Photography by Owl You Are and Brittany Sheets
Hi Jaki! How did you get started as a business? What were you doing before JAKIMAC?
Before JAKIMAC, I was a mural painter and also worked as a graphic design professional. Leather has always been a part of my life. My family owns an independent shoe store in the suburbs of Chicago, and I spent a lot of time as a kid messing around in the leather shoe repair shop. I began recycling their leather scraps, molding them into the very first designs.
What made you interested in harnesses?
I was interested in creating jewelry that can be worn in an alternative way, and also finding new ways to work with leather on a larger scale that wasn’t quite in the clothing realm. My first harness was a version of the JAKIMAC x UO Draped Harness, a simple but versatile design.
Okay, what if we love this trend but feel totally lost? How do you recommend wearing a harness in daily life?
Even the word “harness” itself can be scary. Though it’s been on the runways for years, it’s a totally new concept in daily fashion. I recommend starting out with a draped harness design, one that just rests on the shoulders with a design at the back. It’s something that you can throw on over a t-shirt and jeans that pulls an outfit together and adds a rebellious touch. I also find that wearing a harness makes me more aware of my posture and body language. Try it out, you may grow an inch or two!
What’s your favorite piece from your current collection?
I’m currently obsessed with the Single Chain Harness. I love it worn with a maxi-dress, it’s the perfect combination of feminine and edgy.
Can you tell us a little bit about your design process?
I work much like a sculptor, but with leather. Sometimes I sketch out a design, but most of the time I begin laying leather strips on a dress form, pinning, riveting, and building a design from scratch. Each design is uniquely handcrafted, so some harnesses that have an intricate woven design can take up to three to four hours.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
I look in a variety of places. Many times I think of my favorite couture designers including Iris Van Herpen and Ann Demeulemeester, and dream up a piece to pair with their work. I also look at the stage costumes of rock 'n roll legends like Prince and Mick Jagger, plus I drool over wardrobe design on fantasy shows like Game of Thrones. More often inspiration flows naturally, as I’m very much inspired by the material itself.
Where do you source your materials from?
The leather comes from tanneries all over the world, yet nearly every material I use is purchased within Los Angeles, which is a wonderful feeling. I’m able to support local businesses as I grow my own.
You also design jewelry. Which is more difficult to work with: leather or metal?
Metal is much more difficult! I prefer softer materials. When I work with metal, I cast, which means I sculpt the original piece out of soft wax, and then I’m able to make a mold to cast multiples of that piece. You’ll never find me soldering or hammering metals. Leather is my material of choice. There’s just something about the smell, the feel, the different textures… it’s hard not to love.
Who would you love to see wearing your pieces?
Anyone from pop and rock stars like Lorde, Taylor Momson and Sky Ferreira to my favorite fashion icons, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
What do you have planned for the future of JAKIMAC?
I see the brand becoming a full leather accessory brand. In addition to expanding the line of jewelry, harnesses, and belts, I’ll be debuting the first backpacks & handbags this Fall. It’s also a dream to break into footwear, since it’s such a huge part of my history starting the brand. I already have ideas for JAKIMAC leather combat-style boots!