By: Claire Nenninger
Photos by: Mikko Castano
Jess Frankovich (COL ‘20) is the sophomore from Rochester, New York that you can’t help falling in love with. Not only does she have great style and a contagiously chill demeanor, but she is now making a name for herself as the latest campus fashion entrepreneur. Her reworked thrifted and vintage apparel, sold under the moniker 2004 Uncle’s Clothing, encapsulates both her infectious personality and the style that goes along with it.
Claire Nenninger: Where did the name 2004 Uncle’s Clothing come from?
Jess Frankovich: There isn’t a good story, unfortunately. It started out as an old finsta name of mine, and since I made the name I feel like I’ve grown into it. I think of it as less maternal than an aunt but still wise and also goofy.
CN: When did you officially start 2004 Uncle’s Clothing?
JF: I started learning to sew over the summer and had been sewing clothes mostly for myself, then for Christmas this year I made some Christmas gifts for friends. Then I realized if I wanted to keep doing this and sustain the habit, I’d have to start selling. So I started the page on Instagram and started selling mid-January.
CN: Was this something you’d been thinking about starting for awhile? Or did it just kinda happen spontaneously?
JF: It was totally spontaneous.
CN: How would you describe the style of your designs?
JF: It’s vintage in the material. All the fabric I use is vintage or used in some way, but the overall style is still modern and with current styles. My work is a little edgy, a little distressed; it has a DIY vibe to it.
CN: What are you inspirations? Any specific people, clothing lines, etc?
JF: Rihanna is the first person that comes to mind. This girl Brea is a stylist on Instagram. A lot of people on Instagram inspire me really, Aer is another example. Also a friend of mine from home, Atticus-Jack Torre. In terms of inspiration generally, I really like walking around M Street or going to a museum and looking at anything and everything. The Renwick Gallery has a lot of textile-based art that really inspires me.
CN: What products have you made so far? What is to come?
JF: The first items I sold were my split tees, made out of the halves of two other shirts. I will definitely continue to make those whenever I see cool graphic tees. Then I did a bunch of reworked denim. Recently I’ve been more focused on dresses and sets for a Valentine’s Day theme (the set above was a single skirt made into a two-piece set). I also bought some fabric for sleep masks that would make great Valentine’s Day gifts. I will definitely be doing more reworked denim soon, and I just ordered a bunch of zippers for that. The next thing I want to work on will likely be athleisure themed, like streetwear.
CN: What’s your favorite thing you’ve made?
JF: I made a custom split tee for a friend to give his girlfriend. She’s biracial and it was a split tee representing her two nationalities. It was really cool to be a part of that gift and honor different sides of her like that. I’m told she really liked it, so that’s a pretty good feeling.
CN: What is something you really want to make but haven’t yet?
JF: I really want to make evening gowns for events like Dip Ball or Visions. Like Ellie Saab-style dresses.
CN: You rework thrifted and vintage apparel, so where do you get the materials? Do people bring you things, are they from your own closet, or thrift stores?
JF: Mostly thrift stores. There’s a Goodwill clearance outlet back in Rochester I always go to. It’s like the Goodwill of Goodwill’s because it has all the items people don’t want from all the Goodwill’s in the area. And as for here in DC, I hit up Buffalo Exchange, Martha’s Outfitters, and the Goodwill in Arlington. Side note it feels really weird to take an uber to a Goodwill.
CN: How much of your work aligns with your own style? Or do you like to also make stuff that’s kind of outside of your own look?
JF: Most of what I make aligns with my own style. But I like to test myself with it. I feel more confident wearing stuff that I made because it’s original, it’s one of a kind. It has empowered me to try new things with my style. Custom orders help me venture a little further too, because people come to me with new things that I wouldn’t have thought of. It challenges me both in sewing and in fashion, which is really cool.
CN: Is this something you’d like to turn into an actual business someday? Or is it more of a hobby?
JF: People keep asking me that, and honestly I never thought of it as being something I’d do outside of a hobby, but that could change. I’m passionate about law and government too so I don’t know how I’d reconcile those two passions. But who knows what the future may hold.
CN: Is there anything else you’d want people to know about your clothing?
JF: It’s extremely important to me that my brand is inclusive, so I try to have diversity in my models, advertising, and my sizes. And even though I may label something as a women’s small or a men’s medium for reference, I believe all clothing is genderless. I want all people to feel comfortable in my clothing. As I expand I’ll definitely be more size inclusive too, because I’m a size small, so a lot of what I’ve made so far has been a small, but I plan to branch out more soon.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s next from this budding young entrepreneur. And regardless of what she does with her clothing line or her passion for government, she could clearly pursue a career in modeling. She’s a true triple threat.