I’m Christina Jean, I have always loved my first and middle name together, guess that's basically why I named my company Christina Jean Designs. It's also fitting in that I make denim bags from upcycled jeans. Yes, I turn unwanted jeans into cute bags with fun and whimsical patterns on the inside.
I have sewn since I was 8 and have been an aspiring entrepreneur since about the same time. My Dad and Mom ran their own business and I liked the freedom it gave my parents but also the fulfillment it gave to them. My Mom was able to stay at home with her kids and help out with all our activities which was her passion and my Dad was able to design and build homes which was his. I wanted that freedom too.
I decided I was going to be a Fashion Designer in Paris and own my own boutique when other kids were going to be teachers and doctors. Honestly I can't remember how I even realized a Fashion Designer was a job or where Paris even was but somehow your childhood self has its ways. My Mom grew up sewing all her own clothes so she was my teacher when I was little. She also learned along with me when I wanted to design and make my own prom dress for my Senior Project, we had quite the time, but I won best dressed and looked amazing and totally unique which I would say meant my dress was a success.
I didn't go to Fashion Design school when I graduated only because I was from a very small town and my parents were worried to send me off to a big city all alone. So I went to Sonoma State figuring I could get a business degree which would help me run my boutique.
That did not last long, I am a creative at heart and found myself in many different classes such as singing, piano, and art. I also had always wanted to learn French so that was on my list of things to learn as well. If I was going to live in Paris I needed to speak French, right? It all made sense my plans were coming along nicely, until I walked into my first French lesson. I LOVED it. That is an understatement, I couldn't get enough of it. I excelled in my classes and couldn't wait for the next assignment and the next homework. I had heard about studying abroad when I was in high school and was immediately down the path of figuring out how to go to France and making darn sure I got into that program. When I came home Sophomore year for Christmas break I think I shocked my parents to their core announcing (unbeknownst to them) I was accepted into the program and would be living in France for the next school year. I was still their shy little girl and I myself at times could not believe I would do this.
So the next school year was spent in France having the most amazing time, getting the best French accent and traveling to places and seeing things I had only dreamed of. I was extremely lucky to have my families support and love.
I returned from that year and wanted all things French, even my major became French. I loved my schooling so much I'm surprised I didn't go on to be a professor but I still was creating on the side and working at a quilt shop so there was a constant reminder that my passion was more than just French. I still wanted to make things.
I ended up with a BA in French and a minor in Economics from Sonoma State and took the summer to hang out in Tahoe with my sister, work at a restaurant and get tan. This was quite a good decision because it gave me experience in the restaurant industry which was where I would work for the next few years In San Francisco, putting myself through Fashion Design School and earning my AA in both Fashion Design and Fashion Technology. I worked in French restaurants exclusively so I could still be close to French culture, food and people which I so dearly loved and still do.
Fashion Design school was my calling, nothing was work, I just wanted to sew and make patterns and design all day long. I finished and got an internship with Christopher Collins where I learned everything you need to know about designing for and running your own boutique. He was a startup then and I worked for knowledge. A few years into that internship he went on Project Runway (early season) and I went on to work for Athleta after a summer spent helping my Dad on our farm.
I grew up on a farm, a hay farm. There was not a day in my life I didn't see my parents working for what we had. We all helped out, when you have a farm everyone works doing something all the time. I like to cut hay the most although raking hay in the early crisp morning with that fresh dewy air was a close second. I love helping my parents and always have, I also love the farm so I didn't mind the work involved with keeping it. I helped my parents to stay out of foreclosure when the recession hit by bringing my Dads dream of selling hay to small pet owners online to life. I was the most tech savvy and like to learn new things so I set up a website, got a Facebook page (this is back in 2009) and learned some SEO and we slowly grew that business to six figures by 2017. We had a great product (hay grown in the Sierras) and great customer service (my Mom). It was a sweet gig and fun for me, I learned so much about online business and marketing. We had a very niche market so it was in some ways easier but our great product was what kept people coming back and telling their friends.
I went to Athleta as a Design intern and had a blast, I did so many random jobs I don't even know, but I got the idea in my head that a designer wasn't so much my calling (there were so many restrictions to what you could or couldn't design) but that I wanted to do the technical end of things, pattern making. I loved my pattern classes at school and always got the best compliments from my teachers when it came to pattern adjustments and creativity, so I thought yes! GAP had just bought Athleta and there was an opening for an assistant technical designer for baby GAP outlet. I applied and got the position and was off to San Francisco once again to pursue my fashion career. This job was invaluable, I learned so much about technical design, patterns, overseas communication I mean the list is endless. I also learned more about corporate companies and the BIG guys, so much that I knew it wasn't for me (at least not a full time position). From GAP I went to work for LUCY as a freelance technical designer and this was such a great decision. I had a great job with great ladies learning even more and I wasn't tied down to doing overtime for free or going to endless meetings or other corporate junk. I did love what I did and I loved working with the team we had so when a full time position opened up I took it. Mistake. I knew in my gut I shouldn't do it but it was one of those things I thought I should do so it did.
I quit a couple months later sick from stress. My husband and I has been trying to get pregnant as well and were not having any luck so I literally felt horrible inside and out. I left and went on to become a health coach for a while and get in great shape myself and find my creative passion again. My husband and I were also successful in getting pregnant and timing wise it worked out that I never went back to work after I left Lucy.
I had a difficult pregnancy and birth. We decided I was going to stay home with our baby boy for a while, at least a year and try to get my side hustle going. It was during this time I found Hand Lettering or Modern Calligraphy. I had always like traditional calligraphy and found this medium so much fun. It was also something quiet and soothing as we had a small apartment. I suffered from postpartum issues and actually still do, and hand lettering was a wonderful was to relax and be creative at the same time which soothed my soul. This was another one of those things I felt called to and wanted to dive head first into and learn all I could. I had also just attended PlannerCon 2017 and was so inspired by the women run, creative businesses that I learned about there that I finally got it in my head to start. Just start making and seeing where it lead me. I started prototyping my denim bags and was figuring out how I was going to combine my new love for hand lettering and my passion for sewing and creating things with my hands.
Wouldn't you know it my happy self found herself pregnant again and was hit even harder with "all day sickness" and already having a 1 year old and a household to look after, lots of my business ideas went on hold but I did continue to be creative, practice my hand lettering and learn. In January 2019 we had another baby and life was so full but I was determined this time to not let life and my chances slip by.
In March of 2019 I went to my second PlannerCon and this time I took some of my bags I had made, I got some great feedback on them so I decided this is it, I am starting a business. I started making bags in April, I registered my business in July and opened up my Etsy shop in September all during nap time and when my husband had time to watch the kids, when I wasn't breastfeeding. I can't believe I ever thought I was "busy" at any other time in my life. It's not work when its your passion and your family and I have been blessed to have the freedom to do what I am doing and hope I can be successful in my creative journey that is just starting.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate you, I believe in you. We can all do whatever we set our mind to and be creative.
Love and laughs,