learned about it in graduate school as part of my studies. And that's when it first came to my attention, but I think that people now, if they know about... No, I mean, I can't say for everyone. I hate to say people do this, people do that. It seems like Lemonade, if you study Lemonade, the visual album, which is something I do in my class, we have, there's a book on...there's a Lemonade reader, a Black feminist reader that talks about all the different historical elements of the visual album, and hopefully there's people who are being introduced to Julie Dash through Lemonade. Because all of that, you know, all of Lemonade is a hybrid, right? It has poems of Warsan Shire, it has a lot of the cinematographic elements from other places and things and references and it's multi-layered and multi-dimensional. But I think that your picture of the three girls in the... it just felt very New Orleans to me. And maybe it's because of the fence behind it and then the organic, you know, the plants and stuff. It really is. I feel like I can definitely see the traces of that in your work. And I find that so beautiful because it allows people to connect dots that they didn't even know were there...

Alissa  10:45


Lisa   10:47

...about things that they themselves might not have known and hopefully it inspires curiosity. So people who listen to this episode, y'all need to go check out Daughters of the Dust. You can find it. If you found this podcast you can find Daughters of the Dust.

Alissa  11:00

It's actually on Netflix, too. So, if they, if you type it in Netflix, it's still showing on Netflix.

Lisa   11:07

See? Told you. You could find it.

Hey y'all, you're listening to the Stitch Please podcast. Today we're talking with Alissa Bertrand of JaBella Fleur. Do check out Daughters of the Dust. I have included a link to an article about it in the show notes for today. And when we come back from the break, we'll hear how Alissa gets her girls involved in the looks she creates. Stay tuned.

Here at Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, we talk a lot about sewing. But if you want to see and not just hear about some of the things we've been discussing, feel free to join us on the socials. You can find us at Stitch Please on Facebook and you can also find us on Instagram at @blackwomenstitch. You can find photos of projects that we've been working on, really interesting social commentary, and on Thursdays at 3pm, Eastern Standard Time, you can join Black Women Stitch for a live Instagram chat. Again, that's every Thursday at 3 pm. So, find us on the socials, follow up with us. We are happy to hear your direct messages. You can reach out to us at the Black Women Stitch page on Instagram. It will help you get your stitch together.

Welcome back to the Stitch Please podcast. We're talking today with Alissa Bertrand of JaBella Fleur who's going to tell us more about how she gets her girls so enthusiastically involved in the work that she's creating. Listen up.

So let's talk about your girls and your models, as models and as muses for your work. How do you involve them in your creative process? I know there's people who want to sew for their children and who, you know, either have difficulties doing that or can't convince the kids. And I think I also want to emphasize that when you think about children's sewing, you need to throw everything you know about children's sewing out the window if you want to appreciate what JaBella Fleur is doing because she has, in my mind, completely radicalized the creative possibilities for apparel for children. This is someone who has such a capaciously creative spirit. Alissa, that's how I see you, as a capaciously creative spirit. And you are not just, in my reading, you're not just using your kids as like a canvas for your work. It seems like they are also very involved and invested. I mean, because I have taken photos of reluctant children. My boys are pretty reluctant models. And so I know that look. And it's like, "oh, Mom, please. Another one? Like, that's enough." Right? But your images that you get don't evoke that at all. It does seem like a partnership. And it seems like, one of the things I love about what you're doing is that, I think you're helping, I think that you're teaching your girls something through your work. So can you talk about what their involvement is like?

Alissa  14:15

So they... I actually design particularly for each one in mind. So I know, like, one of them can't stand pink, so I won't make pink for her. I know one you know really likes shorts and culottes and won't wear, you know, necessarily anything that's like, you know, pants and things like that. So I design for them, but I do mix in a lot of prints that I really enjoy. And I definitely create for them, which means I do involve them. So I'll ask them "Do you like this? Do you like this color? Do you like this print?" and so forth. So I do bring them into the process like that, but a lot of the time, I do also create what I like just as a designer's aspect. And the funny thing with them is, like, whatever I make, though, they're so in love with, which is like, so fun, because it's like, it's for them. And they know that, and they're, like, really happy, I think, for that part. So I think when they're younger, it's a lot easier because obviously, when you have younger children, you go and shop for them, even in a store, and you purchase whatever you want for them. And then you... they wear it, but it's like when you start as they get older, I would encourage those who do want to sew for their children, to bring them into the process, even take them to the store. What kind of fabrics or materials or prints do you like? Is this one scratchy, as the girls would say? Or, you know, this one's too whichever... they might create or think of something, as in their terms of how something feels. But involve them because then it becomes more of a fun process and it's something that you can do together with your child.

Lisa   16:00

And tell me how long have you been sewing for them? And what is your background in terms of pulling these kinds of looks together? How did you start to say, you know what, I want to use JaBella Fleur. I want to create this brand. I want to create this project. I want my creativity to show up in this way.

Alissa  16:19

I just really love prints and color. And I'm almost to the point of like, why don't people use more color and print in what they do? And I really pull from, like, vintage because vintage or even just older, like 80s 90s prints, to me, there's nothing like it. And there's nothing that compares to it even today. So that's where I get a lot of my inspiration from, and then it's just a combination of putting things together and oh, wow, this print really makes this other one pop, or the colors combined together. It just kind of flows like that for me to where I create these and put them together. And it's almost been, I would say, within these past few years that I really, really, like, delve into, you know, combining a lot of these prints and patterns and color palettes to come up with what I do come up with and create today.

Lisa   17:20

Tell me about your girls and how they...what is their response to accessories? I don't think I have ever seen anyone use accessories to the effective degree that you do. I mean, I keep imagining, like, your closet or their closets. I imagine that each of them has their own huge closet and with their name on it.

Alissa  17:47

Okay, so for accessories. Yeah, we definitely... I have a lower half to my house, which is like a semi basement. So that alone should just tell you that we have, I have a large studio. I should put something on my stories so people can just see how massive it is. But yeah, we do have tons of accessories. I think, I mean, I can't even count how many umpteen belts, sunglasses, hats. It just kind of pulls looks together. I mean, even for children, they love to accessorize. I mean, who doesn't? We as women might throw on a necklace or beret or whatever. Girls and children alone love to do that. So I just find it fun and all... you know, whatever they wear, they're like, "oh, can I go get some glasses and you know a hat?" and I'm like "go ahead, choose whatever you want." So it's fun for them, too, because then they really like the outfit a lot more because they've gotten to customize it however they want it, to whatever they feel, with adding a belt or glasses or a purse or a hat. So they don't have their own closet, but they do have a whole downstairs of racks full of clothes and accessories.

Lisa   19:00

I think that they don't have closets but they have a wardrobe department.

Alissa  19:03

They do. Yeah, my husband thinks it's really funny because my youngest daughter, Ella, took him down there which is like the basement area and said "this is where we get dressed, Dad" and he started laughing because he was like, "yeah, literally it looks like a store." But you know it's my store.

Lisa   19:21

That's right. It's really amazing. And I want to think about your store. I want to think about, can you walk us through the process of sewing these garments? I was surprised to learn that you don't really buy a lot of, like, you don't go to the fabric store and buy, you know, okay, when I'm making three dresses, therefore each girl's about, you know, the twins are three yards each or two yards each and, you know, Ella is like one and a half yards. So you don't have to think about those kinds of calculations. What does fabric acquisition look like for you?

Alissa  19:54

I really don't buy fabric because of the fact that, first of all, it is so expensive to buy nowadays. Then you multiply that by three children times the yardage. I mean the math alone right there is just crazy. And I can honestly never find the prints that I like. I'm very eclectic when it comes to prints and I'm very specific when it comes to color. So if I can't find it, I'm like, scrap the whole store, so I do a lot of thrifting. And that's where a lot of my repurposing and sustainable fashion comes from, because I repurpose pretty much anything and everything that I can get my hands on. So that's where it comes from. And that's why you'll also see the girls never really matching but in a coordinated way. So they might all have a blue, or they might all have some sort of floral print. But it's never really matchy matchy because I don't buy fabric by the yard.

Lisa   20:52

That's so impressive. So instead, like, for your thrifting, so you go to the thrift store, you go to Goodwill, or you go to a place like that. And then when you walk in, what do you do?

Alissa  21:06

I first go to the kids section because I'm always looking for, like, vintage coats and stuff that can't really be found like that. But then I usually go to, like, the adult section, which is like women's and stuff. And I'll go and look through like skirts, dresses, blouses. I even go into the home section, which is like all the quilted bedding, sheets, things like that, because you can obviously get a huge King flat sheet and, I mean, the amount of things you could make out of a flat sheet is... really, I could probably make like two or three dresses depending on the, you know, style and cut. But I look for stuff like that and then I go from there. And usually skirts and dresses and bedding, I can get obviously a lot more yardage in just open space fabric. So that's what I use.

Lisa   22:01

That's wonderful. It's funny, because I'm sure you might have heard these conversations before. The line of argument goes something like, "oh, you sew so therefore you must save so much money on your clothes." And then I say, "well, I don't really save money on my clothes because fabric is expensive. My time is expensive." I don't think people sew any more to save money. I think people sew because they want a certain look that they can't get in the store or they want something to fit their bodies and the store doesn't do it. But I think maybe you are an example of an exception to this principle because you really are kind of saving money because you're making all these amazing looks and you're not even buying fabric, expensive fabrics. You're buying, you're thrifting them. So I think that's a really great, like, counterpoint to the idea that you can't sew and save money.

Alissa  22:59

Well, so a couple things. Sewing is definitely not what it used to be, because even when I was in high school, purchasing patterns and fabric for class, I mean, the pattern nowadays versus a pattern back then... My goodness, you're not even saving on the pattern. To buy the pattern alone, you could probably buy an outfit at some stores, you know. So that alone. But I truly believe people are not sewing anymore to save money. It's sewing because you're trying to create your own look, you're trying to say this is who I am and who your identity is. Maybe you've seen some material that you don't want anybody else to have. There's, like, so many reasons, but it's definitely not cost effective, which is sad to say, it used to be back then. But for me, I do it because it's, yeah, it's a way for me to save, but it's something that's truly like a passion for me. And it's definitely what I love and enjoy, so.

Lisa   24:00

You can see that in your work. You can absolutely see that joy, you can absolutely. And that's why I think your images provoke such joy, at least for me. Like, I just look at them and I smile and one of the reasons that I was drawn to your account was another member of Black Women Stitch was like, "yeah, look at this page. It's helping me, like, get my whole life. Like, this is fantastic!" And then so I looked at it, I was like, "oh my gosh, yes, friend, yes!" You know, and yeah, and so I had to talk to you. I just absolutely had to talk to you and learn more about these beautiful images. Let me ask you a bit about your photography. How do you arrange or decide on a photo setting? The photos have really gorgeous natural light, but also even, I'm looking at the indoor photos most recently from a group shoot that you did. I'm not sure, I think... Oh, this was for the collection for your vintage clothes turned into children's clothing line, the one from November 3rd. Can you talk about the, you know, setting up outdoor shots versus setting up indoor shots?

Alissa  25:10

So that collection was the artist's muse, and that was actually indoors, which is my front room of my house. And I tend to kind of create to where I would envision these pieces being worn. Now, the girls do wear whatever they choose to wear on any random basis but a lot of the time, if I am actually trying to showcase something that I just created or made, I will have them, like, wear it and we'll go somewhere, like, on the way to maybe doing something else.

Lisa   25:44

You're listening to the Stitch Please podcast and I'm talking today with Alissa Bertrand of JaBella Fleur about her complex and amazing designs that she manages to snap gorgeous pictures of in about 5 to 10 minutes. After the break, we'll talk a little bit more with Alissa about this.

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Welcome back to the Stitch Please podcast. We're talking today with Alissa Bertrand of JaBella Fleur. We've been talking about her photography, her amazing creativity, and now we're going to talk a little bit about why no one actually owes you a smile. Stay tuned.

So, I cannot believe that this is your living room. I thought for sure this was a museum. I was like, "oh, she took the kids to the museum to do this photo shoot. That was really nice. I wonder if they had it all to themselves? Did they have to, like, pay extra? Did they come at night?" You know, and you're like, "no, no, this is my house."

Alissa  27:59

No, I definitely would have loved to have gone to, like, a museum or something.

Lisa   28:03

You did, though. You did go to a museum.

Alissa  28:05

But, like, just sometimes when you think of the cost of stuff, and I'm like, you know what, no, I can do better. So yeah, it's my front room. It's everything that inspires me. It's all the things that I like to look at on a daily basis that help draw and bring in, you know, inspiration for what it is I like to see and do. So it's my front room, though. I've gotten that quite a few times. Like, where's this location? It's my house.

Lisa   28:30

Well, maybe you got a side hustle in, like letting other people use your front room for photoshoots and then that could pay for some more clothing.

Alissa  28:36

Hey, right? I should put that out there.

Lisa   28:40

I'm serious. Like, I really thought this was a museum. I was like, oh, this is interesting. So it looks like there's, like, what's the process for the photos? Because they're so beautiful. They're so well done. They're so thoughtfully produced. Do you ever face any challenges, particularly from the girls or from the, you know, they don't... I'm not trying to say, oh, your girls are reluctant. I don't know if they ever are, they just seem so joyful. And so I just love that you have captured all these images in this way and I don't know if you had any tips for people who might want to take better photographs of their kids. My tip, what I usually do is just say "act normal for two seconds, please." And then I take a photo. But it doesn't seem like you have to give your kids that kind of encouragement.

Alissa  29:27

Honestly, my kids are just like everybody else's kids. I mean, we have... I think it's almost timed to where I know it's like their good part of the day or everybody's in a good mood. It's just like kids, and it's the same thing... I don't sit and take, like, hours worth of photos. I don't even think that it takes us literally 5 or 10 minutes to capture. Like, I'm like "just stand there. Get closer." Boom, boom, done so I can show, you know, what I do. And my Instagram page, again, is my page. It's not the girls' page and I like to reiterate that because sometimes I'll get comments of like, "why aren't they smiling? How come they look sad?" But honestly, I've tried to make those kids smile to where I'm like, "smile" and the picture looks so cheesy and phony, that it looks completely staged. If I just have them stand there, when you stand there, you're standing there. That's all I do. Stand there. Click. Boom. Done. And, you know, we go about the rest of our day, we do what we do. I've even asked them, like, "why don't you guys smile?" Because, I mean, a lot of people do expect children to smile, and it's almost like I'm forcing you to smile. But why don't you smile in these pictures? And my youngest one was so cute, and she was like, "well, because the L.O.L. Girls don't smile. They're cool." And I'm like, "you're basing it off of a doll?" So you know, and like, their opinion and what they see and just how children are these days, is they see that and even in school, it's like, they see that. They see it on cartoons and things. So it's kind of hard to get away from that. But I do encourage them to be themselves at all times.

Lisa   31:11

That is fantastic. And you know, I was thinking as you were speaking, I was like, you know, children are encouraged to smile a lot, but you know who else is encouraged to smile a lot? Grown ass women. You know, you're walking down the street minding your business, and someone says, "hey, smile." And it's like, I don't owe you nothing, I don't even know you.

Alissa  31:29

Exactly. I don't know why people associate because you smile, like, everything's happy-go-lucky and your everything is great. Like, I mean, I walk around most of the day in a great, awesome mood, but that doesn't mean that I'm smiling. So it's like, we need to, like, look at things in a completely different way. Just how we've been trying to make progress with so many other things, smiling doesn't mean that you're either happy or sad, because I mean, how many times have you met somebody smiling in your face, and it's completely opposite. So I think it's just the same for children. Just because they're not smiling doesn't mean they have a horrible childhood or, you know, a gazillion other things that could probably be going on.

Lisa   32:12

And I think it's also that I agree with that. And no one owes you a smile. Children don't owe you a smile. Because I think when, when people, and this is usually men, I have never heard a woman tell another woman to smile walking down the street, right? This is men telling women to smile. And it's just like, you know, I am not here for your entertainment or amusement. I am just trying to get from my office to the parking lot, dude, like, I am trying to get over here to the CVS before it closes. I do not owe you a smile or an interaction of any sort. And so I tend to think about this in terms of power. I appreciate your assessment as about emotions and feelings and honesty and integrity. I just resist. I see it as power. And I definitely know that there's been movements by women to basically stop forms of street harassment. And of course, some might say that, "oh, well, telling someone to smile isn't street harassment." I'm like, well, it's not street encouragement. You know, like, it's using this notion of "this is what I want to see when I look at you." And it has nothing to do with what you really feel.

Alissa  33:26

I definitely like the way that was put, because I mean, in all honesty, I'd probably have to start using that. When I start getting comments on, "why aren't they smiling in that picture?" Well, because this is the aesthetic that we're going for. And exactly, we don't owe you a smile. If you want that, then you probably need to look elsewhere, because I allow the girls to pose in whichever form as long as it's not provocative, which I really do not go down that road with them. And the thing is, they don't do that. So I don't have to be like "no, no, no, we're not doing that pose" or, you know... A lot of the time, it's just natural. They're standing there. They're either turned at an angle. It's whatever they're doing at that moment that my phone clicks a picture and they're standing there so... Exactly.

Lisa   34:18

Did you say your phone clicks a picture?

Alissa  34:21

I do... I have an iPhone, I have the XR. I take this thing everywhere. It's obviously a ton easier than taking a camera. I can load and do whatever I want right then and there. And it's super easy. And that's another thing, too. I don't do all this fancy schmancy stuff to my page. It's what we wear, who we are, taking a picture in what we wear and what I designed for the girls, which is used as somewhat of a portfolio for what I do and what I like to do. So it's just simple. Just a simple phone.

Lisa   34:58

I just wrote down iPhone XR because I have been doing a lot of intense research for my Christmas present. We're recording this, everybody, about a week before Christmas. And my husband and I, we talked about this as like, I want to get a new phone. My phone is an iPhone 6s Plus. It's about the size of an old school telephone book. Yeah. And the pictures are fine, but they're not as good as the new cameras. And so I just wrote down iPhone XR. I could not believe that... Yes. And I want to get a new iPhone because of the photos. So I'm pretty excited about this. So I totally, I just totally put a note on that. Let me ask you about just two more questions. One, you mentioned your favorite garment and I want to mention one of mine and ask you about the process. And then I want to hear some more about next steps from you. So I'm thinking about the photo of Ella from, this is also in November. It's that dress with all the pompoms. Not a dress, it's a jacket with all the pom poms?

Alissa  35:59

Oh, yeah.

Lisa   36:01

Like, oh my gosh. Please tell me more about that. And sometimes I wonder if she gets these pieces that are... she also has the one with the fabric that's just hanging, like, almost like a latch hook that is, like, all the different strands?

Alissa  36:16

That was like a repurposed bundle of T-shirts.

Lisa   36:22

Right? Amazing. And so I'm like, does she get these because she's the smallest? Because that would be my strategy. I'd be like, yeah, I'm gonna try to make as few of these as possible. I don't know. That jacket is gorgeous.

Alissa  36:34

Actually, that is another thing, too. Ella gets, I would say probably, and probably what people might see is like, why is Ella in a lot more pictures than the two other ones? Ella is smaller. So I can make Ella like a size 5 or 6 versus the other girls who are probably a 10/12. And when you're repurposing a lot of this stuff, depending on what it is, you can make more or less. So Ella gets a lot of that stuff, although they can rotate most of those jacket pieces. The one with the pom poms was just an idea. I was like yeah. I was like wouldn't that be cool to have like pom poms all over a jacket? Like what girl wouldn't...? So I was like, I'm gonna, like, use up all these piles of yarn that I have that you know, thinking that I'm going to crochet or something, which I never am. But I was like, let's make pom poms. So I was like, okay, I have like a whole bag of pom poms and I'm like, well what do I do with these pom poms? So I made a jacket just out of just regular cotton. And I was like, okay, so then I hand sewed all the pom poms on, which was almost a nightmare and thinking like, "oh, this is the most amazing thing ever," not knowing how much work it was gonna take because the pom pom making... then hand sewing them on to the jacket. But the outcome was, like, super fun and vibrant and colorful. And she loves it. So that pom pom jacket is a definite keeper. But it's definitely not a let's go run and play in the park jacket. It's more of a statement piece.

Lisa   38:10

Absolutely. And the statement is your mother really loves you!

Alissa  38:14

Yeah, right. And took all this time to make a pom pom jacket. So.

Lisa   38:20

Absolutely. It is so gorgeous. And I love the, you were talking a minute ago about smiling versus not smiling, and I love the natural aesthetic, how you're letting the girls be themselves and encouraging them to be themselves. And I see that with their hair. I see that with their looks. How has your fashion aesthetic that you've been producing for them, how's that influenced their own styles and how they, like, dress for school? Do they have their own unique style? Or do they, you know, do they ever seem to want more pedestrian looks, you know? I feel like you're really cultivating their independence in really positive ways.

Alissa  39:00

So for schoolwise, they actually wear a uniform, so I don't have to really... so like, weekends for us, though, is like wear whatever you want, let's see, let's go over the top in, like, what we can create and come up with, but they definitely do have their own aesthetic. I have one that's, like, one of the twins, Jayla. She's more so like, let's just throw on a T-shirt and jeans. And then she'll have times where she's like, "I want to go over the top" to where I'm like, "are you gonna wear that, like, today? You know, we're just going to the grocery." So you know, it just depends. It really depends. But we try to go over the top because they only wear regular what we call "street clothes" on the weekends because they do wear a uniform.

Lisa   39:49

That's great. I mean, this is almost an example of what a uniform was meant to generate, right? That, you know, the kids don't have to think about what they're going to wear to school and they can concentrate and focus on what they're doing, and then on the weekends, they can, you know, the closet is their oyster, right? They can, you know, they can really do it up over the weekends. That's fantastic. I have just learned so much. Thank you so much for this conversation. Let me ask you, what are your next steps? What do you imagine the next phase in the Jabella Fleur project to be?

Alissa  40:23

So actually, my next step, which I'm telling you first, like, on a social platform: I was accepted to the Art Institute of Atlanta. So I'm going to be attending January 6, and I'll be a full-time college student again, on top of like, doing what I do for the girls. But I hope to, you know, obviously, one day, be in a store so that I can, you know, share my designs with a lot of other people that like something different, you know, especially for kids, that's not, you know, some sort of emoji shirt or basic, you know, jeans or something. It's going to always have print, it's going to have color, it's going to have pattern, it's going to have everything.

Lisa   41:10

Oh, my gosh, congratulations. I am so excited for you! This is incredible, this is really wonderful! And that you're going to continue, as you continue your fashion journey, you're going to continue it for children. And I think that's so empowering for young people. I really do. I feel like, for you to take the time and invest in the nation's future, basically.  That's what children are, they really are our future. And so, you know, I... Wow, I'm just speechless. I am so excited for you, I am so excited for you.

Alissa  41:49

Thank you. I'm definitely excited, I'm ready to go.

Lisa   41:53

You have so much to contribute. You really have so much to contribute in your learning. When you go to school, when you go to these classes, you have so much to contribute. I think, maybe you're thinking you have a lot to learn? But I think you have more to contribute than you do to acquire because you already know so much.

Alissa  42:12

Thank you. Yeah, I'm just trying to put all the odds and ends of the business aspect with it together so that I can really go in there and just, you know, make some big moves, you know. Trying to get my stuff out there. I do want to say, though, that I do plan on designing for women, which was my initial, you know, process rather than children. But since I did have the girls, it was just easier to like, oh, here, let's design for you. But I do want to do women and children.

Lisa   42:43

And I think that that makes sense. I look at your pieces, and it seems like things that women could wear, you know. So I think that's a perfect, a perfect approach. Well, Alissa, this has been so delightful. Thank you so much for taking the time. I know you are busy. I hear you have three children. So I imagine that you are very busy. So thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Alissa  43:11

Thank you so much for having me. This was amazing.

Lisa   43:14

I've been talking today with Alissa Bertrand of JaBella Fleur. For more information about Alissa, check out our Instagram page, and a recent interview with her, all of which can be found in the show notes of today's episode.

Thank you for joining us for this week's episode of the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. There are a variety of ways that you can support the program and you're doing it right now. By listening to the podcast, it does help us grow. Another way to do that is to rate the podcast, review it, subscribe to it -- all of these things are ways that you can support the podcast without having to spend any money at all. If you would like to spend some money to support us, there are ways to do that as well. You can make direct donations to our Patreon site for monthly contributions, as well as one time contributions to Paypal, Cash App, or Venmo. And finally, we have another cute, very adorable way for you to support the Black Women Stitch project. It's a pin! A P-I-N enamel lapel pin that's very cute. It's about two inches wide and one and a half inch tall, and its of the Black Women Stitch logo, and that is $15 with free shipping to the US. And so if you drop $15 in the PayPal, Venmo or Cash App accounts, and then send me your mailing address to my email either at, or you send me a direct message on the Black Women Stitch Instagram page, we will put the pin in the mail to you. Again, free shipping. $15 for the pin. And all of this goes to support the Black Women Stitch project. Thank you again for joining us this week. Come back next week and we will help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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