The Thursday Q&A with designer and event planner James Jefferson

James Jefferson is a fashion designer and image consultant whose clients include socialite Marlen Cowpland and former Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean. After years of working in fashion exclusively, he now co-runs Blackbook Lifestyle with business partner Daniel MacKinnon. Blackbook’s communications division provides brand development, media relations, event-planning and marketing while Blackbook’s style division provides personal imaging, makeup, hair, wardrobe styling, photography, personal shopping, art direction and talent casting. Jefferson sat down with Ottawa Citizen Style‘s editor, Jennifer Campbell, to answer our Q&A’s many questions.

James Jefferson Blackbook Lifestyle fashion designer Ottawa


Ottawa Citizen Style: Who are your style icons?


James Jefferson: Karl Lagerfeld. I love his personal style and I also love that his style is his brand and image. I admire that he’s clever enough to do that.


OCS: What’s on your bedside table?


JJ: I have my iPad, a stack of books and magazines and a gorgeous lamp. It looks like a matte silver tree trunk with a huge chocolate-brown lampshade.


OCS: Best home accessory?


JJ: I have a very cool new desk chair that I love. It’s navy blue linen with silver studs all around and silver-blue lion head on the back.


OCS: Best recent fashion find?


JJ: A recycled fur scarf from Harricana. Purchased at Simons in Montreal.


OCS: Who would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?


JJ: Jeanne Becker. I’ve had dinner with her a number of times but she’s so interesting  because she has such a cool job and meets so many people all over the world.


OCS: You can see the debut of any piece of music in history. What would it be?


JJ: I would totally say anything by Madonna. I know she’s not the hottest thing right now but I love her and I would love to see her do anything — Express Yourself, Justify my Love.


OCS: What’s your earliest memory?


JJ: I think I remember this mostly because I have this great picture of it on my desk. It’s my brother and I, standing in front of my parents’ old green station wagon, the kind with the terrible wood paneling down the side. We’re both in these little flowery bathing suits and matching terry cloth robes. We have these big sunglasses and just look cute. We were on the way to the beach or the swimming pool. We were standing there in front of the car laughing.


OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?


JJ: The biggest fashion faux-pas is following a trend that doesn’t suit you or your personality or your body type just to follow a trend.

But what’s yours?


JJ: I kind of want to say that I don’t make any. Is that a valid answer?


OCS: What about that flowery bathing suit in the photo?


JJ: At the time, I think I was pretty cool. It was the ‘70s and I think it worked.


OCS: Okay. Proudest moment?


JJ: That was probably when Marlen (Cowpland) called me and asked me if I wanted to be her personal designer. I had made her a handful of things but when she called and asked me to come and work just for her, that was my proudest moment.


OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?


JJ: I’d say my dining room table. It (dates back to) 1900. It’s beautiful solid wood and there are 12 leaves. It takes up my whole living room and dining room. You can make it seat 20-some people.


OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?


JJ: Sense of humour, good fashion sense and intelligence.


OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?


JJ: I’d like to be remembered as a happy, fun person who was always laughing and having a good time.


OCS: Who would you most like to design for?


JJ: Julianne Moore. She always looks gorgeous. She always has great outfits. She just keeps getting more gorgeous.


OCS: Describe a perfect day off. It can be anywhere in the world.


JJ: Shopping in London. Probably Bond Street and also going to Harrods and Selfridges.


OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?


JJ: I’m a big fan of Claude Marquis who has not been painting much lately. He is the lead singer for the Peptides. I think his paintings are just fantastic.


OCS: Favourite local artist, if different from above. It doesn’t have to be a visual artist.


JJ: Photographic artist Richard Jansen


OCS: Best book you read in the past year?


JJ: Most of the books I read are just trashy thrillers. Can I just give you an author name? Patricia Cornwell. She writes medical mystery thrillers.


OCS: Favourite food?


JJ: Probably the steak and onion rings they’re serving at the ARC right now. They make amazing homemade onion rings that are dusted with paprika. They’re so good.


OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?


JJ: I listen to mixes by a DJ friend of mine in San Diego. His name is DJ Bravehound.


OCS: Wine, beer or both?


JJ: Neither… Champagne.


OCS:Mac or PC?


JJ: I have both on my desk right now. I bought a gigantic Mac that I’m just learning to use and learning to love. I still have my PC, just as a security blanket. I don’t have the time to really learn (the Mac) properly but I know I will love it once I have time to figure it all out.


OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?


JJ: I’m both extremes — I either go Shore Club or McDonald’s.


OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?


JJ: The Shore Club seems to be where I spend the most time these days.


OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest that you live in Ottawa?


JJ: My friends and family, really. I have a great network of people who support me and make me happy.


OCS: Fave blog or website?


JJ: Erica On Fashion


OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?


JJ: Mostly Facebook. I’m on Twitter but I like Facebook better.


OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?


JJ: Shopping. I spend way too much time and money buying new clothes. I usually go to Montreal.


OCS: Favourite place to spend time?


JJ: I’d say in my house. In my bed, either reading or watching movies.



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