Women of Vancouver (WofV) is a monthly editorial featuring the most stylish and professional women in Vancouver. Style by Sarai recently interviewed Jillian Harris for this exclusive in-depth photo editorial.
What do you do for work?
Remember all those jobs Forrest Gump had? Sometimes I feel like that! I’ve got my hands full, and often I find it hard to really narrow down exactly what I do. I’m a designer, blogger, TV host, and owner and co-founder of my brand-new baby, Charlie Ford Vintage.
Tell me about your new company Charlie Ford Vintage?
Charlie Ford Vintage is an online store for vintage décor. I launched it in July with my cousin Tori Wesszer and good friend Alyssa Dennis. We’ve only been working on it for a little over a year, but I’m hoping that it will soon be the go-to hub for all things vintage – furniture, art, decor, kitchen and dining, and jewelry. What I love most about our company is that instead of simply buying and selling amazing items, we partner with local antique stores and curate what we love most, have the items photographed, and sell them on our site. We help them expand their markets and position their items in a whole new light, which, in turn, increases sales! Our special relationship with our vendors is one of our proudest and most exciting parts of our business.
How did you get into antique shopping and interior design?
My mom. My mom LOVES antiques!! When I was a little girl we used to hunt for them everywhere: antique stores, auctions, and even old abandoned houses in the prairies. When I was 14 my mom opened a décor and antique store, and I got to help her merchandise, which I absolutely loved. I guess it’s fair to say that’s where it all started.
What challenges have you faced with starting your own company?
Oh my… I love this question. Everyone always wants to know ‘the good’, but rarely do they want to know ‘the bad’, the dark, and the ugly. There have been many challenges – way more than I EVER anticipated. It’s a little embarrassing, but I thought that because I had such a huge following this venture would be successful from the start, no matter what the circumstances were. That’s also been the most humbling part. See, my following is AMAZING, but they love me for me, and they don’t all necessarily love vintage. I’ve had to change my perspective a bit and try to step out of the box to promote Charlie Ford Vintage as its own entity. We were also very under-funded when we launched, as we decided to forego original investment opportunities thinking it would be best to ‘keep it in the family.’ Now we sing a different tune. To support our ever-present need for growth and deal with sales from the perspective of a freshly launched business, we are constantly looking for ways to cut costs, save money, and secure investors. All three of us have full-time jobs, so juggling those and the launch of a new company has not been easy. Weekends are typically spent organizing photo shoots while evenings are spent editing items to go on the site. 5AM wake-up calls? Yup… Someone has to organize payroll and payout the vendors. On top of that, we are constantly working on blogs, theme sales, promotions and the inevitably constant glitches. Charlie Ford has been one of the toughest yet most wonderful adventures of my life. One thing is for sure: I believe in our business model. I believe in antiques and I believe in the importance of history. I believe in supporting local businesses and I believe in the rich texture and soul that our pieces bring to homes. I believe in the importance of keeping beautiful things out of landfills. I believe that we should preserve resources used to manufacture new things by using what already exists in the world. I believe that we can help reposition older items in a newer light and distribute them across North America (and eventually the globe). Whenever I’m faced with one of the tough days (and trust me, there are many), I remember the importance of these beliefs and pour myself another cup of coffee.
Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years from now?
Ahh… as an individual, my dream would be to have a few children and work solely for Charlie Ford, travelling throughout Europe and North America establishing relationships with antique vendors. I would love to just blog away as well. Blogging is one of my happy places and I don’t get to do it as much as I used to. I would really like to settle down a bit. I would be very happy with just one job… Okay, maybe two.
What charitable organizations do you work with?
How did you get involved with Covenant House and their Sleep Out initiative? What did that experience teach you?
Covenant House approached me last year to participate, and even though I didn’t know much about it, Justin [Pasutto, Jillian’s boyfriend] and I took them up on the opportunity. The experience was incredibly eye opening for me, and not quite in the way I expected, so we decided to make it something of an annual tradition.
I’ve camped out before in sub-freezing weather, so it wasn’t the cold or the uncomfortable sleep that bothered me. What blew me away was the feeling of humiliation brought on by spending the night on a city sidewalk. The whole time I wanted to jump up and tell everyone passing by that I was doing this for charity, but I forced myself to swallow that urge because people who live like this on a daily basis don’t have that luxury. It hit home that underprivileged people are fighting an incredibly difficult uphill battle. How are you supposed to spend a degrading, sleepless night on the ground and then get up the next day and look for a job or take care of a family? Those things require at least a base level of confidence and sense of self-worth, and being homeless really chips away at that I think. Covenant House does such incredible work, helping people get out of this cycle and transform their lives. I’m just honoured to participate in some small way. If I’m being candid, my line of work can be frivolous, so being aware of how some other people live is incredibly important to me.
What is your style when it comes to interior design?
Light, crisp, and airy with lots of texture and history. I love art. People think of antiques as being dark and dusty, but my house is FULL of them and is so light, airy, and fresh!
Describe your ideal home:
White countertops (which I am installing right now) and big, open windows. A garden. A puppy running down the halls. White walls with beautiful art. A big stand-alone tub. A warehouse full of antiques.
Where in the city do you find great pieces for your home and business?
– Sadie Ann McMurray Antiques
– Blue Owl
– The Cross
– Antiques Alley
– Chintz & Co.
The great thing about Charlie Ford Vintage is that we do all the sourcing for you, so there’s no need to dash around the city looking for gorgeous pieces!
Your top 3 must-haves in a house you recommend everyone to have?
– Good, timeless art (it doesn’t have to be expensive, you just have to get creative)
– Just a peppering of antiques
– Fresh flowers
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
I would say that I probably work one out of every three weekends, so one-third of the time I’m working. We drive up to my home in Kelowna pretty much EVERY weekend. While we’re there we typically spend one night out at the cabin and one night at the house. I love just puttering around the house, cooking, organizing, decorating, and taking pictures of pretty things. I always drink too much wine on one night of the weekend and I am ALWAYS with my family (my cousins Tori, Charlie, and Samantha, my parents, and Justin’s parents).
When you go out, where do you like to start?
I actually don’t go out very much! I RARELY go out on weekdays, and weekends we are up in Kelowna. We hit the town when we travel, but honestly, I am a huge homebody!
What do you like about Bao Bei?
Bao Bei’s incredibly eclectic, antique-y vibe is HUGE draw for me (of course!). I love the sense of history you get as soon as you walk into the place. I’m also super into their sharing menus – so great for groups!
What do you recommend everyone to try when they’re at Bao Bei?
The Kick Ass House Fried Rice is sooo good (plus the name is just awesome). Love Mantou buns and veggie postickers, too.
What’s your drink of choice?
Wine (I am having a moment with rose), sangria, and margaritas.
What does style mean to you?
I think style really just needs to be a reflection of who you are. If you’re truly expressing yourself through your fashion, food, decor, and lifestyle, then THAT is your style. Conforming to what everyone else is doing and following trends can be hard to avoid… even I’m guilty of it sometimes. As I get older, I’m starting to realize what sticks and what doesn’t. I’ve begun to love my quirky habits and tastes. The sooner we accept our unique quirks, the sooner our style becomes fabulous!