Michaela Jedinak, Joy of Clothes, Woman Entrepreneur

michaela-jedinakI was introduced to Michaela Jedinak from someone in London.  What sparked my interest is the simplicity of the clothes she was making and how she was going about it.  I have seen a few businesses like this over the years where women begin to design for essentially themselves and realize that there is a bigger audience out there than just them.  Selling it to women directly vs going through a brick and mortar retail store or even an ecommerce site.  It is smart.  How big can these businesses grow, that I am not so sure about but I am a huge fan of the life style entrepreneur.  People who work really hard on their business that they own 100% of and because of that it blends directly into their personal life too.  It is extremely rewarding and allows one to set their life in their own terms.

Michaela grew up in Germany although originally from Czechoslavakia.  She was born in ’67 right as the Prague Spring was happening and her parents fled to Germany.  They really thought Germany would be a stop over to the states but it ended up to be a permanent home.  Her father was a dentist and her mother was a general practitioner.  They worked together.  Where they lived was close to the coal mines which was a very wealthy area where her parents could grow their practice.

Growing up her father always talked about traveling to America.  So not surprising that when Michaela turned 16 and was able to go on a language exchange program she went.  She ended up in Los Angeles living with Mormons for six weeks.  She laughs about this.  Remember this was pre-internet, pre-mobile.  She got there and her parents didn’t hear from her for 48 hours until she was able to go to a pay phone and call collect.   Michaela continued on these language exchange programs for a few years.

It was while she was growing up in Germany that she began her love for fashion and understanding about how women’s bodies worked with different cuts.  The stores were only open Mon-Fri and up to noon on Saturday back in the day.  Her Mom would send her to the shops to pull clothes for her and put it aside.  Then she would come into the shop on Saturday morning and buy what Michaela had put chosen.

She graduated from high school and went to the University of Munster in Germany which is about an hour away from where she grew up.  She went on to study law.  Continuing with her desire to travel she did internships during this time in SF, summer school in Berkley, San Marcos, Dallas, NYC and Prague.  She had graduated law school but never ended up practicing law because when the wall came down in Germany and a variety of opportunities started to crop up.

Michaela went to Prague.  She first worked in real estate for a few years before being offered a job as managing director of Cosmo.  It was an incredible opportunity.  She did not understand advertising or publishing but she went for it.  She quickly understood that she’d have to develop a market for Cosmo.  There were not even kiosks selling magazines.  She had to be super clever about even selling advertising for the product too.  Car companies did not want to put ads in Cosmo because they said that women don’t make the salaries but she convinced them that it was the woman who made the decision.   It was a fascinating time but after about a year of that it was time to leave.

Michaela moved to Italy.  She decided to move to Milan and take some time off.  Her friend introduced her to a product development company which was a bonus to make some extra cash.  She ended up working there for two and a half years selling services and that company was build on a technology platform.  It was the beginnings of the internet era.  What struck Michaela about Italy was the beauty of the clothes and how they fit women’s bodies.  They each had their signature look because the women there knew how to dress to their strengths.

Her next move was to London because the technology business was booming there.  It was like the rest of Europe was sleeping.  She was amazed at the gap of how women dressed in London vs Italy.  She ended up working in the for a company that folded into the Grey Advertising’s interactive division before going out of business.  There were a lot of companies merging or going out of business at that time.  She was frustrated with her career.

At this time she met her husband who was an entrepreneur in a very successful wedding business.  He encouraged her to start her own business.  She had always been obsessed with fit and proportion particularly when it came to work clothes.  She wanted to build a business that would complement women’s different body shapes where powerful women could have clothes that played to their assets.  She had helped others grow businesses but had never done it herself.  Her husband became her mentor and set her on a path.

She started out working as a stylist for about two plus years working with all different age groups with different needs, different nationalities and she realized that there was not an international sizing system.  She would help corporate women get the right clothes for their bodies but once she stopped working with them they wanted to repeat for themselves what Michaela did for them.  She worked with each woman first asking herself how do you create a visual balance based on how this body works.

In 2007 she began to work on 7 different common body shapes creating illustrations for these figures.   She wanted people to have authority, integrity and power when they were buying her brand.  In 2009 she created an interactive tool that is like an avatar of your own body shape.  She took over 100 garments and put them on these body shapes showing that it is all about proportion and fit.

As Coco Chanel said, “fashion is like architecture it is a matter of proportion”.  Givenchy said “the design has to follow the body not the other way around”.   Michaela follows these words with the desire to bring back clothes to empower women who are confident strong people.  She used these thoughts to build the Joy of Clothes.  It had been 2 and a half years since she began the journey of figuring out the mission and the concept and her husband said now make the dress.

She had taken courses on design, production and pattern making.  She zeroed in on the right fabric and began the process.  She began with 7 dresses all created with visual balance in mind.  She launched her first collection in 2013 with the color red, to be bold.   She got great press in the London Times that said “the little red dress is a cut above the rest”.  All her dresses are made to order.  She connects with her customers through corporate events and women networks.  It has been a year now since she shipped her first garment that goes from desk to dinner.

Where this goes nobody knows but I love the concept of zeroing in on a particular customer and making the right clothes for her.  This is not everything for everybody but for a strong career woman who wants to make a statement and feel confident in what she wears.

Comments (Archived):

  1. AG

    I absolutely love this story and idea. All I can think is, yessss! What women does not feel this way about proportion and fit, and yet, especially in work clothes, it’s so hard to come by. I’d say almost everyone I know in the young corporate crowd wears a Theory suit or equivalent. There’s little diversity (even the folded back cuffs no longer make you stand out), and the cut is really not meant for every body type. Why, in all these years, has no one come out with smart work clothes that fit like a glove? The Row, I suppose, is genius in this way. But for younger folks, the price point can be a bit of a reach for the everyday. The story also makes me think of hatchgal. you think, why didn’t someone think of this sooner.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You would have thought someone would have thought this way sooner….absolutely.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I agree!!!! And also, why don;t women’s work clothes have pockets? Or sometimes they have pockets but they are too shallow. A real pain for networking events when you have nowhere to put your biz cards and are forced to carry a purse around with you.

      1. Gotham Gal

        good feedback.

  2. Pranay Srinivasan

    I think we’re headed more towards body shapes rather than “Sizes”.. just like “Seasons” that are an artificial fashion designer construct, sizes are going that way too.. I’d love to see the day you buy your shape, not your size.. and there’s absolutely no snobbery about that. Just amazing fit, comfort and a lot of happiness about fitting into your clothes and looking good.Love brands that empower that.

  3. JLM

    .What’s interesting about this story is the “process” which Michaela has created to drive her business. A common denominator of most successful businesses is the recognition of a process and the streamlining, optimization, improvement and adherence to that process.The design tenets which drive the process are equally important but it is the process itself which drives the business.Great story and great storytelling.JLM.

    1. Gotham Gal

      she had a process and my guess is if her husband didn’t say make the dress she would have just continued with the process. sometimes the hardest thing is making the leap into starting the business.

      1. JLM

        .We all make the leap when we are ready to leap. I think one of the suspect phenomenon today amongst entrepreneurs is a paucity of simple life experience.The other day I was visiting with an old Army buddy of mine and we both laughed that everything we ever needed to run a business we learned as platoon leaders and company commanders. We had both served with elite combat units and the learning for a young 20-something was pretty damn intense.It was also incredibly valuable and I have been leveraging off those lessons for a third of a century, a long time. Still timeless and still relevant.That is why process is so important, it can substitute for some experience — not all the time but sometimes.The knee jerk to document the business process is a great safety valve. It forces us to look at what we bring to the process, what we can effectively delegate, where the bottlenecks are located and what we can streamline, optimize, add resources to, etc.It forces us to plan.JLM.

  4. aysha ali

    Hey! So glad you connected with Michaela and wrote her story- she is amazing 🙂