The Interview — Jennifer Kassell, Owner of Understated Leather
Jennifer Kassell is an Australian born self-made woman and entrepreneur. She is the owner of Texas-based leather contemporary apparel brand, Understated Leather.
At the age of 19, Kassell began her career as the youngest fashion director/buyer for Australia’s then largest e-commerce fashion website. She was considered a global brand expert driving important operations to the USA. Her expertise in the industry led her to then represent MyCatwalk at all Australian Fashion events, appearances, and press junkets while managing the team and keeping the company ahead of the game. At the time of her departure, they were 5 times the size of their closest competitor.
Jennifer then ran a boutique fashion showroom in New York City, selling Australian brands in the US market and buying luxury US brands for the Australian market. Here she worked closely with US buyers and luxury brands until she was headhunted by a reputable Californian fashion house to be their first ever Fashion Director and relocated to LA.
While employed as Fashion Director in Los Angeles for Planet Blue, she traveled back to MBFWA as an international buyer in her hometown and was featured in one of Australia’s most popular newspapers as an influential woman to watch. She was employed to reshape the brand and make it more relevant and high fashion, where she worked alongside the owners and over 100 staff members, shooting editorials, managing all art direction, working with the buying team and acting as the face of the brand across all media platforms.
In 2014 she moved to Austin, Texas and started her own brand from the ground up, collaborating with huge US brands through her personal relationships including For Love And Lemons, before she launched her website and began immediately selling to Free People and Urban Outfitters. With Kassell’s industry experience and entrepreneurial mindset, she has grown Understated Leather into one of the most covetable leather good brands. The brand has been featured in global publications, such as Vogue Paris, Russh Magazine, WWD, US Weekly & Vogue.com while developing a cult celebrity following including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Bella Hadid, Rita Ora, January Jones, Kendall Jenner, and Erin Wasson to name a few.
The immense success of Understated Leather alongside Kassell’s creative and global vision for the brand has cemented her as a multi-faceted industry expert and female entrepreneur.
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How did Understated Leather get its start:
After living and working in Fashion between Sydney, New York, and Los Angeles, I finally settled in Austin to stop and re-evaluate my life and career path. From that reflection, Understated Leather was born—an unpretentious brand that fuses my Australian roots and new Texan lifestyle creating a refreshing and relatable Aussie-Americana vibe.
Biggest challenge you've faced in your career and how did you overcome this obstacle:
When I was younger and living in Australia, the company that I worked for nearly nine years was bought out, and I found myself without a job quite suddenly. Rather than get bitter with my new situation I decided to change my headspace and be grateful for the time that I had there and wish them luck and took it as an opportunity to move to New York—which I may never have done.
View Jennifer's Essentials
What do you love most about your work:
I love working for myself more than I expected to. Sure, it can be very stressful at times but at the end of the day, being in control of my daily focus and not having to answer to anyone or switch gears due to another person’s priorities is very refreshing after working for other people for so long.
One thing you wish you knew before launching your brand:
I wish had the confidence to start a business on my own even earlier.
Current Understated Leather must-have:
One piece of advice you would give your 18-year-old-self:
Don’t spend all your money on shoes, woman! My 18-year-old self was studying at University while working full time with a weekend job. I worked very hard to learn as much as I could in the Fashion Industry but mostly because I loved it so much. I am grateful to that dedication but I wish I spent a little less and saved a little more, it would have helped my past and future self out a lot more ;)
You decompress each day by:
I try to spend quality time with my family in the afternoon, attend a yoga class or go for a long walk. Having a laugh with a friend on the phone also really works to relax me.
Share your biggest guilty pleasure:
Chocolate pudding. I know right, am I 5? So uncool but also so real.
What’s the most exciting thing in your life right now:
Watching my baby grow into a person with a hilarious little personality.