In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($17), we’re running off an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Rebecca Minkoff, Sally Singer, Rachel Zoe, and more. Up next? Jessica Hendricks Yee.
Summing up Jessica Hendricks Yee in few words is nearly impossible, as she is one of those women who makes doing good, making money, and being stylish look completely effortless. While studying at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Yee traveled to Cambodia, where she was overwhelmed by the presence of human trafficking and genocide in the community. Having been previously enamored by jewelry and motivated by her humanitarian heart, Yee started The Brave Collection, and the outcome was—and continues to be—inspiring.
The Brave Collection is a jewelry line made in the heart of Cambodia by disadvantaged local artisans, giving them job opportunities and donating 10% of the proceeds to fight human trafficking in Cambodia. Besides the company’s abundant benefits, the jewelry pieces themselves are elevated and refined. Purchasing a piece of jewelry is a joyous occasion in general, so adding this humanitarian factor to the transaction is what makes this company 10 times sweeter and will make you adore Yee 10 times more. Did we mention she also made Forbes’s 2016 30 Under 30 List in the Retail & Commerce category? Yeah, that too.
Keep reading to learn more about Jessica Hendricks Yee and The Brave Collection!
“I design a Brooklyn-based line of jewelry that is handmade in Cambodia by local artisans to celebrate Brave women globally and donate to empower girls against human trafficking.”
“How high-low it is—I’ll be being honored at a fabulous event one second and carrying huge boxes of packing paper to our studio freight elevator the next! With a small team and a quickly growing business, you have to be up for doing a little bit of everything.”
“Right out of school I was working as an actress, so my first interview was actually an audition! Then and now, I wear neutrals—black and cream to keep it clean and elegant. I always add a little touch of bohemian somewhere so I feel grounded and like myself—maybe a vintage belt or fringe bag, and definitely some layered rings, bracelets, and necklaces.”
“Dead or alive?! Frida Kahlo, hands down. Her sheer brilliance and design ingenuity are the ultimate inspiration for me, and I’d kill for the opportunity to get inside her brain.”
“Business of Fashion, The Cut and NY Magazine, Refinery29, the Times Style Section, and Who What Wear!”
“I regret not treating my acting career as a business. Learning how to make a creative passion a profession is a skill in its own right, and when I was younger, I was so deep into my personal connection with the craft that I couldn’t take a step back and market myself. With Brave, I’ve learned how to blend my passion for design and philanthropy with business savvy, and it made it possible for me to turn my passion into a career.”
“Positive and easygoing personality: For me personally, this is huge. Life is too short to be greeted every morning by attitude or a scowl face!
“Outside-the-box, can-do attitude: Startups are always cash-starved, so being able to get scrappy and creative to get it done is a huge priority.
“Passionate: My whole business is built on passion—if you don’t care deeply about our mission, you don’t belong at the company!
“Innovative: I look for people for who are one step ahead, surprising me with new ideas.
“Reliable: Juggling so many different departments at once, I need to collaborate with people who won’t let me down!”
“Killer jewelry! Each piece I wear has a meaning and a story—the diamond necklace, my mom got for her sweet sixteen; my wedding band, my pieces that were handmade in Cambodia—they give me strength by connecting me to something bigger than myself. For clothing, I feel powerful when I wear something that feels authentic, allowing me to feel confident and graceful in my own skin. I love wearing a simple, black drapey silk top in a great fabric, vintage fringy mom jeans, and my go-to cream Maryam Nassir Zadeh mules. A little sprinkle of jasmine oils under the chin also makes me feel calm and grounded.”
“Passionate, positive, goofy, and determined.”
“Travel. I am so in love with travel that even just planning my next trip (real or hopeful!) frees me from the doldrums we can all sink into. I’m fascinated by understanding how different people live their lives, how they spend their days, how they see spirituality, what they value, and then taking pearls of wisdom back to my life in New York. Yoga helps for a quick fix too, or hosting a Shabbat dinner with my favorite people.”
“With lots of lead time and a goodbye filled with transparency and gratitude. You can either burn a bridge or solidify lifelong mentors for your network, so be thoughtful.”
“When I’m at our Williamsburg studio, I always order from this place Juicery Kitchen and alternate between the broccoli tofu brown rice bowl or this salad they make with tons of veggies, seaweed, avocado, and this yummy carrot ume dressing. Lately, I’m addicted to grapefruit La Croix for lunch (and breakfast and dinner and every moment in between). When I’m in the city with meetings, I’ll usually pop into Juice Press for a Kelp Noodle Salad and then snack on almonds and coconut or plantain chips from home in the afternoon.”
“I see a lot of people at all stages, including myself at times, just burning out. You have to prioritize your health, wellness, family, social life, spirituality, and anything else you value alongside your career to remain balanced, energized, and capable. With our iPhones constantly by our sides, we are all at the beck and call of each other, and it’s important to have the discipline to sometimes just check out of all of the noise and center yourself.”
“I am not a morning person, so I have had to find ways to energize myself in the a.m. so that I can start my day with focus. I play loud, fun music to wake up, meditate (Transcendental Meditation), and make a matcha latte.
“In the evenings, I like to take a hot shower and make some Flying Bird Botanics herbal tea and read for a few minutes. I’m on a major Alice Hoffman kick.”
“There are two kinds of people in the world: people who talk about doing things and people who actually do them. Be a doer.”
“Launching our new Metal Collection this month is so exciting! The artisans we collaborate with have an incredible amount of talent, and I wanted to create a line that would showcase what they are capable of. Each piece in this collection is forged and sculpted by hand. It’s not just a piece of metal; it holds a piece of someone’s story from thousands of miles away.”
Who should we interview next? Let us know in the comments below!