The Only Jane: Pandemic Makes it Personal
Launching a brand in the middle of a pandemic was never part of Jane Herman’s plan. Pivoting away from a beautiful marketing campaign shot in upstate New York to a sweet and intimate video of Herman’s quarantine life with her family in Los Angeles was totally unexpected. And leveraging the fledgling brand, The Only Jane, as a vehicle for charitable giving came as a complete surprise.
But, as it turns out, pandemics have a way of blowing up the best-laid plans.
The original plan was a good one. Her brand, The Only Jane, would debut with a single jumpsuit executed in a tight selection of beautiful and utilitarian fabrics. Additional items would be added to the collection later, all to be made locally in Los Angeles, all to be based on Herman’s own clean and crisp aesthetic.
“I always wanted to make something,” Herman said. “I knew how to do a lot of the support for clothes and products and garments, but I’d never made any. So that was a personal challenge and I just decided to try.”
As a child of retailers (her family owns the influential Los Angeles-based Ron Herman stores), Herman grew up selling denim. Later, as an editor at Vogue, The New York Times: T Magazine and Travel + Leisure, denim was a favorite subject. When she co-founded the cult favorite style site Jean Stories, Herman interviewed and wrote about women who love denim, often focusing on designers in the denim and fashion industries. Most recently, Herman has worked in-house at classic brands, including as director of concept at Gap and as editorial director at Theory.
By early March, after leveraging all her skills and leaning into new ones, Herman was poised to reinvent herself as a designer and direct-to-consumer retailer. In preparation for the launch, Herman had converted her home into a design studio, warehouse and distribution center. “And then [Los Angeles mayor] Garcetti shut the city down,” Herman said.
Herman consulted with her father, Ron Herman, about what to do with the 300 jumpsuits stacked in her living room, which were, incidentally, identical to the jumpsuit she wore every day to chase after her toddler, work and self-isolate with her family.
“Interestingly, a jumpsuit is sort of good apocalypse-wear, which is not what I intended,” she said. “But, you know, if you have to be at home all day and you don’t want to wear sweatpants, and you want to get dressed but, you know, you’re chasing after your kids and doing housework and sitting on a Zoom call and multitasking in all the ways that we’re being asked to do right now… this jumpsuit is kind of perfect.”
What spurred Herman into officially launching her business was the closure of Los Angeles’ public schools, which put food-insecure children who depend on school meals at risk of experiencing hunger.
“That sort of crystallized the severity and the devastation of this for me. If they close the schools, there are all these kids that just are not going to get the meals that they need every day,” Herman said. Suddenly, the 300 jumpsuits became a tool Herman could use to raise money to meet a very real need.
“And so two weeks after I had planned to launch, I actually did a ‘non-launch launch,’ I like to call it, because it was not big and celebratory. It was just a fact, in a way, that I made my jumpsuits available. And I just I started selling them,” she said. Thirty percent of the purchase price of every jumpsuit is donated to No Kid Hungry, a national campaign run by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
As of today, The Only Jane has raised nearly $27,000 for No Kid Hungry and has 62 jumpsuits left in stock.
What comes next for The Only Jane is still to be determined. “Being flexible is one of the best things you can be in life,” Herman said, but added that the deeper level of connection and personal investment that the pandemic has forced onto the brand will remain.
“I think you always make things and sell them to connect with people. It’s part of sharing with others, which is connecting with others,” Herman said. “It brings me so much joy.”