Deidre Jefferies has been named Chase’s Banking on Style competition winner, earning a $10,000 cash award towards advancing her luxury clothing line, ESPION Atelier. The competition, launched in a partnership between ESSENCE, Chase, and American lifestyle brand, Lands’ End, comes to a close during a pivotal moment in the fashion industry. With global attention turned back to the Black Lives Matter movement in recent months, widespread conversations have sparked around social injustice, racism, and the systemic barriers that suppress Black excellence’s potential reach. As a result, the fashion industry is finally shining a light on what Black creatives have to offer. Knowing that lack of representation for minorities is no new phenomenon, Banking on Style launched in 2019. Talented designers Sergio Hudson, Undra Duncan and Deidre Jefferies, were selected to compete by designing a Chase-themed workwear capsule collection for the opportunity to be included in Chase Style, the professional wardrobe worn by over 40,000 Chase branch employees.
What was initially set to be a live collection reveal in front of a panel of judges at ESSENCE Fashion House during September’s New York Fashion Week instead became a Zoom-call showing as Fashion Week went digital due to COVID-19. Even through a webcam viewing, judges were impressed with the unique level of detail each designer brought to the table through their designs. Though competition’s inherent nature implies one winner, Banking on Style served to champion each contestant, offering the trio newfound support and friendship in each other and the access to opportunities and connections traditionally gatekept from Black creatives in the industry.
For contest winner Jefferies, whose own Ready-to-Wear line, Espion Atelier, is rooted in understated elegance, it was Chase’s reputation of promoting wealth-building (Jefferies’ initial motivating factor in launching a fashion line) that resonated with her. She translated this idea into her approach for a timeless collection for the financial institution’s employees. “I never wanted anyone to look at [these] clothes and not see Chase,” Jefferies tells ESSENCE. As a result her capsule collection, showcases design elements such as a season-transcending neutral color palette along with elevated, sporty attributes.
Jefferies subtly weaved pieces of her own brand ethos and imagery into her creation for Chase while still remaining on-brand for the financial institution. During the judging presentation, referencing a collared, button-up bow top she designed for Chase Style, Jefferies points to the top’s piping detail as an ESPION Atelier-derived design element she uses to bring a bit of sophisticated youth and edge to her pieces. Also featured in the collection is a men’s button-down, complete with a tone-on-tone Chase logo jacquard print, a golfer-esque color-blocked polo and a two-toned classic women’s cardigan, complete with buttons in the shape of the Chase logo. The logo is showcased again in Jefferies’ accessories creations: an oversized satin scarf and a pair of men’s socks, which lend a pop of style to a complete men’s look. Undoubtedly, part of the mastery in Jefferies’ end result lies in her ability to embed Chase’s logo into the collection in subtle yet powerful ways.
Even for an effortlessly executed collection, there comes a challenge. “When I was making the men’s three-button polo, I kept [saying] ‘This sweater has been done. This sweater has been done,'” Jefferies says. She ultimately opted for a diagonal color-block design versus horizontal. “It gave it so much flavor and stood out a little bit more. It made the piece a little more casual for the guys,” she said, adding that she wanted the pieces to feel like something an employee would want to wear on the weekends as well.
“[Working] with Essence, and Chase and Lands’ End felt like a huge gift,” Jefferies says, adding pandemic has posed challenges for her own line, on top of the unique challenges already faced by a Black entrepreneur with no investor backing. “This $10,000 that I did win… I knew exactly how I was going to use it, and it makes all of the difference for my business now.”
See more on about Banking on Style program and designers here!