Jessica Luosta began her working life as a model, shooting campaigns for major brands like Louis Vuitton and Comme de Garcons, but at 26 her attention has turned to her own designs.
She started producing art from the age of just six, painting bold colours onto paper to express childhood emotions. Growing up in Amsterdam, she enjoyed painting the changing seasons with her mother.
Since then she has travelled the world with her modelling career but finally settled in Lower Clapton, Hackney where she has now lived for 6 years.
Her sudden urge to move somewhere new and stay there came from her lust to create her own designs and make it a business. She told ELL: “Hackney felt like home more than anywhere I have been before. The art scene is so vibrant and inspiring. I knew straight away that this would be the best place to start my own business because there were so many amazing like-minded individuals to learn from.”
Although Jessica is admired in her photographs for her long limbs and fiery hair, it hasn’t always been this way. She told ELL: “I used to be bullied for being different, being bold and being ginger. Instead of letting it beat down my confidence however, I used it to fuel my ambition. That’s when I embraced my hair colour and tall frame for being unique but also beautiful.”
Once settled in a house of four, two photographers and one other model, Jessica began producing her artwork experimentally, under the Instagram page @Illustratedbyjessica. It was through social media that her designs really started to get noticed. She was approached by local residents of Hackney within the first three months of advertising her work on Instagram and now regularly sells prints of her original work, Since doing this, she has gone on to start designing her own clothing line ‘Fastlane’ which features her artwork printed onto clothing.
Jessica explained how important social media has been in starting her own venture ventures: “Everyone complains about the negative effects social media can have on body image and self-worth, but from my experience it is no more than an excellent promotional tool for business. I use it to promote myself as a model on one page and my artist on another. If it weren’t for Instagram it would be so much harder to get a wide reach when it comes to advertising, unless you have a lot of spare cash to spend on magazine or website adverts.”
She told us that she started her ‘Illustrated by Jessica’ business with no external funding whatsoever and “literally rose it from the dead.” She did not let money become a barrier though and worked hard on getting her social media engaging enough to attract the attention she needed with 10,200 followers,
Jessica’s modelling page is where it started and has set her up for success with her design page too. She also thanks her mindset for the good fortune she has had so far, saying that it was not until she valued her own work enough to post it online, that she could receive positive interest from others.
She hopes other young entrepeneurs follow her footsteps in this way: “Social media needs to be celebrated but tamed. A lot of my self-preservation and protection from the negatives of social media comes from the way I engage with it. I do not post anything greatly personal, nor do I over-share, instead I use it on a purely professional basis.”
For anyone looking to start their own business venture, surrounding yourself with positive people and making encouraging friendships is essential, according to Jessica. She used her modelling social media presence and collaborating photographers to drive traffic to her lastest branch of Illustratedbyjessica called ‘Fastlane.’
Fastlane is a clothing label designed for those who are bold enough to wear their inner fire, literally, on their sleeves. So far, she has created a bespoke T-shirt which features one of her illustrations on the back as well as Fastlane branded flame socks. She said: “I wanted to create something that reflected my personality: bright, feisty and a little bit hectic. I hope that Fastlane wearers feel a sense of this when they put the clothing on, empowering them to embrace that inner fire and chase their goals and aspirations.”
The design process hasn’t been totally streamlined, though, Jessica had to send several products back and forth to the factory in order to get the colours and quality just right: “The first copy was awful. The fabric was thin, the colours were dull, it was just so sad to see my work look so limp and lifeless.”
Once she had sent back prototypes around eight times, she finally saw the vision she had originally set out to create coming into reach.
Jessica explained that this is what makes a brand successful: “It’s so much more than how creatively gifted you are. You have to be resilient in order to be brilliant. That is my top advice to anyone looking to start their own label. You must not give up. You may have to compromise on some things but don’t lose sight of what you set out to achieve. I had to pay a little more for better quality clothing but it was so worth it in the end and now I’m looking to sell to small boutiques across London.”
Jessica has set the aims high for Fastlane and hopes to be in stores by the end of the year, with a bustling online market too. If there’s one thing to learn from this Hackney flame; believe in what you’re doing and don’t let doubt hold you back from getting to the top. Fastlane is currently only available through their website but watch this space as the fire starts to spread.