Here’s to all the Wonder Women!

Happy International Womens Day:
In this modern day, it is no longer the time for women to be pitted against one another and be seen as competition rather than allies. Too much has been fought for, for that. It’s an outdated behaviour that is changing, yet often this still happens in places of work, in private lives and so so regularly do we find it in the fashion industry. From exploiting overseas workers, taking for granted unpaid graduates, fiercely competing with other colleagues, degrading and belittling one another, and portraying unrealistic concepts of beauty, it’s a negative pattern of behaviour that occurs time and time again with women in this industry. And it’s time to STOP.
So, to break the mould, as Jess always does, we’d like to just spend a little time valuing every single woman that has made this brand what it is.  We’re dedicating this little corner of the internet on International women’s day to giving out some loving to those who are doing a cracking job helping us run our little colourful empire. To all our sisters, our allies, our friends…
 This one is for you.
Edwina took Jess in when she was just 18 and taught her almost everything she knows now about millinery. Having no previous professional sewing experience (except a GCSE in needlework) Edwina was patient and kind to Jess, mentoring her for two valuable years.
Jess said that when she used to sew in the head fitting for Edwina she was sure that she would have to unpick them and do them again as she did them wonky, but this was never revealed if it did happen as she did not wish to discourage Jess. Jess said she taught her all of the foundations of her techniques including things she still uses today. Edwina is a talented milliner in her own right who taught jess not only millinery techniques but also the value of being a mentor and a kind employer.
Jess has mentioned Valu to me so many times now that at first, I thought she has her family, which by proxy she is. Valu is Jess’ next door neighbour and by the sound of it her saviour. Jess said that when her girls were growing up, Valu gave her the opportunity to work by looking after the girls after school. More often than not jess would come home to them relaxing (or during the busy times) sleeping on Valu’s sofa. Jess’ girls call her nan and she always said she’s their Indian granny. A lovely friend who enabled jess and her husband Rob to put in all those hours needed to build this business.
When The candy Millner (JCM’s preceding business) didn’t take off the ground as successfully as jess wanted she said her confidence in her business as on the floor. Having two young children, the challenge was huge and her couture hats simply were not enough to keep the customers coming. Jess then reached out to Anna, a fantastic business and life coach.  Jess listened intently to her advice and said that everything she taught her was totally invaluable Jess re jigged her business plan to become ready to wear and sellable. Jess would not have Jess Collett Milliner, if she had not had taken the advice and learnt from such a caring woman who is incredible at her job. Anna also works in prisons to help support women coming back into society. Another invaluable, incredible woman who helped shape JCM.  
All of our panama hats are hand woven in Ecuador out of Paja Toquilla straw that is native to south America. They are woven by incredible local women who keep the cottage industry of straw weaving alive in the districts of Manabi and Azuay in Ecuador.
This is a unique skill handed down from generation to generation. The wonderful women who carry on this craft can produce a hat in one or two days. However, the finest straws from the towns of Biblian and Montecristi can take up to four months to weave. The greatest weavers work only by the light of the moon or when the sky is overcast. Constantly dipping their sharp pointed fingers in water, they split the fibre razor thin, and with all the virtuosity of a spinning wheel, plait ring after ring of palm into straw material so soft and dense that it can equal silk.
All the women who weave Jess’ hats are paid fairly, the work supports a trade rich in culture, creativity and skill and we are proud to pay a good price for incredible work.
Not to make this sound like an Oscars speech but Jess could not have got to this point without the support of her mum, her caring husband all of her family, her friends and her team here at JCM.  
Jess mum has always looked after her girls during holidays, supported and encouraged her to achieve and succeed. Her whole family have backed jess with unbelievable support and are a corner stone to her success.
Although it’s international women’s day and we are thanking all the incredible women that have helped jess get here. It would be wrong to write a letter of thanks without including her incredible husband Rob. After all feminism goes both ways and without men understanding the concept of equality as much as women this whole process would be a lot harder. Equal parenting, constant emotional support, and a killer sense of humour is what keeps Rob Waddington in Jess life and allows her to be an independent and successful business owner as well as an involved and caring mother.
Jess’ friends are there to keep her sane, collaborate with their own creativity and encourage her in whenever they can. To name a few, Dory, Kelly, Tina, Ingrid, Clemmie are just a few of the incredible talented women who support JCM and jess.
And finally, last but not least, as I’m writing this post and not Jess, I thought I should finish with Jess herself.
Jess is an incredible example of someone who is doing a spectacular job of managing both a personal and private life, with grit, gumption and incredible amounts of kindness (and of course style).
A mother of two (and a puppy), a wife, a creative genius, a business owner and friend to everyone, it’s a wonder how she does it.
As an employee of Jess’ I can say first hand that she values people, truly values human beings and will always treat everyone with and equal kindness and see every potential. What astounded me most when I started working here was that Jess seems to be friends with everyone, her fashion nose in not pointed in the air! From our lovely building cleaner Nano, to me, to her socially elite clients, jess simply is friends with everybody.
As well as working incredibly hard and being a talented and creative milliner, Jess’ kind and accepting personality is her defining characteristic in business and is what gets people coming back to her time and time again. Jess befriends our business neighbours on the street helping to create a little community of hard working, business women here on All Saints Road. She also has a habit of becoming a mentor to the people around her, I now me and daisy her freelance employees would vouch for this statement.
And a final thank you to every woman who has ever bought or worn a hat form us here at JCM – Stay fabulous and keep feeling great in those hats, its doing wonders for us all!
Written by: Shannon Brown

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