After graduating Drexel University with a degree in design and merchandising, Jessica Ferber joined her family’s 135-year-old fur business as a designer and marketing manager. The brand—Jacques Ferber—was established in Paris in 1879 before a flagship store was opened in Philadelphia in 1927. Today, her uncle Andre Jr. and her father Kenneth carry on the family legacy. We chatted with her after the recently remodeling of the Walnut Street store.
Jacques Ferber has been part of the Rittenhouse Row shopping scene since 1927. Why the renovation? Why now?
Renovating the building at 1708 Walnut St. has been something we have wanted to do for years. Suddenly everything just seemed to fall into place at the right time. I am so excited to move upstairs to the new salon. The building itself is a converted home, with many original details still intact. The new showroom is a beautiful space—off of the hustle and bustle of the street below. It is serene and intimate, and a much nicer environment for true luxury.
How long have you been working at the store?
Officially? Since 2005. But I’ve been working at our stores here and there since I was in high school.
How has Ferber stayed relevant for so long while other businesses fail?
The same way any other small business in Philadelphia does it—grow, change and take opportunities when they come.
What else is new with the business?
Two years ago we moved our Mainline location from Ardmore to Wayne, at the Eagle Village Shops. It has been a great move for us as well as our customers. This year we opened a new location in Maple Shade N.J., under the name The Fur Center. We try our very best to tailor each of our four locations to fit the desires of that particular client base. I am excited about The Fur Center, because it allows us to service a whole new group of people, and let them get to know us in a new way.
What are the fashion trends that you are seeing for fall?
Avant-garde styles in fur. While sheared furs are still extremely popular, it is such a pleasure to see trends sway back towards longer haired furs like fox and sable, as well as towards dyed and textured furs. Fur is supposed to look like fur! It is a beautiful thing.
What inspires your designs?
I have always been a fan of military styles and dystopian fashion. Alexander McQueen does this beautifully. I also love refined looks that require amazing construction. Mid-century designer Charles James is a perfect example of this. In my own designs, I try to combine the extreme styles I love with something that is more accessible to create something unique and special.
You wear many hats in your family’s business. Besides designing pieces, what are your main responsibilities?
I handle all the advertising and graphic design. Essentially, I am the advertising and marketing department.
What are some of your favorite stores in Philadelphia?
I tend to wear a lot of basic pieces and focus on outerwear, shoes, accessories and jewelry. I buy a pair of killer boots every year from Head Start Shoes. Knit Wit always has great sweaters, as well as a few pieces of fabulous vintage and antique jewelry. Like any good Philly girl, I have a growing collection of LAGOS jewelry.
What are the must-visit attractions in Philly?
Go to our museums like The National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum and Mütter Museum. For kids, a visit to the Philadelphia Zoo and Please Touch Museum is a must. Visitors often overlook the Forbidden Drive at Wissahickon Valley Park. Pack sneakers and go for a walk.
How about your favorite restaurants?
My best advice is: don't come to Philly on a diet! Eat everything. If you’re looking for somewhere more fancy to eat, go to Buddakan or Tinto. If you’re looking for a casual place, I love Nom Nom Ramen. Go to Capogiro afterwards and get a large gelato.
Dream family vacation?
I would love to drive all over the United States with the family. Pack everyone up in an RV and just drive. I’ve traveled all over the world, but have seen little of my own country. A lot of people are like that. People even go to Canada before seeing our side of the border.
What is on your travel playlist?
Not music, actually. I listen to podcasts, my favorites are Freakonomics Radio, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Planet Money by NPR.
Window or aisle seat?
If I am alone, I want a window seat so that I can watch the world go by. If I am with my toddler, I need an aisle seat so that he has a better view of the other passengers.