Jhane Barnes:
High Tech Fashion and Style

More Career Connections

Jhane Barnes Fashion designer Jhane Barnes makes use of mathematical algorithms and computer technology in creating her beautiful, award winning men's wear collection. The story begins in the early 1970s, when Jhane, a junior in high school, started making clothes for herself and her friends. Jhane's creations were so professional that they even impressed the principal, who asked the young designer to create outfits for the school's rock band. Jhane, who had been playing the drums for years, knew a thing or two about rock music and proceeded to make appropriately glam get-ups for her friends in the band.

Although it was clear to everybody that her future lay in the field of design, Jhane herself dreamed of studying Astrophysics. She shared this desire with her trigonometry teacher, but was told that she would never be a truly great scientist, despite her obvious talent in mathematics. Jhane was crushed, but after much senior-year soul-searching, she finally decided to go to New York and study at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Each clothing design begins at Jhane's digital drawing board on her Power Mac. Working within a custom-drawing program with a digital pen and tablet, Jhane lays down a pattern concept. She then sends the concept to Bill Jones and Dana Cartwright, the two mathematicians on her staff. Jhane gives Bill and Dana a clear idea of her artistic vision and they translate her idea into mathematical algorithms.

Like artwork comprised of layer upon layer of paint, Jhane's patterns are built over time using complex software programs and Jhane's highly attuned impulses. Jhane seamlessly works between twenty different programs, taking inspiration from unique program tools that enhance or alter her original idea. "I'll take an element and go into another program and start doing what any artist does, which is to tweak and refine." Of course, Jhane knows that chance plays a role in any creative process, and welcomes it into her designs. "Sometimes you click the mouse and have no idea what's going to happen next," she says of some of the more experimental programs she uses. "And the great thing is, sometimes Bill and Dana have no idea, either!"

Pattern designs are usually completed in WeaveMaker, a mill-ready software program, and sent to mills in New England, Japan, and Italy to be woven on automated Dobby or Jacquard looms. Yarn colors chosen from the computer's palette must be checked against color books, which show how certain hues will actually look when woven in cotton or silk. If a pattern calls for a new combination of yarns, one of Jhane's seven designers weaves a sample swatch on three miniature Dobbies in the back of the studio to determine the fabric's spring and resilience.

When samples of the finished fabric return to the studio, Jhane collaborates with partner and master tailor Erasmo "Eddie" DiRusso to design the collection-from socks to sportswear, ties to tailored clothing. Together they create polished products from raw material. Finally, when the collection is completed, samples are brought to Jhane's showroom on 57th Street and presented to retail buyers from around the world who decide what will be sold in their respective stores.