Our series on strong Women in Menswear continues with Jennifer Clapp, founder of J.R. Clapp Luxury Apparel (she’s an independent sales rep/agent for European and American brands), who shares her views on menswear’s Old Boys’ Club and on finding the right balance.
“I believe an Old Boys Club still exists in our industry, but it has changed considerably since I started in the business 20 years ago. I grew up in this business, was totally green in the beginning, and went on to become Head of Sales for Pantherella socks. I’m now building an agency of my own. Some of it was luck and some of it was relationships. But a lot of it was staying strong and determined to succeed. Maybe as a man it would have been easier. But I have no regrets and I’m glad to have faced every challenge that came my way. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say. (I do sometimes wonder, however, how much money I might have earned had I been male…)
“I’m equally grateful to both the male and female mentors who’ve been there for me along the way. My first boss in this industry was Barry Bricken. He brought me on at 25 years old when I didn’t know a thing about the business. Kelly Leimberg was my first friend and female mentor. It’s safe to say that Kelly taught me everything I know. Rick Montavon hired me at British Apparel Collection and shared his extensive knowledge of hosiery. That was a big step for me. I had entered the sock world! Fiona Ross hired me as Head of Sales at Pantherella, for that I will always be incredibly grateful. She brought me to the next level of my career. Emily Longo has been a long-time mentor and dear friend. She gave me a push several times over the years: She helped me build my escape from NYC to NH and encouraged me to start my own business. Now Emily and I share representation for several brands here in the U.S. This industry (as we all know) is about relationships. And to find mentors and true friends in both men and women has certainly been a very impactful and important part of my career.
“I have to say my work/life balance has improved greatly since Covid. Pantherella shut down the U.S. office back in the summer of 2020, and I was suddenly without a job. I took some time to figure out the next step. My husband Dan Marston has been a huge part of finding balance in my life. We got married last summer. We live in Maine now. I have a home office. And I’m so grateful to have made it to this place. I think back to when I was living in NYC, and my job was my whole life. Covid made me reevaluate my career path for the better.
“I’m most proud of creating J.R.Clapp Luxury Apparel by putting together a strong group of brands. I hope to continue to evolve and grow the business for the companies I’m representing. I want to stay focused on those I’m currently looking after while staying open to new opportunities. It’s all about finding the right balance.”