Chase’s Banking on Style Competition, launched in December 2019 in a partnership between ESSENCE, Chase, and American lifestyle brand, Lands’ End, came to a close in November after naming designer Deidre Jefferies as its winner. While the victory earned Jefferies a $10,000 cash award towards advancing her luxury line, ESPION Atelier, the program served to highlight and provide resources to all three talented designers involved.
Jefferies and competitors Sergio Hudson and Undra Duncan were selected to compete by designing a workwear capsule collection. The results were equally unique collections that fused the personality of each designer with that of Chase. “The designers really nailed the creativity and progressive vision Black creators bring to the table, as well as expanded the reach of Black style,” Cori Murray, Entertainment & Talent Director at ESSENCE, says. “We are thrilled to have partnered with Chase and Lands’ End on this fashion-forward initiative.”
Jefferies’ collection, which features stylishly classic pieces, will be presented as wardrobe options to over 40,000 Chase branch employees. Additionally, the cash award is sure to make a difference for the luxury designer who has never had an outside investor for her brand. “I couldn’t be more proud of this partnership that not only showcases the profound talent among these three designers,” Thasunda Brown Duckett, Chief Executive Officer of Chase Consumer Banking, says, “but brings to life their work in our thousands of branches across the country, helping our employees look and feel their best.”
Following the competition’s end, the creatives continue navigating business during the age of COVID-19. At the same time, following the second peak of the Black Lives Matter movement, the industry seems to be moving toward a space of greater recognition for small, Black-owned brands. The talented designers are ready to seize the moment, using this time to push their luxury brands to greater heights.
Since wrapping up with Banking on Style, Hudson’s focus lies on expanding his luxury clothing line into new territory, first by introducing a home collection titled Black Hollywood. “God is really blessing us and opening doors,” Hudson tells ESSENCE. “So, we’re going to run through those doors and really try to build this brand into a megabrand so that we can help some creatives in the future not have to struggle as much as we did.”
The designer shared an inside look of his Los Angeles home on Instagram in August, the all-black decor offering an idea of home goods you can expect to see from Sergio Hudson’s newest branch. Hint: a lot of velvet and a lot of glam. His Spring 2021 collection, which ran a trunk show on Moda Operandi in October, is no exception. “I wanted to make things that people would want and need now without steering too far away from my brand DNA,” the designer writes on Instagram. The collection serves as the perfect liaison between luxury fashion and relaxed dressing, complete with vivid colors and loose silhouettes.
Jefferies continues to create pieces that make her clients feel capable, beautiful, and strong. “My hope is that ESPION and other luxury brands led by Black designers will win the attention and business of millions of Black luxury goods consumers all over the world,” she tells ESSENCE. “Their brand trust and spend loyalty will help young luxury brands like mine become familiar heritage houses like the ones they frequently support. I believe we can do this together.”
The designer’s “Collection 5” embraces cut-outs in a way that feels refined and sophisticated and incorporates the elevated use of latex, along with velvet in jewel tones. Her upcoming collection, Jefferies says, is inspired by something most can relate to at this moment — “worldwide longing for love, freedom, celebration, and dressing up for any reason or no reason at all.” While the pandemic has forced Jefferies to identify and face the vulnerabilities in her business, her momentum remains steady, with another collection soon on the way. The designer tells Essence the new collection will remain true to the DNA of ESPION Atelier (“tailored, classic and sexy”) but incorporating more shine than usual; she hopes the items will become future classics.
Undra Duncan credits Banking on Style for the newfound lifelong relationships between herself and her two competitors. And the designer is showing no signs of slowing down-pandemic or not. “I think the last thing I did during the pandemic was sit still,” the elevated workwear designer tells ESSENCE. “I have been working, planning, and using my resources to execute.” The result is the “Seventh Season” of Undra Celeste NY, the brand’s latest collection, which will soon launch on its website.
While Duncan’s “Season Six” is home to rows of pinks, reds and heart-printed designs dedicated to and inspired by “the love for women of color, in contrast “Season Seven” arrives with inviting soft blues, greens, and beiges alongside playful floral patterns and pops of neon yellow. “My goal is to communicate to my customer in a way that she has not been communicated to by a workwear brand,” the designer says. Consumers can expect to find a Spring collection that is relaxed and youthful but polished in a way that’s fit for the office when it comes time for the world to return.
Out of the collaborative effort of Banking on Style comes a vital message to the fashion industry — a call for more corporations to follow the lead of Chase and Lands’ End on recognizing Black designers as innovative, strong and resilient creators who bring equal amounts of value to the table as the majority. “It was an honor to host and collaborate with Deidre, Undra, and Sergio at our Wisconsin headquarters,” said Eddie Strauss, VP GMM, Lands’ End Business Outfitters. “The drive, passion, and creativity showcased throughout the entire process is remarkable and has served as an inspiration for our team. We are looking forward to seeing what these three rising stars accomplish next.”
See all of the Banking on Style series content here!