First things first: If you haven’t heard about Saratoga Living‘s Racing & Rosé brunch party with TV personality Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, RuPaul’s Drag Race) at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, get your tickets immediately. The July 30 soirée will feature a VIP meet-and-greet with Carson, followed by the main event featuring food and drink by Mionetto, La Crema, Bocage, Sweet Mimi’s and Uncommon Grounds; a best-dressed competition (with prizes!) judged by Carson; and the main event—a fashion show featuring racing-themed designs by Jen Marcellus, owner of Saratoga’s Miss Scarlett Boutique.
Many Saratogians who shop at Marcellus’ store may not know that, in addition to running a downtown boutique full-time, the Saratoga native is also a designer herself, working with Valerie Clement of Clement Stables under the label Chateau du Cheval, which specializes in designs for the horse racing industry and counts Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland Race Course, Tampa Bay Downs, Daily Racing Form and Claiborne Farms among its clients. Saratoga Living caught up with Marcellus, who you may remember was a judge at our first annual Overdress to Impress event this past spring, to find out more about the fashions guests will see at Racing & Rosé.
How did you get into the fashion industry?
After I graduated from FIT in New York City I worked at Bergdorf Goodman and then Donna Karan—I was a buyer—and then I worked for a hat designer named Lola. I moved to San Diego to take a job running the Chanel ready-wear boutique, where I bought all the product for our Chanel boutique. And then, in a weird twist, I had a friend that opened a children’s store and I started designing for them. They brought my line to a sales rep in LA, and all of a sudden I was in the children’s wear business. It was very crazy. My first order was from Fred Segal in LA and my line grew. I had my children’s line [it was called Jen Jen] for 12 years. I designed and manufactured in San Diego and sold to all the major department stores: Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Marshall Fields. I was featured on covers of magazines. I sold to 15,000 boutiques, it was a really large business. I sold in Japan, England and Italy.
Jen Jen was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, correct?
I had actually designed a dress way back and the print said “Saratoga” in it. I was living in California, and I was contacted by the editor of Martha Stewart Weddings to design 12 flower girl dresses for a wedding, and it was the featured cover story. The funny thing is, the wedding happened to be in Saratoga. I was in San Diego, she was from New York City, and then the wedding was at The Lodge.
How did you wind up owning a boutique in Saratoga?
Jen Jen was a very demanding business for me. I had 12 sales reps around the country and I was constantly traveling. And then, when I ended up getting pregnant with Scarlett, I realized that there was just absolutely no way I could work to that capacity with a child. I ended up moving back home to Saratoga (with a lot of pressure from my parents), and that’s how I opened Miss Scarlett Boutique. I opened when Scarlett was 6 months old in 2009.
How did you get involved with the racing world?
I’ve always loved the races, even when I lived in San Diego—I actually lived across the street from Del Mar. I met Valerie Clement through my Chanel store. At the time, I was designing some of my apparel for my store, and she was shopping at the store and then we started the Chateau du Cheval partnership. We do a lot of silk scarves and bags. And then separately I design clothing. It’s technically custom manufacturing for companies to promote their brand, so a lot of it isn’t even labeled with Chateau du Cheval—it’s labeled Breeder’s Cup or whatever the business is.
Are any of your designs available at Miss Scarlett?
I do the dresses at my shop. I do the Saratoga Clubhouse entrance bag—super popular. Every year I do a new handbag for the races, and we carry through the old ones. And this year I designed some of the clothing. A black and white dress that has the horses running at the bottom is actually Janet Crawford‘s artwork. The print on that dress—it’s a shirt dress—features all the different tracks, like Keeneland, Ascot, Chantilly, and those little sketches are adaptations of Janet’s art.
Tell us about the designs that will be on display at Racing & Rosé.
The fashion show will feature some of my exclusive designs with the art of Janet, and then we mixed in some stuff from the store as well. But every outfit will have something that I’ve designed in it, whether it’s the fascinator or hat, or the complete look. They will be available for purchase at the show, at our pop-up shop in the Clubhouse, online, or in store.
You’ve worked in all aspects of the fashion world. What’s your favorite part about what you do?
I like variety. I don’t like every day to be exactly the same, so I like the challenges of manufacturing. I manufacture overseas, so when most people’s work days are over, I’m still working through the night [because of the time difference]. There’s always an issue that comes up, but I don’t think I would be content working only at my shop. I need to do more, and I like the very creative aspect of it. And I love turning artists’ work into wearable art.