Dispatch 25: Frankie Jean
Interview by Jeffrey Roedel Photos provided by Frankie Jean
“THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS TACOS”
And with that bold declaration, the reputation of Frankie Jean as a creative brand and online shop to watch in Austin, Texas, was planted. Founder and owner Ashley Jo Green grew up on her family farm in nearby Buda, and has called the Texas Capital home since studying fashion design and business at Baylor University.
Her work with Frankie Jean is a blend of smartly-curated, regionally-sourced clothing, accessories and home décor and her own line of Frankie Jean clothing with colloquial, iconic verbiage like “Howdy,” and “Darlin’” and, yes, “Tacos.” She’s a champion of Austin-made goods, Texas craftsman and women, and a talented designer and sewer in her own right. Wonder South caught up with Green last week to talk all things Frankie Jean.
Hey, so sorry, I totally lost track of time. I have been in the zone making things today.
That makes sense, you’re good at that. What are you working on?
Today I have been sewing a large stack of flags. Getting ready for some up coming trade shows.
How often do you bring Frankie Jean to trade shows and markets?
I actually don’t do them very often anymore, but it was how I first started getting the word out about Frankie Jean. Lately, I only do a show maybe twice a year. The rest of the year I am focusing on relationships with stockists and web orders.
How did you first begin making flags?
I actually first started out making banners, which is out of the same material, but smaller in size and normally hung using a wooden dowel rod and black leather. I got the idea to try out flags when I wanted to help my boyfriend decorate his place. He had the typical bachelor pad with absolutely nothing on the walls. He moved to Austin two years ago from Beavercreek Ohio. So I thought a flag with his hometown on it would be a nice touch. He liked it and it kind of took off from there.
Last time I was at Seventh Flag Coffee in Austin, I noticed your smaller TACOS flags, which really stand out! Tacos have definitely become the signature food of Austin.
It sure has. I am from Austin so I remember going to the original Torchy’s Tacos food truck and getting to see that franchise get its start. I do love some good tacos, and there really are a number of spots in Austin where you can get your fill of them. My favorite spot is a food truck that just opened it’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant called Pueblo Viejo. My favorite taco from there is the Don Chago, which has beans, cheese, avocado and bacon.
I’m so glad I just ate. But it’s true, people seem to really respond to your Taco-themed hats and banners. The pride is real.
I randomly put “The answer is always tacos” on a banner when I first started out, and then I could never make enough after that, which is how I think we ended up with so many taco products. The love for tacos is felt by so many here, and I love hearing the reaction to the Tacos hat which I think has become our most popular hat for sure.
So Frankie Jean—I read that this was the name of your mother, and that she died from cancer when you were a teenager. And I was thinking about a photo I saw from a musician recently, and it was a painted drumhead that said “The music remains after the instrument is destroyed,” and I thought that was beautiful and maybe that applies to people, too, and when someone special dies in our life they still impact us and influence us. Obviously, she seems like a big inspiration for your brand and shop.
Oh yes. When I think about leaving a legacy behind I think about how well she lived her life. I will always remember her, because she was my mother, but so many others will remember her for so many different reasons. Maybe for being a great teacher, a great friend, a good listener, a dreamer, a go-getter, and more. I saw how much she touched those around her in the time she had and have always felt that I would want to live a life like that, always thinking and caring for those around me. I think about how much this world is hurting and I think about how if we spent more time caring for others and less just thinking about ourselves that there is no way this world couldn't become a better place.
As a creative entrepreneur, how do you think growing up in Texas and on a farm has influenced your outlook on creativity or inspired your work?
I loved my childhood! It was so much fun getting to step outside and just dream and create whatever we wanted. I had three siblings, and we would constantly be making up games or running around in some little fairy tale we created in our heads. When you grow up without so many distractions it leaves a ton of room for imagination.
Often, I think imagination is so lost on this current crop of children.
It is. Sadly.
So when you started Frankie Jean, what were some of your first steps? How would you encourage someone thinking of starting their own brand or curating a shop?
Well frankie Jean is a combination of a couple different things I had tried in the past. I had actually opened up a boutique right out of college, and it was great but didn’t have quite the focus I now have with Frankie Jean. I would say if you are thinking of starting any kind of business the first step is to really sit with your idea for some time. Really flesh it out in your head and on paper what you would want the purpose and idea behind it to be. I sat on the idea for this business for a few months before I ever really started pursuing it and for some it might even be longer than that. But once you feel really good about the idea, I say run with it—full steam, because starting something is hard so you have to have that momentum to help get yourself going.
What would you say then is your biggest creative challenge right now?
I would have to say the fact that there is only one of me. I have a hard time completing all that I really want to do to the point I have had to look into finding local partners for help scaling production. But deep down I just wish I had a few extra hands so I could still manage it all.
What’s next for Frankie Jean?
Next for Frankie Jean would be partnering with more shops around the U.S. so our products can be available to more people and continuing to do our best to put out the best products we can. I also have a few new artists that I might begin working with in the near future and the collaborations with local artists are my favorite part of what I get to do.
Sounds great. So when you are not making flags or building your brand, what do you do around Austin for fun?
I would have to say paddle boarding is one of my favorite things and also just hiking, running or biking around the trails we have. My favorite coffee shops are Seventh Flag and Vintage Heart. My favorite place to eat is probably the Salty Sow.
Where do you normally paddle?
Around Town Lake!
That’s a beautiful area. And I hope to get back real soon. It’s been wonderful getting to know more about you and your special brand today, thank you.
Thanks! It’s been fun chatting with you.