Despite her “Best Dressed” designation in high school, fashion was nothing more than an after-school hobby to Baltimore-raised designer Jody Davis.
“My parents were strict and the kids had to stay inside the house, so I’d just go to my room to sew,” she says.
But an endless stream of compliments on her homemade wardrobe got her thinking seriously about a career in fashion. She packed her garments and her sketchbook and headed to New York for an interview at the Fashion Institute of Technology — where her clothes, at least, were well-received. “My garments passed the test, but my sketching was horrible,” she says, laughing.
Her interviewer suggested she take some art classes and give it another try, and when she came back to her with A’s in hand, her acceptance was immediate: “She said, ‘Your determination shows me that you really want to be here.’” Davis recalls.
After earning back-to-back degrees in fashion design and accessories design and interning at Donna Karan’s company, Davis ventured back down south, this time to Washington, D.C.
“I was a little burnt out from New York, so I moved to D.C. and worked on the sales floor at Neiman Marcus for seven years,” she says. “At that time, I wasn’t purchasing anything. I was only wearing my own garments. I was constantly building a client base until one day my manager said, ‘You won’t quit, so I’m going to fire you. Your clothes should be out on this floor.’”
It turned out to be just the push she needed. Davis soon accrued enough clients to run a successful business out of D.C. — that is, until 9/11, after which her “sales dried up.” She moved back to Baltimore and took a position as a mortgage broker, but then that bubble burst, too.
It was then that her boyfriend, Kevin Scott, who owns Benedetto Haberdashery, inspired Davis to begin pursuing fashion in earnest again, she says. And that meant producing her first-ever full collection.
“I’ve had this boutique, Jody Davis Designs, since 2010,” she says. “When I first got here, I only had one rack, and I had just started manufacturing. Now, the brand is growing, sales are growing.”
“I had to let go of the fear,” she adds. “It has taken time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but it’s a gift.”
Davis’ taste is impeccable, with an aesthetic she defines as feminine, classy and giving a woman the confidence and courage to look good and feel good. Among her signature accents are architectural shapes and novelty lace trims, small details that make a big difference. As she says, “my dresses let you make a statement without saying a word.”
These days, she still owns and wears one of everything she makes, though she says the hems have gotten longer over time. She has a steady clientele and a small staff, splitting her time between her boutique and the road, where she does much of her business at conferences. Despite it all, there’s still that part of her that just wants to be sewing in a room by herself.
“There are times when I’ve been working hard and I want to take a day off, but I end up back in my studio,” she says. “It gives me that adrenaline, that feeling of accomplishment. I don’t look at it as a job. It’s just what I love.”
WHAT SHE’S WEARING
Red and Black printed, Soft Shoulder Dress, $945; Jody Davis Designs; Earrings and Shoes, Model’s Own.
On the cover: Black and White Coat With Laces, $1,695; Walker Dress, $985;
Jody Davis Designs
MODEL/STYLIST: Jody Davis
PHOTOGRAPHER: David Stuck
MAKEUP: Leiloni Cooper
LOCATION: Jody Davis Designs