Joy Teiken poured her heart into her first piece, a beret made of a vintage dress. The hat was for her mother, who was dying of breast cancer, to wear at her brother’s wedding. Two weeks later, her mother was buried in that beret. Joy says that 20+ years later, her designs are still guided by her mother — and since Joy’s garments are thoughtfully designed, exquisitely hand-sewn, gorgeous and unique, it’s a beautiful legacy Joy’s mother left.
Joy says her clothing is “wearable couture” and her stand-out design aesthetic has been acclaimed by everyone from Real Simple magazine to WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) to Daily Candy.
The day I visited her atelier/shop, Joynoelle, I saw Joy work her magic with a jubilant bride. In the course of 15 minutes, Joy draped fabric over the client in no less than 5 different ways to discuss dress design options. Literally, a piece of fabric that looked like a scrap on a table became a couture bridal gown possibility through Joy’s masterful wrapping, tucking, draping and pleating.
In addition to doing custom work, Joy has a store full of ready-to-wear and semi-custom skirts, dresses and tops in fabrics including silks, silk tulle and even burlap! And when she can’t find the exact fabric she wants, she’ll create her own by weaving together or sewing strips of material onto another piece of fabric to satisfy her vision.
Ranging from a few hundred dollars for off-the-rack pieces to several thousand for custom clothing, Joy’s collections are powerful and stunning statements. It’s incredibly cool that Joy is kickin’ it old school at her atelier by handcrafting one piece at a time, and in this day and age of mass everything, it’s profound to celebrate and support an independent designer like Joy who upholds this heritage and art.
see more of Joy’s designs at her website
How do you define your design aesthetic?
For me it’s about classic lines, playful (sometimes unexpected) details, and lush, rich fabric.
Talk about your design process – how do you go from inspiration to product? And how long does that typically take?
I usually start with an inspiration, then I choose the fabric I want to work with and then I drape and start manipulating the fabric. The number of pieces really depends on how much time I have to work on the collection.
The last collection I did was inspired by Dr Seuss and his drawing techniques. I put together 20 looks and I did the collection in 5 months.
How many pieces are you turning out each season? And how do you keep your ideas and designs fresh?
I do a variety of things. I do a lot of custom and semi-custom for clients and that number can be anywhere from 20 to 40 in a season. On top of that number I do at least one collection a year. I think of my collection as the way I stay fresh. I’m doing only what I want and not thinking about my customers…however, my design aesthetic is very similar from client work to collection work.
Do you have a favorite era of fashion or a favorite designer?
I love most eras…except for the 80’s. Yuck!
Some of your garments have a vintage vibe. What’s the key to creating or wearing clothes with a retro vibe, but still maintaining a contemporary look?
It’s about loving something, like a vintage dress from the 50’s, but not copying it. I use it as an influence and guide, and then take my own spin on it.
What item of clothing in your own closet could you not live without?
My overalls. I love being comfortable.
Does the idea of competing in a reality show like Project Runway ever cross your mind?
Project Runway is fun television, but I have no interest in a show like that.
Any advice for our kids who are budding designers?
Saying you want to be a fashion designer is like saying you want to be a rock star. There are a million people who want to do it, but only a very small percentage of people actually make a living doing it. Also, having your own clothing line is owning a small business. Designing only takes up a small amount of one’s time.
My favorite snack is: peanut butter on Honey Crisp apples
Don’t ask me to: open gifts in front of a large group of people
My favorite place is: Eagle Lake, MN
When I have a creative block I: go for a walk around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis
My favorite mantra is: never skip a step…if you do you will have to go back to that place