The Designer Behind Sustainable Brand Jaline Is Inspired By The Vibrant Culture Of Mexico

by Freya Drohan

If you haven’t yet heard of luxury yet laidback resort and apparel line Jaline, get ready to tune in. After working in the fashion industry for several years for various mega brands, Jacqueline Lopez branched out on her own to create something more in line with her personal values. The result is a fledgling label which consciously employs Oaxacan female artisans to create pieces that adhere to the country’s traditional craftsmaship ideals. Each sustainably-made piece (think: flowing kaftans, printed jumpsuits perfect for lounging, and effortlessly chic maxi dresses) takes around two weeks to complete, We caught up with Lopez, who has spent meaningful time in Oaxaca during lockdown, to hear more about the backstory of the brand.

Tell us about your background before launching Jaline in 2016. Were you always involved in fashion?
Before launching Jaline, I worked in the fashion industry for 14 years at MaxMara, Agnona, and Faconnable as an executive account manager, visual merchandiser, buyer and global merchandiser respectively. Learning everything from sales, visual displays, buying, and merchandising, this experience gave me the knowledge to then launch Jaline. In 2013 while living in Mexico City, I was very much inspired by the artisanal craftsmanship of the local artisans and started creating modern silhouettes with these textiles.  This is how the beachwear element of Jaline was born.

Jacqueline Lopez (courtesy)

How did/does your experience of living in Mexico inspire the brand’s ethos and identity?
Living in Mexico City for almost four years gave me the opportunity to live among the locals, learn about their culture, and explore the opportunities of working with local communities that have been hand-making textiles passed down for generations. I value their distinct history and, coupled with my point of view, we create unique pieces together.

What else inspires your designs?
My travels, exotic cultures, vintage, and a bohemian lifestyle inspire my designs. Rooted in socially responsible design, I have embraced a slow living pace, while creating a vertical, sustainable process that is key to who we are.

Do you remember the first piece you ever designed?
Yes! The first piece I designed was the Annie dress, a simple A-line dress that is sleeveless with a deep, open back trim in a hand-beaded cotton sourced from Peru. As for the print, my first dress was the Penelope: all bias cut with six yards of fabric and the sleeves are cut in a foulard shape so it is a flattering silhouette. I still incorporate these styles in my collections today.


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How many categories did you launch the brand with?
Primarily, I worked on developing new silhouettes using hand-woven textiles to create unique pieces that had never been made before: this is truly an achievement. For example, our Tallulah pant. When I made this and showed it to my artisans, they were bewildered with excitement. It was something so new. I also recently launched accessories: a beach market bag, a bucket hat, and a shawl. Also, during the pandemic, I started making face masks using the left-over scraps of fabric…a little accessory that would match your dress!

What about now, what’s the offering and how many collections a year do you design?
Now, I continue to expand on the beachwear and accessories. Every season I design a new exclusive print, inspired by my favorite vintage textiles and books.  I show two collections a year (and always have), as I felt it was the most sustainable way to run the business.

What do your customers know you for?
My clients are women who love to travel, explore, and read, and they appreciate simple and timeless resort wear pieces.  They value knowing who made it and how it was made. Transparency and personalization have always been part of Jaline. I also work exclusively with my clients to offer custom, made-to-order pieces. I believe that my clients like to wear pieces that no one else has. It’s the same reason that I love vintage! It is a one of a kind, and that’s what I try to design for them.

Tell us about the backstory to each Jaline garment; who are the people creating each piece?
Jaline beach wear is hand-woven on an upright pedal loom by our women artisans. They are two sisters, Lidia and Sara, who live in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the age of 16 they were taught by their uncle to weave. Their mother hand-knots each of our textiles as she is an incredible macramé master. All materials are ethically sourced, with zero waste and a reduced carbon footprint. The artisans love what they do and are always grateful to have the opportunity to work while learning from each other and experimenting in order to always offer something new. Jaline resort wear includes our prints; which are all exclusively designed in house in NYC then digitally printed on 100% silk sourced from Europe. All of our prints are vintage inspired and then re-designed in a modern way. Both the hand-woven textiles and silks that are cut and sewn in NYC are also done by women. Carmen, Rosa, and Lisa are our main sewers and I can tell you exactly who made each silhouette.  Empowering women is part of the beauty and creation behind Jaline.

Lopez with some of the artisans who create Jaline pieces (courtesy)

Tell us about the sustainability element and why it’s personally important to you.
I am committed to sustainability and transparency. Our work contributes positively to the local economies both in Mexico and the USA. I create patterns and use natural fibers with longevity in mind. And we don’t discard any fabrics; we use all scraps by adding to new silhouettes or making accessories. I believe clothing is better when it is made with love and passion for our environment, economies, and our clients. Growing up I remember going with my mother to her seamstress who would make her clothing and I listened to the conversations she would have with them. It was intimate and special. Upholding traditions and respecting the environment is our ethos.

You’ve been awarded the Butterfly Mark in recognition of excellence in sustainability, what are some other recent highlights for the brand?
I am currently spending time in Oaxaca meeting other designers that work with artisans to support the heritage. My goal is to create an organization where we can all showcase our work and tell our stories. I want to inspire other designers to do the same, collaborating with local artisans to create their designs.  Supporting each other is important and makes it possible to encourage communities to continue to work like they have done for centuries. This includes also supporting ‘made in the USA.’

Tell us about your recent time in Oaxaca designing the new collection—what can we expect?
Due to the pandemic, I found myself with more time on my hands than usual. I decided that this time should be spent with my artisans to learn and develop new textiles. I have a [bunch] of ideas that I have always wanted to create, yet as a small brand I always found myself needing to head back to the USA to follow up on production and shipping. I feel so grateful for this time in Oaxaca since I am learning so much and we are creating new beautiful textiles for the next collection. With the growing importance of digital, I am also excited to be spending time developing new video content here with the inspiring backdrop of Oaxaca. I am working with a good friend who is a videographer to present Jaline in a new, more dynamic way than we have in the past.

What else is coming up?
I am planning a pop up where we can showcase emerging, talented designers who are all embracing the craftsmanship of Mexico. I am also working to expand my custom-made offering, giving my clients an even more unique and exclusive experience.

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