A traumatic brain injury hasn’t stopped South Philly’s Jacqueline City from reaching for runway royalty.
Twenty-three-year old Philly fashion designer Jacqueline City never imagined she would be named one of New York Fashion Week’s “Ones to Watch,” or be invited to Paris Fashion Week. Fast-forward to summer 2020, and she’s making headlines – from “Dreamy” magazine to “British Vogue.” But first, it took clearing some major hurdles when it came to her health.
Six years ago, when she was only a teenager, City suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was hit in the head during a concert and her life changed forever. She was bedridden, unable to finish school at Drexel University and ultimately diagnosed with dysautonomia, an autonomic dysfunction of the brain that causes the central nervous system to malfunction. She experiences fainting spells up to 10 times a day, brain fog, episodes of delirium and confusion, nausea, and more. Following her injury, she was put on medical leave from college.
Over time, she recovered with the help of neurologists and cardiologists at Jefferson University Hospital and was able to piece together that the symptoms were related. Doctors put City on the right mix of medications that controlled her dysautonomia – but only to some degree.
“Slowly, but surely, as I got better, I pursued more of my art,” she told dosage MAGAZINE during a recent interview.
“And then I decided to make an online boutique in early 2019. By March, I decided to launch the website.
On JacquelineCity.com, the South Philly entrepreneur somewhat resembles a young Lady Gaga, posing in pictures with a landline telephone in hand against a pink background, in a one-piece swimsuit holding a beach ball in a sparkling blue pool, mouth agape.
Initially intended to be a small boutique when she launched it in the spring of last year, Jacqueline City was surprised to learn she had a strong following early on.
“[It] turned into a fashion line. As it progressed, I designed [everything] myself. Each one had a theme and I think people really took to it…Because no matter who you were, you could find something on the website,” she said.
Her brand has options for men, women, unisex, kids, plus sizes up to 5X and accessories. She describes her approach to fashion as: “Your golden ticket to cohesive, inclusive clothing and on-trend looks.”
Originally from Northeast Philly, City now lives in South Philly and feels grateful to have come so far, so young in life. City says that as a vegan, all her designs are vegan, too. She uses no animals byproducts in her clothing, like leather.
Asked her biggest inspiration as an artist, she credited Coco Chanel.
“I really like how [Chanel] overcame so much struggle and turns out such beautiful pieces and has such a powerful, feminine aesthetic,” she said.
Pink is City’s favorite color, and tulle is her favorite material with which to work.
“I really like big tutus and a lot of feminine materials,” she said.
Still, when working, some of City’s dysautonomia comes back to haunt her.
“[It] affects everything that’s supposed to automatically happen in my body. It affects everything from my blood pressure to my body temperature to my digestion and everything I should automatically regulate. It’s a lot to deal with at once, but now that I know that all my symptoms are connected and all stem from the same thing, it makes it easier to tackle.”
Nina Schirmer, 23, of Hamilton, N.J., is a freelance model for City. Currently working in marketing, she met City when she was a sophomore in college and immediately fell in love with her work.
“I find that it’s almost like putting a piece of yourself out there and sharing it with everyone else,” said Schirmer. “She talks very publicly about her disability and I admire that about her. She’s one of the hardest working people I know.”
Asked where she’ll see herself in 10 years, City said:
“I hope to continue to be in fashion and designing pieces for red carpets and events and stage performances. I would love to design for people like Taylor Swift and I hope to continue to inspire people and do more motivational speeches and tell people they can achieve their dreams no matter what obstacles may lie in their way.”
Paris Fashion Week has been postponed to March 2021 due to Covid-19, but stay tuned to see City’s stuff appear there. You can buy it online here.