Juantiesha Christian is a self-taught fashion designer. She does not have traditional training. She did not take any classes, and she does not hold a fashion degree. She learned her craft by feeling textiles and examining the stitching on clothes in her closet and in stores.
The realization of her dream to become a fashion designer was based on a feeling.
The feeling started when she was in college making costumes for her sorority pageant at Northwest Missouri State University. In 2009, she showed her first collection at Omaha Fashion Week.
After her collection walked the runway, a woman found Christian backstage and insisted on taking home the green mohair coat Christian designed. The prospective client offered her $400 to sell it.
Seeing people’s reactions coupled with the woman wanting to buy one of her designs gave Christian a new confidence. This was the moment she knew she was ready to go into the fashion industry.
Local artist Nate Gurnon is a family friend of Christian’s whose artwork was incorporated into some of her designs last season.
“I’ve know Tiesha for a long time,” he says. “I’m truly impressed with her skill, style, dedication, and willingness to push the boundaries—including my prints from Satisfaction Not Guaranteed, which are a little out of the ordinary.”
Just as she learned to design by feeling, Christian still lets the fabric lead her when selecting materials for her collections. She doesn’t sketch. Instead, when she walks into a fabric store, she touches the different fabrics and lets the inspiration take her from there.
Christian’s designs show the history of her growth as a designer—from her very first collection, full of muted green and white dresses; to the later vibrant, Frida Kahlo- inspired clothing, bold and floral; to her most recent work, an interpretation of what Kahlo might have worn today. It is refined, more adult than earlier pieces, while still having that colorful, statement quality that distinguishes her design aesthetic.
Her ready-to-wear fashion label, SuShe by J. Tracey, is for women who want to stand out in a crowd.
The brand’s name references her middle name (Tracey) and her first experience with sushi. “It was beautiful and different to me, but I assumed I was not going to like it because it was not my food ‘style,’” she says of sushi. “Once I tried it, I fell in love with it, and it’s one of my favorite foods.”
Her mission for SuShe by J. Tracey is to create high-quality statement pieces that are affordable and that every woman will feel beautiful wearing.
“I would love for women with different styles and body types to have at least one statement piece of mine,” Christian says. “Whether they have more of a gothic style, or more of a preppy look, or a glam look. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, even if it’s not their everyday wardrobe.”
Christian currently resides in New York City while working full-time as a college academic adviser at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She spends the rest of her time designing new collections and creating custom orders. Her long-term goal is to design full time and eventually have her own store.
Gurnon has no doubt she’ll be able to achieve these goals.
“To make the move to New York from Omaha with a dream of fashion design is unheard of,” he says. “But she has a lot of support from her family and friends in Omaha. She works hard and it shows, her heart is in fashion.”
“I want to be remembered for being a very versatile designer and knowing that fashion can be affordable and that it can be enjoyed by everybody,” Christian says. “I know some people want to be known as the all-natural designer, the cruelty-free designer, the plus- size designer, and the vintage designer. I do a little bit of everything.”
Visit sushebyjtracey.com for more information.
This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.