Designer Helena Steele conceived of her line, Jessie Steele, while on a plane high above the Pacific Ocean. It was late September 2001, and she was returning home with more vintage aprons for her collection. A visionary, Helena had an epiphany on that flight and realized it was time to keep the promise she made to her children whenever they cooked together for the holidays; she would bring back the once- loved hostess apron.
Drawing on cocktail napkins, (she still has them) Steele started sketching designs on the plane and laying out the groundwork to launch this rarest of things: a niche market product! With her experience displaying at trade shows, merchandising, design and sewing, Helena realized that a fast branding start would mean everything in capturing this new market. She would need a partner. Steele pitched the idea to her daughter, and Claire, an avid entertainer with a love of the mid 20th Century, was sold.
Helena worked at her design firm, Golden Gate Kitchens, while nights and weekends were spent developing cuts and sewing samples of the new brand. In September 2003 Jessie Steele was officially launched at its first gift show in Atlanta. The Jessie Steele line has a cross-generational appeal that evokes designs from the past with an updated edge.
As time went on Helena and Claire began developing their own distinctive prints, and the Jessie Steele look was born. Jessie Steele Inc. continues to be family owned. Carried by over 3,000 stores in more than 30 countries, the Steele's designs have been featured in national magazines from Better Homes and Gardens to Vogue, and worn by such stars as Marcia Cross, Jennifer Aniston, Kristin Davis, and the beloved Betty White.
The line was named after Helena's beloved Grandmother Jessie. Known to all as "Mum", Jessie invariably had fresh baked treats she would serve to her grandchildren with a pot of tea. And yes, she always wore an apron.
Helena still maintains her nationally published design firm, Golden Gate Kitchens, in Los Altos California (goldengatekitchens.com) Her focus for Jessie Steele continues to be on design, and expanding the Jessie Steele LifeStyle Brand into new areas.
Claire Steele is the daughter in the creative mother/daughter team behind Jessie Steele. Her six years as a fashion and fit model in San Francisco nurtured her natural affinity for style and clothing, and gave her invaluable experience in the business of fashion. She later worked at an investor relations firm as a junior executive in media relations, and then went on to a job in promotions and marketing in the music industry.
All of these skills would be called into play when Claire's mother, Helena, approached her with the idea of manufacturing a line of vintage aprons. Claire immediately recognized that this would be an incredible opportunity to become involved in an imaginative project that would not only make use of her love and knowledge of fashion but also of her marketing and public relations abilities. Naturally, she jumped at the chance. Relishing the creative freedom of starting her own company, Claire was eager to start turning the inspiration from Helena's collection of 20th Century vintage aprons into a vital, growing business. Together the two women began researching patterns, fabrics, and the lifestyle needs of today's modern women.
Claire's imprint on the Jessie Steele line of fine hostess aprons can be seen everywhere as she is responsible for overseeing all business operations. She also directs the creative side of the business; Claire works closely with her team on all print design and styles for the Jessie Steele product line. It is this strong combination of both business savvy and creative imagination that has been Claire's greatest contribution to Jessie Steele. She is the link between yesterday's fashion and today's stylishly liberated woman. Her vision helps make Jessie Steele vintage aprons beautiful, practical and fun.