Alumni Spotlight

Making a Statement with Fashion

Jovan O’Connor ’06

Jovan O'Connor Headshot - PhilaU

Jovan O’Connor ’06 knew she wanted to become a fashion designer at a young age. “I remember watching Disney’s Cinderella as a young girl and becoming so excited when the little birds and mice all came together to make the dress for Cinderella,” explained O’Connor. “I just loved the magic of creating something out of nothing.”

O’Connor excelled at academics as a young student, especially science. She could have pursued a career in medicine, law, perhaps even finance. When time came to declare a major, fashion was her only choice. She graduated from Philadelphia University with a Fashion Design degree. The most valuable part of her PhilaU education was learning the process of design from concept to a finished product. O’Connor had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome with Aaliyah Taylor ’04. Taylor received a Fashion Merchandising degree and went on to become Patti LaBelle’s stylist. Taylor loved O’Connor’s work and asked her if she had any interest in making a dress for LaBelle. O’Connor met with LaBelle, who selected the sketch she liked most. Weeks later, LaBelle wore the dress on stage.

O’Connor chose to start her own company and credits her PhilaU education as the foundation. Jovan O’Connor Inc. is a fashion company which was a result of O’Connor working as a custom designer for women who needed statement pieces to wear to special occasions. Instead of designing one dress at a time, she decided to start designing collections that provided all the different looks her clients needed.

Jovan O'Connor Red Dress - PhilaU

Jovan O'Connor Groupshot - PhilaU

Being a designer in Philadelphia has been very rewarding for O’Connor. There has been a lot of support for talented designers in Philadelphia. Last year, O’Connor was accepted as a Designer in Residence at the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator. This experience allowed her to learn about the business of fashion, apply what she learned and watch her business grow. She was involved with several projects including pop-up shops at Joan Shepp and Bus Stop Boutique and collaborations with local celebrities. O’Connor also worked with the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Heart Association. “The Red Dress Collection was actually the first time I had a design of mine grace the runway during New York Fashion Week,” said O’Connor. “It was a dream come true.”

This holiday season, O’Connor became a part of the Coshare pop-up store on Walnut Street. Coshare transforms vacant storefronts into vibrant pop-up stores featuring local artists and startup e-commerce companies. “Coshare pop-up store is the perfect example of different designers coming together in a collective effort to sell the pieces from their lines in a true retail setting,” noted O’Connor. The pop-up stores have a variety of items which include scarves, shoes, jewelry and designers’ collections.

Jovan O'Connor JO Collection - PhilaU

O’Connor’s collection is perfect for this time of year because it has pieces for every occasion. “With this being holiday party and gala season, my line has everything from party dresses to full-on gowns that are sure to make a statement at any event.” According to O’Connor, something sparkly pulls a look together during the holidays.

Starting her company meant O’Connor had to stop taking custom orders in order to focus on her clothing line. That was a difficult decision because it meant she had to turn her clients away. Her challenge going forward was starting over. Today, she is truly content when she sees someone looking and feeling great in her clothing.

The fashion industry is forever changing and that is exciting to O’Connor. She is pleased to see the industry welcome emerging designers such as herself. “At one point the industry was dominated by multi-million dollar brands,” said O’Connor. “I’m pleased to see the industry welcome this new fashion generation with open arms.”

Jovan O'Connor Yellow Dress - PhilaU

O’Connor loves children so she enjoys speaking at career day events for schools and other youth organizations. Whenever she’s not working, she likes to relax at home to regain balance during the hectic days. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling when she can. She often becomes inspired while traveling.

O’Connor wants alumni to stay engaged with their professional and collegiate networks because PhilaU alumni are doing great things in their perspective industries. “One thing we all have in common is the superb education we received from PhilaU. I still keep in touch with many of my classmate and am so proud of how far we all have come. We continue to learn and support each other through the various stages of our careers and lives.”