Born: Jane Barnes in Phoenix, Maryland, 4 March 1954. Education: Graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1975. Family: Married Howard Ralph Feinberg, 1981 (divorced); married Katsuhiko Kawasaki, 1988. Career: Menswear company established as Jhane Barnes Ltd., 1977; president, Jane Barnes for ME, New York 1976-78, and Jhane Barnes Inc., from 1978; introduced women's collection, 1979; launched neckwear line, 1989; began designing home furnishing fabrics, 1989; footwear collection created, 1991; clothing licensed by American Fashion Company (San Diego, CA), from 1990; listed among the Who's Who in America, 1992; leatherwear licensed by Group Five Leather, (Minneapolis, MN), from 1994; launched first furniture collection for Bernhardt, 1995; created Jhane Barnes Textiles as a collaboration between Jhane Barnes, Inc. and Bernhardt Furniture Company, 1998; designed Orlando Magic basketball uniforms, 1998; opened second freestanding store, 1998; third store, 1999; fourth store, 2000; began formal alliance with furniture designer Herman Miller, June 2000. Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics award for Menswear 1980; Cutty Sark Most Prominent Designer award, 1980; Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Outstanding Menswear Designer, 1981; Cutty Sark Outstanding Designer award 1982; Coty Return Menswear award, 1984; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1981, 1984; Contract Textile award, American Society of Interior Designers 1983, 1984; Product Design award, Institute of Business Designers, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989; American Association of Industrial Designers for Textile Collection, Gold award, 1990; Woolmark award, 1991; Resource Council Gold award, 1994; Best of NeoCon (National Exhibition of Contract Furniture) award, 1995, 1996; Good Design award, 1996; Neckwear Achievement award from the Neckwear Association of America, 1997; DuPont Antron Product Innovation award, First Place, 1998; Best of NeoCon award, 1998, 1999; Gold award for Textiles, 1999; Most Innovative award, 1999; Chicago Anthaneum Good Design award, Best of NeoCon award, 2000. Address: 575 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA. Website: www.jhanebarnes.com .
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While trekking through the southwestern U.S., one might encounter increasingly intricate patterns within the simplicity of the unaffected surroundings. A convoluted pattern found on a leaf, perhaps, or the dewy complexities of a spider's web found in the early morn. Perhaps the sharp contrast of a red mountaintop against the azure sky, or the ripplings of a stone tossed into a puddle. Wherever we may find beauty in our natural world, Jhane Barnes strives and succeeds to assimilate the same into her concurrent design work. Her propensity towards nature is evident from her intricately patterned ties to a subtle environmentalist stand evident in minimal packaging and recycling-themed weekend wear.
While still in school, Jhane (then minus the "h") Barnes had thought to turn her talents toward the worlds of science or music. Realizing her talents didn't necessarily lie in those specialties, she set off for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Fortuitously for the design world, Jhane landed her first big job in 1979, when a pair of trousers designed for a friend sparked the interest of an area retail executive to the tune of a $1,000-pair order. This charmed event triggered her formal debut into the world of retail fashion. No longer a plain Jane (she added the "h" to her name at the suggestion of an earlier partner), the transformation helped broaden her appeal and menswear marketability.
Work that started on a handloom during her early design years accelerated when Barnes discovered the mathematical design capabilities of the computer. With her computer, she has redefined the fashion textile, causing her already complex fabric design to explode within the boundaries of her own creative possibilities in revolutionary fabric design intricacies. Her use of the computer is so extensive in her design work that it has caught the attention of the mathematical world. Barnes was featured in a chapter of a McDougal Littell textbook entitled Algebra II: Explorations and Applications, in a section entitled "Sequences and Series: Fractals for Fashions." Barnes also is part of the Ohio Math Works, which prepares ninth-grade math students for the real world job application of their math studies.
The Jhane Barnes Menswear line is comfortable yet classy, with an eye towards the somewhat larger-framed physique. Barnes told the Chicago Tribune, "I tend to design for men with generous thighs and behinds." Her renowned clothing line has had a bit of assistance through advertisements placed in women's magazines, a growing trend among menwear desginers, including Perry Ellis and Phillips-Van Heusen. Stylish women seek out equally sophisticated clothing for the men in their lives, and where better to advertise than in magazines written by and for women.
The unique look of Barnes' apparel appeals to a distinctive type of clientéle. Even Nokia's chief designer Frank Nuovo, who turned the cellular phone into a fashion statement, joined the ranks of her admiring patronage. According to Katie Hafner of the New York Times, Nuovo was wearing a Jhane Barnes silk shirt during a 1999 interview. Other celebrities spotted wearing Barnes designs include Magic Johnson, Tony Danza, Billy Joel and his band leader, Mark Rivera, and Don Johnson on his Nash Bridges television series. Gary Strauss, writing for USA Today in August 1999 reported, "Barnes' clothing isn't for the fashion-timid or fashion challenged. The typical Jhane Barnes aficionado is affluent, self-assured and, unlike most fashion impaired men, likes being noticed."
Reflected in her menswear as well as her innovative furniture, which was unveiled in 1995, Barnes shows a flair for striking yet classically composed appearance in her design. Her furniture line has a clearly defined Japanese influence, and as Barnes told the Chicago Tribune 's Todd Savage in June 1995, "I've always loved Japanese architecture and been jealous that their traditional Japanese architecture is so modern. It's so much more modern and beautiful than even our Shaker. You can take an American antique, and it looks like an old antique out of another century, but you can take a Japanese antique and it looks timeless." A variety of elegantly simple chairs and sofas made their debut in her collection.
The timeless elegance observant in her work is an appealing factor indeed. Barnes works with natural colors, ranging from subtle to bold, and pairs it with arresting patterns. Bold stripes and computer-generated design are paired with the soft allure of natural color suited to a variety of preferences. The Chicago Tribune (August 9, 1998) commented that Barnes, "creates textiles that reflect the same quiet elegance as her clothing lines, but are practical for panels, walls, upholstery and drapery. She does them in slightly different colors to suit regional tastes." Barnes further explained, "New Yorkers like darker colors, Chicagoans more pattern, and those in Los Angeles want things lighter, brighter, and in larger patterns."
The design work of Barnes has become a fashion statement that will hold allure for many years to come. Her natural and ageless design approach has lent her exertions a classic tone with an architecturally digital feel. While she may not gain the appreciation of the masses, her unique combinations have done well and should continue to attract many loyal clients down the road. With such an innovative approach to textile design, the richness of Japanese architecture and Mother Nature for inspiration, one can only marvel at what the next Jhane Barnes design will reveal.