Fashion can be defined as the next thing trending, something that constantly changes and transforms. Yet, style stems from individuality—it is the only thing that lasts through different fads and crazes. It will continue to remain when the next big thing dies down; it is everlasting, and it is here to stay. Anyone can recognize the fascination of fashion, but only a few are gifted with the eye and instinct for style.
Jessica Rich, a once bright-eyed teenager that looked at her mother’s closet in awe, has blossomed into a powerful business owner and designer that keeps her head high and her heels higher. The former TV personality, who appeared on VH1’s “Real Chance of Love”, shoe designer, celebrity stylist, and fashionista took a passion of her own and turned it into a purpose. Now, she thrives in the success of taking a risk and has worked with celebrities such as the Kardashian family, Cardi B, Blac Chyna, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Hudson, Lala Anthony, Kesha, Tamar Braxton, and more. This self-taught fashion designer has been featured in Vogue, Footwear News, People, InStyle, and US Weekly just to name a few.
Rich released her online shoe store in 2017 and debuted her affordable line of shoes, “Transparent”, that have had both celebrities and social media in a craze ever since. Every artists’ work reflects themselves, and this is no different from Jessica’s designs. Each shoe is daring, sexy, and sophisticated—with the end goal of being able to be paired with anything. In this BAUCE interview, Jessica shares why it’s important to chase your dreams and never give up on yourself.
How did you get your start in fashion and what inspired you to want to work in fashion?
Jessica: In 2009, I was in reality tv, that was my start in the entertainment industry. During that time, I tried to showcase who I was and that I was more than just someone on reality tv but it didn’t go as planned. I’ve always loved fashion and it’s always been a huge part of my life — I got that from my mother. I got the idea of starting my own brand from my ex-boyfriend actually because he knew I loved fashion and I used to work in fashion PR. He inspired me to do it and I leveraged my relationships to make it successful.
How does it feel to make a shift from in front of the screen as a personality to sometimes being behind the screen as a fashion stylist?
Jessica: It was definitely a big transition because it wasn’t something I planned on doing — it was random. I knew I wanted to work in fashion, but I didn’t know what. So, it was kind of trial-and-error along with using my connections and figuring out the best way to leverage all of them.
How did you leverage your reality TV opportunity to grow your shoe brand? How did you get celebrities to start wearing your shoes?
Jessica: After a show, you become a known [person in the industry] and you network. After that, the followers came in, and I started going to parties with different celebrities, and I walked on red carpets. I made it my goal to network and get someone’s name and contact information at each event. What I did when I launched my fashion brand was I took on PR and marketing [gigs] through the new contacts I was building. I used kept up [with them] and promoted other people’s brand and I got paid for that. After doing PR for different brands, I just kept in touch with them so I could reach back out to them to promote my brand.
Smart tactic, sis! Who was the first celebrity to wear your shoe?
Jessica: Oh yes! Kim Kardashian.
As creatives, releasing projects can be a sensitive process that involves getting over fear and hesitation. Were you ever hesitant to release your shoe line in fear of how it would do or if it was ready to share with the world?
Jessica: Oh, most definitely. I personally felt that when the first shoe that I came out with, the Fancy Stilleto with the clear pump, was a much-needed shoe. Transparent [shoes] were becoming a major “thing”. When I had the idea, I knew I wanted to do it; but I also thought that they were going to think that “why is she going from clothes to shoes—why is she trying so hard?” Yet, I just wanted to do something different. I’m still stressed out by my next collection coming out now—I’m changing designs every other day because I’m not really confident about what’s going on. I’m stepping out of the clear lane so doing that is a little scary. But that idea, doing what scares me, is kind of what launched my brand.
Is it expensive to run a shoe business? What was your first investment into your company?
Jessica: People thought I just started the company with just a million-dollars when I really began with just four designs and one sample. I used that one sample to market to influencers, and then the money started to come in. It is expensive now because I have all these different styles that I have to keep in stock. Everything is always sold out and it’s a demand that is pretty high to this day. It’s just a constant supply for my customers. It definitely makes good money, so I’m not complaining about it.
People also think that once you start, it gets easier. In reality, it gets harder because you have to sustain a brand and supply your customers with what they want. Now that I have all of this attention, it’s just a lot of stress to keep it going.
How does it feel to go from being “Best Dressed” in high school to having celebrities such as Jenifer Lopez, Blac Chyna, Kim Kardashian, Lala Anthony, Jennifer Hudson and more wearing your shoes?
Jessica: It still doesn’t fit in my brain! Every day I wake up and I’m like “wow.” It’s surreal almost to a point where I feel like I’m dreaming about it. It is crazy; I’ll go places like and people know me by name now. I never thought it would be like that, you know shoe designing, but I found my niche. I never wore anything but heels. People would be like, “why are you always wearing heels,” in high school. I’d be like “I’m a girly girl”, and I always wanted to feel hot and cute. I didn’t feel like that in flats because I’m short, so I thought everything was better with high heels. It’s just kind of funny how everything comes to fruition later on in life.
What are some wise words you would leave with someone who was your age in high school, pursuing a passion for fashion?
Jessica: I would say, personally, to not get so hung up on college. I knew for sure that college was not for me and that there was another calling on my life. I mean, I was street smart and a hustler. I just want to let people know that there is so much more that you can do outside of college. At the end of the day, I wasn’t using the things I learned in high school and realized that college was not the only way to explore my entrepreneurial journey.
I was bullied badly in high school, often being called the “oreo girl,” or the “black girl who talks white,” and had a hard time accepting who I was. I came off very direct, and people can allude that to being a bitch—but in reality, I just know what I want. Don’t be afraid to be you and just run with it. You have to be able to tell yourself apart from everybody else, so don’t try to blend in.
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