Jaclyn Robichaud Doyle, the woman behind Jack Attackk Clothing, is not only an incredibly skilled designer and seamstress, but a lovely person to work with. On top of being passionate about her work, she’s especially driven to provide styles to both straight size and plus size people, producing garments in a full range of XS - 5XL. I can tell you as a small business owner myself that this is very, very hard to do.
This summer, when I was looking for an opportunity to develop my technical sewing skills further so I could start developing more complex designs for Trued Apparel, Jacki also happened to be looking for a studio assistant. We spent several months working together in her studio in Lowell, MA. After seeing her in action working on new custom designs, and seeing how dedicated she is to bringing that moment of joy to her clients—when they try on their bespoke garment for the first time—I wanted Trued followers to know her story too. Jacki has kindly written some words about her journey as a creative and small business owner below.
"I’ve always known what I wanted to do for a living. As a kid, I told people I wanted to be a “dressmaker”. My family thought this was odd, because nobody I knew sewed. In fact, my mom hated sewing! She couldn’t believe that even after watching her struggle in front of our sewing machine for years, that I would decide to take up the hobby on my own. I taught myself to use our 1994 Singer home-sewer when I was 18, and by 2014 had gotten my degree from MassArt for Fashion Design.
In hindsight, starting my own business was a huge risk. I had no formal training in how to run a company, I was just doing what I was driven to do. It honestly barely occurred to me that I might fail. I knew that I didn’t want to design pieces within a larger business or fashion house for another person to put their name on. More than that, I hated a lot about the way the fashion industry traditionally operated. And I had just enough audacity to think I might be able to change it, even if only in my little corner of the world. Fast forward to now, over 8 years in, and I’m happy to report that I’m still growing and learning, and most importantly, still changing my little corner of the fashion industry.
Inclusivity has always been tantamount to me. I started dabbling in fashion (i.e. cutting up my clothes and sewing them back together by hand in high school) because I didn’t see myself or my aesthetic represented in the industry. The only prominent designers that I resonated with, after doing some research, were Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and Betsey Johnson, all of which were woefully out of reach for a 16 year old whose part-time job barely paid enough to put gas in her car. When I started designing clothes, I was designing them for myself and my friends. All of us were beautiful in our diversity, and I’ve held onto that idea of beauty in diversity throughout my career.
When I was in the process of getting my BFA, I was commuting to MassArt from North Billerica, and had set up a mini studio in my basement. From that basement studio, I started taking clients to help pay for my projects and supplies. This really helped me build a client base, and I started getting referrals through word of mouth while I was still in school. As a junior in college, I was already designing for a wide variety of body types. This foundation in designing for the range of bodies that exist within the world, not just in the pages of fashion magazines, was incredibly important when it came to officially launching my brand. I had no idea at the time how impactful this would be.
After graduating, I opened my first studio in Lowell, MA. Over the next 5 years, my business grew exponentially, taking on more and more clients. I’ve had the honor of working with a host of absolutely incredible human beings, and I learned new skills and lessons from each piece I made. Every person whose face lit up as they looked in the mirror with their new custom garment on for the first time stoked the fire in me. I wanted to give that feeling to as many people as possible, especially to those people who don’t often have that experience when buying clothes.
Four and a half years in, I was over the moon. It looked like I was going to be able to start hiring employees and expand my business. I started looking for a new space that could accommodate a larger work area and host more foot traffic. I was making moves! This was January of 2020, just before the pandemic hit.
Just 2 months later, all of my jobs had either been postponed or canceled. I was working from home (aka living at work) — talk about a “plot twist”. Staying motivated and inspired was nearly impossible. By May, just after celebrating my five-year anniversary of being in business, I made the difficult decision to close my studio. I moved what I could fit into the eight-by-nine-foot spare bedroom in my house, and tried to push through my grief to come up with a plan in this very unpredictable pandemic world.
I had to pivot my business model, and do it quickly, if JAC (Jack Attackk Clothing) was going to survive. I found some websites that drop shippers used with “made on demand” business models, and it was the game changer I was looking for.
Thankfully, I was able to find one that offered pieces in plus sizes so I could expand the casual side of my brand beyond t-shirts into simple streetwear garments in a full range of sizes. This approach also allowed me to produce pieces with original textile prints that I had designed myself, one piece at a time.
Once I felt like this strategy had put me back on stable footing, I started researching factory production, and made a list of certifications that were must-haves in order for me to work with a company, including requirements for ethical and eco-conscious business practices. I also needed them to be able to work with my full size chart, which was a challenge. Many companies aren’t willing to create pieces above a 3XL. Since producing up to a 5XL was non-negotiable for me, I had a few companies decline to partner with me. Slowly but surely, I found two companies that fit the bill, and after a lot of back and forth, sleepless nights, and sunken costs, I had my very first batch of size inclusive styles to sell through my site and wholesale to other boutiques. Now that I’m three years into this process, I have a few partner stores that I love working with, and a small group of manufacturers that I trust.
Since we’ve been able to shop in person again, I’m reminded even more often of the reasons why I do what I do. Plus size customers are overjoyed that I carry garments not only in their sizes, but in the same selection, and at the same price, as the straight sizes. Every time I see that reaction, it stokes that fire in me again that makes me want to provide this inclusive and equitable experience.
In August of 2021, I was able to move into my current studio and start accepting clients again. The months that I spent sitting on my couch negotiating factory contracts feels like an eternity ago. The last three years threw obstacles at me that I never thought I’d have to face as a business owner, but even when almost everything was taken away, my drive to create pieces that made people feel seen never left. I know how important it is to see yourself represented, and that will never stop driving me forward."