“Creating and designing for me is like breathing.”
A gentle spirit, a man of class, and a man of distinction. His name is Jahi Fitzgerald. His passion is to help people find clothing that will make them feel like the best version of themselves. Jahi is a man who knows that what you wear has a real and tangible effect on your confidence.
His brand’s signature approach is to bring you clothing that feels modern and personal, with an emphasis on quality.
GJ: Tell me about Jahi Fitzgerald. Who are you?
JF: I’m a creative guy and I’ve always loved fashion and creativity. I’ll start there; I love anything that is creative or artistic. I get excited watching people create things and fashion was my thing. I grew up with three sisters, and three brothers, but my sisters were always the fashionable ones and my mom was also into clothes. Watching my dad and uncles dress back in the day, reminded me of the movies we would watch from the 1940’s era. That’s always been my thing. I love the 1940’s. Growing up, I wasn’t a big sports guy, but I played here and there. But I’ve always been drawn to clothes and style. I am a creative guy. I’ve realized within the last ten years or so that creating and designing for me is like breathing. I can go all day and not eat when I’m creating something.
GJ: Where are you from Jahi?
JF: I am from Toledo, Ohio
GJ: What year did EVOLI, your brand, become official?
JF: Conceptually in 2005, theoretically in 2008, and officially in 2017.
GJ: How did you start designing? What was the catalyst behind your decision to design clothes?
JF: In grade school I used to sketch a lot. As I got older and started working, I would sit at my desk and watch the ladies walk by and notice how their clothes moved. I’d find myself sketching the skirt, or the pants and the shoes they had on. I’ve always liked the way a woman’s legs looked in high heels. At that point, I didn’t realize that I wanted to design but I knew I liked the way a woman looked when she was dressed up. I remember one day at work a lady saw me sketching and she grabbed my sketchpad. She asked me if it was really my work. After looking through my sketches and seeing two designs she liked, she asked me how much it would be for them. She wrote a check for the designs and it was then that I knew this is what I wanted to do. I found myself sketching all the time and I decided to go to school.
GJ: Where did the name EVOLI come from?
JF: I get emotional about this, so give me a minute. I wanted my brand to be substantial. I did not want it to be gimmicky nor fleeting. I wanted it to be something significant and from my heart. I lost one of my sisters back in 2008 and she was my heart. I have three other sisters, but she was very special to me. I wanted something to honor her, but I also didn’t want to leave out anyone else. I think about things in a multifaceted way. When I started thinking about the name, I sat down and started writing my ideas down. I wrote “I Love Fashion”, “I Love Fashion” repeatedly. Almost like in school when you’re in detention. At one point I wrote the words “I Love”. I held the paper up to the mirror and looked closer and noticed it read EVOLI! Which is “I Love” backwards. Then I noticed the initials of my sisters and my mom; Evelyn, Vivian, Olivia, Lillie and Ida. That is where and how the name EVOLI came about.
GJ: There are designers everywhere. What in your opinion makes a great designer?
JF: One who is constantly evolving, not in the sense of trending, but being able to use the aesthetic and make it modern and fit with what is happening around them. At the same time keeping the integrity of their brand.
GJ: What has been a major highlight in your career? I am sure that there have been many, but what is that one highlight that stands out from the rest?
JF: To be chosen to participate in New York Fashion Week. That was big for me. To be a new designer and to be put on stage during an iconic time, meant a lot for me.
GJ: How did being chosen for New York Fashion Week happen?
JF: I had someone contact me and mention to me about doing New York Fashion Week. I had just started as a designer and I didn’t think I was ready. There was a show, EMERGE Fashion Show and I received some information to contact Dionne Williams of D. Williams Public Relations out of Chicago. I spoke with her and she liked my designs. Over time, she emailed me and informed me that I’d been chosen to participate in the show.
GJ: How have you seen yourself evolve as a designer?
JF: Unfortunately, for financial reasons I couldn’t finish school. It got too expensive. It was devastating for me. I kept sketching. I would put them away and someone would see my designs and get excited and then I’d get excited and start sketching again. About eight years ago, I had a life or death situation and almost died from pneumonia. As I laid in the hospital, I started asking myself some important questions. While there, I had a dream, the entire dream was about breathing. The day I left the hospital, I had the opportunity to breathe again and in different ways. A friend suggested to me while visiting that I should start sewing. I responded to him saying, “I don’t know how to sew”! He continued to check on me and sent me a sewing machine. I sat in front of that machine for about a month before I touched it. I eventually did and started sewing. I literally learned my craft as I continued to sew. I still need to take classes, but I learn more every time I make a garment.
GJ: Every successful person has had failure happen. Tell me about a time when you failed at something and what lesson was learned.
JF: I can say that moment is now. I don’t want to say that I have failed. I can say that I’m not where I want to be. I haven’t gotten the support I would’ve liked, and I’ve learned that I’ve got to do things differently this time around.
GJ: If you could design for one person in the world today, who would that be and why?
JF: I would love to design for Kelly Rowland. To me her look is classic. She gives me a 1940’s vibe. Also, I would like to design for Tilda Swinton. She brings everything she wears to life.
GJ: What drives you Jahi on a bad day to follow your passion for design?
JF: Sewing. When I’m down, I sit in front of my sewing machine with some fabric and start sewing. By the time I’m done, it brings me back to a place when I say to myself, “Yes I’m actually good at this.”
GJ: What is next for Jahi Fitzgerald? What do you see in the future?
JF: I see a great list of clients. I would like a showroom. I see myself doing housewares and interior design. I’ve done some interior designing and home staging as well. I also studied Architecture Drafting and Design in high school. As I said before, I love creativity and I like to see a room become something that it wasn’t before. I like to see that transformation. I see a whole brand family for myself.
GJ: What would you say to an aspiring designer who may have doubts about their craft or skills to encourage them?
JF: You will have days that you doubt. When you start to doubt, find that one thing that you like to do and do it! Keep going and never give up. To be honest, I need to keep reminding myself of that very thing.
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