North Texas Daily

Jen•Ley Designs brings awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault through fashion

Jen•Ley Designs brings awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault through fashion

Jen•Ley Designs brings awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault through fashion
September 27
17:35 2020

Content warning: This article contains language and content related to sexual assault and domestic violence, reader discretion is advised.

A woman in Jen•Ley clothes is bold, daring and sophisticated, giving her the confidence she needs to conquer her dreams, said Jen•Ley Designs owner Jennifer Stanley.

Stanley, 23, is a fashion design and women’s studies senior at TWU. Through her work in fashion, she aims to bring awareness to various social justice issues. Her newest collection, named Overcome, will focus on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“My inspiration for this fall [collection] is kind of the journey that you go on as a domestic violence or sexual assault survivor,” Stanley said. “And so for this collection, I wanted to focus on the different emotions that you feel whenever you’re a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. And so for me, that was heaviness, feeling trapped, the feeling of having to get that courage to take a stand and leave that relationship and then finally the feeling of overcoming that.”

As a survivor of both domestic violence and sexual assault, Stanley felt sharing her experience would help other survivors, hoping to bring them empowerment and change the stigma around the topics by bringing more conversation and awareness.

“It’s really important to me not only to tell my story but other victims’ as well,” Stanley said. “I think, to make a change in the stigmas our society has around those topics, I think we just need to get more conversation going and more awareness. And so, kind of using fashion as my platform to do that while taking a stand for other women is really important to me. [I am] using my experiences, but trying to help other women find empowerment through what I’m doing as well because it gives me a lot of power as a survivor to be able to do this.”

In the Overcome collection, Stanley uses survivors’ handwritten words and thumbprints to design the fabric of the clothing.

“I digitally printed [the words and thumbprints] on fabrics to represent what they’ve been through during their journey,” Stanley said. “So I asked them to send me words that they thought described their journey, and then I digitized it and designed a textile out of that.”

Stanley has been working on this collection since May. Her process includes beginning with sketches, deciding on a design, making muslins, or design samples, to make sure the design is executed well and then creating the final garment. 

“The process is not necessarily one day,” Stanley said. “But depending on the style of garment, you know, it can take days, weeks. I’ve been working on this collection since May, so it’s taken me a few months to get everything ready.”

Stanley began her journey in fashion as a little girl as she was inspired by her grandmother who made dresses for her dolls. From there, her interest in fashion magazines as a teenager led her to fashion design.

“My nana, she kind of put the love for sewing into my heart and I was making dresses for my dolls and things like that,” Stanley said. “And kind of as I was discovering who I was as a teenager, fashion magazines were, like, a really awesome thing for me to learn about makeup and clothes, and so kind of stemming from that is what got me into fashion design.”

She now works out of her apartment in Denton, living with her 3-year-old son Zeke.

“I really, over quarantine, focused on trying to get better equipment and have better organization,” Stanley said. “It just really helps me a lot to feel like I have a positive workspace. And so it’s kind of hard sometimes whenever I’m working and my son wants to be involved and everything. But honestly, I do like having my workspace where I’m living for now because it kind of keeps me in that mindset of, you know, to keep on going, to keep being inspired, let’s keep creating.”

Stanley hopes to have her own studio and store in the future, where she can sell ready-made products and fulfill custom orders.

“Eventually, I’d love to have my own studio space,” Stanley said. “I love doing custom wedding or special occasion dresses, that’s what most of my clients come to me for right now. My dream is to be able to take my brand and have a storefront and a studio where I can sell some ready-made things, but also that’s where clients can come and design the dress of their dreams.”

One of Stanley’s biggest motivations is her son, who drives her to follow her dreams and do the best she can.

“She’ll do anything for her kid,” Jen•Ley model Katie Marie Edwards said. “But she’s also very determined and very driven. So, [I’m] seeing a single mother go and do her dream with the passion and fire that she does, while also still being an amazing mom. She’s just got a lot of drive and passion for her kid and her dreams and she wants to build the best life possible for the both of them and to be doing it … I don’t know, she’s just really amazing. It’s really cool to see that fruition.”

Stanley’s drive and effort in her work and in overcoming her struggles inspire those around her, having high hopes for her future.

“I think Jenny is an inspiration and she can really mold anybody to just be moved to getting to where they need to be,” long-time friend Reem Rabi said. “Because if Jennifer can overcome the things she’s overcome, then we, as individuals all around, have no other excuse to be honest. Honestly, if I don’t see her and she’s not a big-time name in the next few years, then it’s not her fault. I’m just sure the rest of the public is sleeping on her because her work is amazing.”

Stanley will be showcasing her Overcome collection at the Fashion by Texas show among the Fashion by Events shows, which features Texas, Black and global designers respectively over the span of three days. Her show will be held on Oct. 15 and can be attended virtually. Buying a ticket will give attendees access to all three shows, which are sold on a “pay what you can” basis with a $25 recommended minimum donation.

“I think it will be powerful to see different collections from different designers, especially at this time,” Stanley said. “I think it’ll be really exciting to kind of see how the industry is forming to all this happening in the world. And I think, as always, it’s really important to support your community, so supporting Texan designers is a great thing.”

Featured Image: TWU fashion design senior Jennifer Stanley sits in front of her workspace on Sept. 21, 2020. Stanley uses fashion to shine a light on various social justice issues. Image by Meredith Holser

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Kelly Tran

Kelly Tran

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