The day when Jenna Barnes finally plucked up the courage to tell someone she wanted to be a fashion designer was almost the same day her dreams were crushed.
For the careers advisor she told laughed and said it would never happen because she wasn’t any good at Maths so how could she possibly do measurements and work out fabric widths and all that goes with being a fashion designer?
But today it is the Clitheroe mum of three who is laughing as the successful owner of her own bespoke online lingerie brand @Raineand Bea as worn by celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Alesha Dixon, Will Young and even Kylie herself who has her own range designed by Jenna.
“I felt so deflated when that careers advisor said that to me because it was the first time I had actually said anything to anyone because before I just felt daft saying it, said Jenna.
It was her shyness that almost held her back from grabbing golden opportunities to pursue something that she had an obvious flare for.
From the age of four when she would stage impromptu fashion shows for her family and be the only child on “toy day’’ at school who wanted to cut pictures of fashion models from magazines and stick them onto paper, so it was obvious to those around her that Jenna would work in the fashion industry.
As young as eight she would sneak onto her mum’s sewing machines and run up clothes from patterns she had designed herself. And her little sister became her model for many of the items she would make, including a Little House on the Prairie style smock dress Jenna made for her.
She eventually began her own little cottage industry making scrunchies by cutting up old dresses and sellng them at school..until the teachers said it wasn’t allowed.
Growing up in Salford Jenna was never one of the “popular’’ crowd sporting all the latest fashions. In fact she would go the opposite way and be spotted in items that no one else had even seen.
Jenna laughed: “I used to get some funny looks but at the end of the day a lot of the other girls used to come up to me and ask where I had got my shoes from.’’
When she left school Jenna studied art and design at college but she hated it and eventually took a job making karate suits at a factory in the shadow of Manchester’s Strangeways prison.
“The oldest lady working there was 85 and the youngest, apart from me and another girl, was 65. I learned so much there it stood me in good stead for the future.’’
Her first taste of the real world of fashion came when she was asked to work with a group of young fashion graduates and Jenna learned the tools of the trade pattern cutting and making samples. From there she worked for fashion house Arthur Henriques that made clothes for labels such as Principles, Next and George. The brand designers themselves would come to the factory and Jenna cut her teeth working on designs with them that she would later make as a sample machinist. She said: “It was an amazing time for me and such an opportunity.’’
One of the highlights was when she was asked to make six samples of Maria Grachvogel shorts worn by Victoria Beckham during London Fashion Week. The iconic shot of Victoria wearing the tiny shorts went around the world Jenna maybe hopes that the careers advisor who was so harsh to her may have seen that!
The next career opportunity for Jenna, who lives with her music teacher husband Chris, and their three children, Lili Raine (11) Nancy Bea, who is three, and six-year-old George, came when she visited vintage emporium Rags to Bitches in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
“I went along to see if they would be interested in stocking some of my clothes,’’ said Jenna. “They asked me to help out with some alterations in their bespoke range and I stayed for two and a half years.’’
During that time Jenna was asked to work backstage altering costumes for Celine Dion’s dancers during a concert in Manchester. It was one of her toughest challenges yet, working round the clock on PVC macs that needed adjusting and adding ostrich feathers to Herve Leger dresses.
After Rags closed Jenna set up her own range, Frockstars, with a business partner, for a time before she eventually launched her own stunning raunchy lingerie collection featuring Swarovski crystals, lace hot pants, feather skirts and silk bras. It was launched at Liverpool Fashion Week and pictures of the collection went worldwide. One of Jenna’s main selling points is that it is all UK based, from the design right through to the fabrics she selects. And she now has a brand new market opening up to her _ transgenders who are clamouring for the vintage inspired garments.
Jenna, a finalist in the Ribble Valley Business Awards, said: “I am making the same garments but in much larger sizes.’’
Jenna is currently looking for a studio to work from in Clitheroe but she now has a business partner based in London who has all the contacts and public relations experience to help her break into the American market. Her collection of dresses and lingerie is set to he showcased locally at a fashion show at Brady’s Wine Bar in Whalley on Thursday, October 22nd.
It is her dream to become a household name and Jenna certainly deserves that success for all the hard work and graft she has put into her career.
She said: “A lot of youngsters today want overnight success without putting in the time and effort.
“Over the years I have learned so many skills that seem to be a dying art, such as using a sewing machine and that is something I would like to encourage the next generation to learn.’’