Like the sales of her fashionably-designed clothing, Alexander’s notoriety has skyrocketed since she began designing less than five years ago.
“I’m just the kind of person who when an opportunity comes up, I say ‘yes’ first and figure it out later,” Alexander said.
Alexander is the owner of Jill Alexander Designs, which opened in January at 221 Mount Hermon Road, Ste. E in Scotts Valley.
Over the past four years, Alexander and her designs have taken part in fashion runway events in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and North Carolina. She was also chosen as the only American designer to have her work on the runway at the first fashion show for curvy women in London in 2011. She even did designs for an Olympic weightlifter because typical women’s fashions don’t work for a weightlifter’s body type.
Alexander said her passion is to design beautiful and comfortable clothing for curvy women.
“There is such a void in the marketplace for this,” Alexander said. “The notoriety came because of that. There are not many people doing it.”
Two highly-successful clothing designs for plus-sized women have been early cornerstones for the company. The 5 Way Wrap, a jacket that can be tied in multiple ways depending on the occasion, has been her best-seller, and her elegant jumpsuits for formal occasions is also a favorite among customers.
“I want women to feel beautiful, whatever they are in,” she said.
Alexander’s path began in her 20s when she worked for Ann Taylor. Her fashion career took a break when she settled down to have a family. When her youngest daughter was 7 years old, Alexander volunteered to design costumes for school plays. She so enjoyed it, she decided to head back to school.
She studied fashion design at West Valley College in Saratoga before winning a little black dress contest she entered at Kansas State University. She soon took part in the San Francisco Women’s Expo and her career was launched.
Before opening her retail store, Alexander had a studio in Santa Cruz where she was doing all of her shipping from. However, local women began asking if they could see her clothing in person, so when the lease was up in Santa Cruz, she found a storefront on Scotts Valley.
“I love Scotts Valley,” she said. “It’s the perfect place to come to. It’s an easy drive from Santa Cruz and San Jose. If I get inspired I can come down here and work.”
She is married to her husband, Ernest and the couple has two daughters, Kennedy, who is in college and Callan, who attends Monte Vista Christian High School. The family has lived in Scotts Valley since 1996.
Alexander said she works mostly in knits because they “fit a multitude of shapes and sizes,” and she wants women to be able to wash and wear their clothes.
“Women of any size have complaints about their figures,” Alexander said. “They’re so hard on themselves.”
She wants to be able to dress women so they feel comfortable and happy with their look now, rather than “in 5 pounds or 15 pounds,” she said. “Every woman deserves to feel beautiful. We just want women to feel good about themselves.”
The store, 221 Mount Hermon Road, Ste. E, is located near Starbucks and Mollie’s Country Café in Scotts Valley. For information: www.jillalexanderdesigns.com or 888-316-7096.