“My very first dress … ” says Jen Burris. “Of all the pieces I’ve designed, my very first dress is my favorite. It represents the leap I took from wanting to make something to actually doing it.” Jen is the owner and operator of Ivory Closet, the fashion boutique (located in Overton Square) that Jen purchased in December 2019 — just before the world changed. She is also the designer and curator of the clothing line Haus of Vox. And now she is ready to light up the world of design with her newest concepts, drawing inspiration from as far back as childhood. Meet our newest FACE of Memphis!
Tell us about the name of your clothing line, Haus of Vox.
The word haus is the German word for house. I have German in my lineage and also lived in Germany for a while, so I learned to speak the language. Vox is the Latin word for voice, and it’s a word I used consistently in my artistic endeavors. Before this, I sang and wrote lyrics for other musicians. “Vox” refers to finding and using your voice. So “Haus of Vox” seeks to be a home for you to find your voice and help you create aesthetics through the art of fashion.
What inspires you as you seek to create?
I derive all inspiration in meditations. Whenever I meditate, it’s like tapping into direction for what I’m supposed to do, make, or write. Other people in pop culture and fashion are also great inspirations for me. I follow artists in my community and love connecting with them as well.
Would you say you were born an artist, or did your love for design develop along the way?
My answer goes deep, but I love the question! I think a sense of childhood trauma drove me to seek refuge in something that made me feel empowered. Nothing is more valuable than having an idea and making it a reality. As a child who had no control over what was going on around me, putting pen to paper, writing short stories, gave me therapy and validation that I had a sense of power that wasn’t able to be taken away. I actually wouldn’t trade the trauma for the world now because without it, I wouldn’t have discovered the empowerment of creation. Everything good has a negative side. You have to pay your dues to get to the good parts.
Who is someone in the world of fashion you admire or look to for guidance?
My friend and fashion blogger Alexandra Nicole of City Chic Living. She sold Ivory Closet to me in December of 2019. I have so much respect and admiration for her. She created her entire brand out of $500 that she was given to start a makeup line. She expanded it to a franchised company, all while being a wife and a mom. I consider her a mentor and one of my best friends.
In addition, the creations of Alexander McQueen always inspire me. He transcended fashion and took it into entertainment. He morphed it into an observable art that transcended clothing and moved into storytelling through clothing. He has really transformed the way I view fashion.
How do you define success in the world of fashion design?
For me, I celebrate small successes on a regular basis. That builds momentum. It’s so easy to look at what we haven’t done or don’t have. But success is a pattern of being grateful for where you are. I am super grateful for what I’ve already built and I continue to have gratitude in small successes. It’s a lot like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. Consistent small wins + gratitude = momentum.
What’s next for you?
The next right thing! Practically, that means going to L.A. to select my summer line. After that, I will focus on getting my retail operation back up and running as the world starts to spin again.
What is one thing we would be surprised to know about you?
The place I lived longest growing up was out in the country in Alabama. I lived there for seven years, and it created a love for animals in me. I have a mini-farm in East Memphis with chickens, a long-haired angora rabbit, cats, dogs, the whole thing. People may be surprised to find out that I love animal wrangling!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
There is one piece of advice that’s been passed down from generation to generation in my family. My father gave it to me, but before me it was only passed down through the men of our family. It was told to the son as he watched his father shave. We call it, “The Shaving Speech,” and it goes like this:
“There’s as much joy in this world as you care to look for and as much sorrow in this world as you care to look for. You have to decide every morning when you’re shaving which one you’re going to seek. Because I guarantee it is what you’ll find and the one others will see in you.”
Obviously, I don’t shave my face every morning, but I think of this when I brush my teeth. I even had it written on my mirror in Expo marker for a while.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you cannot live without?
- A healthy sense of humor. I have to be able to laugh at myself and at life when it doesn’t go as planned. Plans fall apart all the time and having a sense of humor softens/lightens difficult situations. It also eases my inner self critic (which I battle regularly). If I didn’t have a solid sense of humor about plans going awry or my failures (there are a lot of them), my spirit would have been crushed by now. It’s an effective coping mechanism that helps me thrive in madness.
- My bathtub. I’m an avid bather. Baths are my quiet time to rest, still my mind, pray, meditate, and cleanse myself (both physically and spiritually.) I bathe a lot — twice a day at a minimum, and sometimes upwards of five times if my stress levels are high. I use endless combinations of salts, oils, fresh flowers, and medicinal treatments to reroot and gain balance amidst chaos.
- The power to create. I know this is broad, but I must manifest ideas into reality consistently in some form or I go bonkers. Whether it’s sewing, writing lyrics, painting, composing music, making funny videos, or simply creating an interesting outfit, I need the freedom to take what’s in my brain, remove it, and drop it off into reality. Creation is my life’s purpose.
Thank you, Jen! To learn more about Ivory Closet and Haus of Vox, visit ivorycloset.com.
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