When asked ‘who are you?’ Jessica Couch says that is something she’s still pondering. “I would say that I’m a woman who is learning about herself, and learning her place in the world, and trying to understand her purpose in life,” Couch explained. “I feel like I embody a lot of different things for other people and I too, am wondering, outside of those things, who am I?” But when it comes to her career, Couch is a founder, consultant, and entrepreneur.
There’s more to the fashion industry than jobs in designing or styling. Like any other sector, fashion is a business so there’s a space and a job for everyone. That includes a person who loves math, a person who solely loves to shop or a business-minded individual.
The word “everyone” doesn’t just refer to those who have different interests or job titles, but also those of a different race or gender. We’ve decided to highlight how diverse the fashion industry is, could be, and should be with a series of stories on Black professionals with not-so-average fashion careers.
How did you get to work in fashion?
“I believe that I have developed a love for fashion, because it was the only way I could express myself in school. It was an extension of my personality, when I couldn't find the words to do it, or when there was no time to make a first impression by having an elevator pitch, what I wore really mattered to me,” said Couch.
In 2010, she graduated from North Carolina State Wilson College of Textiles with a bachelor's degree in fashion development product management. After graduation Couch took a trip to Egypt where she says she learned the true meaning behind womanhood.
“A dichotomy of existing as a woman and how Muslim women would be fully covered, but they would be so adorned that you could tell that they were happy with being covered,” Couch explained. “And then in the US you have women that protest topless, and demand that they get respect. And so existing as a woman, and having that dichotomy of thought really pushed me to open my first store because I wanted to represent both sides with the products that we sold.”
As a result, in 2011 Couch opened her store Luxor and Finch. Doing so led her to realize that she did not have the tools or the technology to design in the way she wished. Couch then started to ask herself how technology could create a better experience for her business. With the question of how to create a better experience, she decided to close her store and become an intern in 2013 and 2014 for Tracy Reese as well as CLM Agency.
“I was trying to figure out where tech would integrate first. Would it be on that design side or on that of the stylists? Ironically. It was both,” said Couch. Couch then decided to go to Cornell University to get her masters degree in professional studies in 2015. “That really changed the course of how I was going to approach the fashion tech side of the industry,” she said.
After graduation Couch wanted to test the methodology she developed in graduate school to see if it was applicable to the fashion and beauty industries. Therefore, in 2019 she launched her business Fayette Road where she was able to build a community of over five thousand people by hosting brunches, providing jobs, and providing more tech-related consulting opportunities. “But we just recently dissolved that because I’m looking to focus more on fashion and luxury,” Couch explained.
What’s your current fashion job?
“I call myself a consultant right now,” said Couch. In addition to being a fashion tech consultant, Couch is working on building a platform called Looks AI - a peer to peer fashion discovery platform that allows anyone with any body type to become an immediate influencer.
“So if you wanted to make a profile of the things that you wore over the last ten days, you can tag those items, you can give some information about how they fit, and you can post that on your profile,” Couch explained. “As people who are built like you and have your similar style interact with those items, if they buy it, you get paid - one to one monetization.” Couch added that this platform was built to give people who are real style influencers the recognition they deserve.
What does an average work day look like?
When Couch wakes up at 6am, she makes her way to a workout session first. Due to her dedicating her Google alerts to the keywords in the fashion tech industry, another part of her morning routine is reading. She also writes in the morning to submit articles to different publications. And she writes a newsletter she posts on Linkedin.
At this moment Couch is working with a particular company, she is not at liberty to mention, helping with restructuring their business. So an average workday for her as a team member is making sure that everything is in order, and developing new operations manuals.
Additionally, when it comes to Looks AI, she’s in numerous meetings with different teams to build the platform. “I try to save some time for personal projects, the customer I’m working with, and goals that I have to meet,” Couch said. “So right now, it’s just always on go,”
A word of career advice
“Don’t be afraid of the term tech,” she said. “Because a lot of people hear technology and they’re like ‘oh, I can’t do this’.” Couch continued, “I think anybody wanting to get into this industry should definitely identify the problem they want to solve and work backwards from there. Because there’s so many different types of technologies and types of innovation, and if you make it personal to a problem that you want to solve you can have a better chance at finding your niche.”