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Jessica Rich

Source: Courtesy of Jessica Rich / Jessica Rich

It’s the day before Christmas Eve. Jessica Rich, celebrity fashion and shoe designer, has taken a break from running her empire and fulfilling holiday orders to chat with us. “I did very well,” she proudly shares over the phone of recent earnings. “I think I quadrupled my last year’s Black Friday weekend.” With her name on everyone’s lips and shoes on some of the hottest feet in Hollywood, Rich is definitely living up to her name and is one to watch in 2021.

From the very beginning of our conversation, the reality star turned fashion mogul displays a bubbly yet refined personality, paired with an excited confidence that is warm and contagious. This has proven beneficial in the fashion industry, as she credits networking as a key component to building her brand. “Organic relationships,” she affirms. “L.A. is good for that.”

Born in Grand Rapids, Mich., Rich worked in entertainment PR and, as previously mentioned, on TV before launching her eponymous fashion brand in 2015. Since then, her clientele has grown to include everyone from Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Jenner to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Black Enterprise correctly crowned her the “Celebrity Glass Slipper Shoe Designer.”

In August 2019, the Jessica Rich collection was made available in select Macy’s stores. This year, she launched her very own signature store at the Beverly Center mega-mall in Los Angeles, achieving further success even in the midst of a pandemic.

With shoes selling through retailers, an online store, a brick and mortar shop and a high-end app, Rich is poised to take Black luxury to new, international levels on her own terms and in her own lane. If that weren’t enough, she’s taking burgeoning Black designers along for the ride.

MadameNoire: You’ve been doing a lot to empower women this year. Tell us more about those efforts.

Jessica Rich: We released a book this year, a My Secrets to Building an Online Brand e-book. It empowers people to continue to try. It has all my tips and secrets on how I built my brand from A to Z. A lot of brands and people want to start things but don’t know where to start. So I think it was a very informative book that was very helpful to a lot of people.

You also have a section on your website dedicated to Black designers. How important is community to you and with your brand?

I mean, this has been a big thing for me because [being] a Black designer has always been a struggle for myself. Especially with [all] the racial injustice and everything, I was like you know what? We need change now. I feel it’s just very important for us to get recognized.

In your own words, what is the significance of Black luxury and us taking time for ourselves, investing in fashion and high-end, quality items that make us feel good?

Luxury is only defined now to people like Chanel, Gucci and all that because it’s been around for ages and that’s all we knew. That’s what we grew up on, and we know that they’re the legendary people. But there are going to be people after that and they’re not always going to be white. They can be Black. I don’t know, I just feel like it was very important for us to create this and hopefully we can reset boundaries and cross over and do things even the bigger designers didn’t do before.

Quarantine was something that affected the global economy. How did it impact or enhance you as the owner of an e-commerce brand?

Thankfully, I wasn’t really impacted too much. I just thank God. All my sales did drop in March. I remember they went down some, and April as well, but we picked back up. I went hard on marketing and social media promotion.

And how about the holiday season? Surely people are looking for Jessica Rich gifts.

Black Friday was an amazing sale for me. I did really well. I think I quadrupled my last year’s Black Friday weekend. My store was a blessing as well. Another store left the Beverly Center because of the pandemic. If he didn’t leave during the pandemic I wouldn’t have gotten a store. So I mean, COVID has been a blessing here. It’s probably been the best year I had.

What makes your brand stand out is that you have a designer app in the store, similar to that of Prada and Gucci. What role does technology play in the Jessica Rich brand?

I would say we’re like 99 percent online, strategic, social. All that. Anything I can get someone’s attention on, social media, Internet or through an app, or through an email blast, that’s how I make my sales. I’m thankful for that, because at first I was like, “Instagram, I don’t think it’s going to be good for the brand.” But we pushed so much content and that’s the best way to reach the viewers — all the continents, different cities. The app is really cool because people’s credit cards are already saved in, you check out right away. Sometimes I’ll run sales only for app users. We also have a new text ad tool where we text you different things, so everything is virtual now. People don’t want to go into the store. So why not just try to grab their attention electronically?

How were you able to build clientele and an organic buzz around your brand?

I’m just a really, really good networker and that has been instilled in me for a very long time. When you come from Michigan and you’re not used to any of this type of stuff, and then you move to New York, you’re there for a reason. You’re there to figure out, where do I need to go? I’ve always been trying to figure out who’s who. I just built my stylist relationships and reached out to people, researching who they were. And if I was anywhere and I knew who they were, , I would approach them with intention. I would get their contact so I could just use it later. And that’s kind of what happened. Even with J. Lo., I met her manager when I was working at a restaurant and in West Hollywood. That was like my last job. Organic relationships. L.A. is good for that. I used to hate this place. I love it for the fact that everyone is here. When I was in New York, everyone used to be in New York. All the clubs were there. But now everyone is here. So I just feel like you can do anything you want in L.A. Even if I started a dog-walker company, I could be just as successful in that in L.A. because everyone’s just here to make that happen.

Your great aunt is Patti LaBelle. What was the shoe game like in your family growing up? You have some classic designs, so we’re wondering how much is inspired by family.

Thank you! [Patti] doesn’t really love heels! She’s more of a mule person. We actually spoke last week because I’m secretly trying to do a collab with her for like, a more comfortable shoe for the moms, grandmas and things like that. She was more so like, “Yeah, these are so cute, but I like to be comfortable.” My mom was the one who was like heels, heels, heels. She never ever wore flats, especially going out with her boyfriend. Always looks good. I got Best Dressed in high school because I used to always wear my mom’s clothes and dress up every day [laughs]. So it’s all in the family.

How much of your personal style and taste impact your brand overall?

Oh my God, in a major way now because my style has changed over the years. I used to be really super dressy, girly-girly, but now I’m like more of a relaxed sweatpants and top. I’m always in sweatpants or [a] bodysuit. I’m not really huge on dresses anymore unless it’s like for a night out or for a photo-op. I’m so busy and constantly on the go, so the less I have to think about what I’m going to put on the better. I like simplicity and things that go well with each other. Sometimes less is more!

What can we expect from Jessica Rich in 2021?

I’m in two major retailers starting in February. I’m not going to mention which ones yet, but yeah, I’m going to be in two major retailers that are [all] over the world. So major, major step for the brand for sure. And they reached out to us. That’s a blessing, knowing that I’m making that much noise that they found me.

You can shop the Jessica Rich collection at JessicaRich.com, the Jessica Rich store in the Beverly Center (Los Angeles, CA) and Macy’s. Follow her on IG at @jessicarich and @jessicarichcollection.

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