Jessica Repetto is a Fashion Illustration.
A Fashion Dream Come True….
Jessica Repetto’s mother saved the pink disciplinary slips that her daughter received as a student at Holy Name High School. The reprimands were for the obsessions that have preoccupied Repetto ever since she can remember: “Jessica won’t stop drawing in class” and “Jessica refuses to put her Italian Vogue away.”
“I just love fashion,” said Repetto. “I live it, breathe it. I just love it. My head was always into it.
“It still is. I’m always writing something down. I’m always wanting to do more and asking ‘What’s next?’ ” These days, Repetto is very happy she didn’t listen to those who doubted her talent: an art teacher who told her she was wasting her time (which prompted her to never take another art class), or the fashion instructor who asked, “Who do you think you are … Christian Dior?” With her own fashion style and illustrations to match, it’s clear that Jessica Repetto doesn’t want to be anyone but Jessica Repetto. The nice thing is those on the highest echelons of the fashion industry want her now, too.
The 22-year-old grew up on Grafton Hill in Worcester and is in her senior year at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and its counterpart, Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy.
She contacted Vogue Italia in her sophomore year, even though some of her instructors at FIT weren’t very encouraging.
“In New York, I received lots of criticism from teachers who stressed the importance of selling your fashion, and they said my work is not very mass-marketable,” said Repetto. “I’ve been told by a lot of people that my designs won’t sell in America because it’s too avant-garde — costume designs almost. But for me, it’s about artistic expression rather than money. I can’t change my aesthetic to make money.” She hadn’t heard back from Vogue Italia, so she accepted an internship with American design icon Marc Jacobs. Soon after, the fashion bible contacted her. “I almost died and I really wanted to pull out of the internship, but that wouldn’t have been right,” said Repetto.
Even though Vogue Italia didn’t know she made arrangements to spend her junior year studying at Politecnico di Milano, before classes even began she made her way to its offices, sketchbooks in tow. “I looked like some crazy bag lady, lugging all of this stuff, but I talked my way in, reminding them that they’d offered me an internship before,” she said.
Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani, who has dictated what goes in and what’s out of Vogue Italia since 1988, granted Repetto 15 minutes of chitchat, before standing to leave.
“That wasn’t enough,” said Repetto. “I had everything with me and I said, ‘I know you are really busy, but would you just look at these and tell me how to get better? ”
Ms. Sozzani (who some say was the model for Meryl Streep’s character in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”) stood a moment staring at Repetto, then took her to an all-white room, dropped her illustrations on the glass table and looked at them in silence.
Finally she said, “You have a very nice hand. Bring me more.” And she did. Repetto skipped school and stayed awake for about 72 hours to create another set of designs, but she landed a freelance job with the magazine.
“Since I was young, like 5 years old, I’ve wanted this,” she said. “I wore Gucci jackets to kindergarten and was always a little crazy dressed. I designed my own clothes with BeDazzlers and cut or painted my clothes. And I always wanted to be in Italian Vogue.”
After two more freelance jobs with Vogue Italia, Repetto was given the job she had always wanted: a 30-page spread in the magazine’s 2008 Fall/Winter Forecast, for which she was given credit as fashion illustrator. “I’ve had dreams of showing in Paris and Milan and Bryant Park since I was 12,” she said. “When I was 8 years old I watched the MTV awards and all I cared about were the dresses on the red carpet. I always wanted this so bad. It’s a dream come true.”
As she wrapped up her year abroad to move home last July, she trusted the editors when they said they’d keep in touch. Now in her senior year, she’s been busy putting together her 25-page thesis and making a collection she hopes will be chosen by the school to be among the five to 10 pieces from the entire graduating class to be showcased.
And Vogue Italia did indeed keep in touch. Repetto illustrated its December 2008 and February 2009 issues and at press time, she was bringing work to Vogue’s Manhattan office for a noon deadline. After class at FIT she had an appointment to meet Hamish Bowles, the European editor-at-large of American Vogue.
But she’s particularly proud of being selected by FIT to exhibit her work. “I have been asked by FIT museum curator Dr. Valerie Steele to contribute illustrations for the ‘Seduction’ exhibit that will be up from Dec. 9 to June 9,” she said.
“Going to Italy is the best decision I ever made,” she said. “It was the best year of my life. Even though I had a full class load, the opportunity to freelance for Vogue just perpetuates itself.”
But no matter how far from Grafton Hill she travels, Repetto says she’s grateful. “I’d never be where I am if it wasn’t for my family. My mother pushed me, but always supported me, even when my father went crazy after I’d painted his brand new Italian leather racing jacket with oil and acrylic paints,” she said.
“None of what I’ve done would have been possible, and I would never be who I am, if it wasn’t for my family.”