Blowfish Malibu Spotlight: Jannie Denney
Get to know one of our brilliant Designers at Blowfish Malibu, Jannie Denney.
Thanks for taking the time to meet with us, Jannie! We’re excited to learn more about your role at Blowfish Malibu, what inspires you, and what excites you about the future with the brand.
Tell us about your role at Blowfish Malibu:
Officially, I am the Design Director & Senior Designer of Active Lifestyle Footwear. Unofficially, if you ask my fellow designer Chip Bronsky, I am the Madhatter at Blowfish. What does a design director do you ask? Well, that means I make the sneaker collection come to life.
Simply put, the narrative is as follows: contemplation+conception+ creative brainstorming, design, development and then sales. I like to relate it to the likeness of a badass chef (in this case, I’m a badass sneakerhead/designer) in the sense that I come up with the theme of the meal, set out to source and create the ingredients. I mix it all up and put out an extraordinary plate to sell and hope the people love it and come back for more.
When did you first become interested in designing?
I am really the definition of a sneakerhead. From ages 5-16, I grew up overseas as an American in Saudi Arabia with an obsession of what defined a “real” American, and one of the defining things to me was “American fashion.” Especially sneakers. I am also an artist by nature, so I would always reimagine, sketch-up, and design things I would love to wear. To go into the field of a designer, and even narrowing that to the field to sneaker designs, is a dream come true. If you know me from this industry, you know that I have been designing sneakers for a while. So, when I approached Blowfish in 2016 and told them they needed a sneaker assortment, they agreed and welcomed me with open arms. It’s been a frenzied fashion rollercoaster ride since then!
What did you do previously before joining the Blowfish Malibu team?
Oh, my…. just about everything and anything. My career follies are one for the books! I started my career in fashion, so I did everything from working as a stylist for MTV videos to designing for Forever 21 to being a graphic designer and – perhaps most importantly – waited tables! Everyone in the world should have to wait tables! Whenever someone asks me how I became a good public speaker I tell them, “waiting tables, my friend.” You get a really well-rounded life education on some of the best career skills needed to be successful in this world such as public speaking, selling, multitasking, “reading a room” and learning to put a smile on when you feel like tongue lashing someone.
With that being said, I started sketching for Candies & Esprit kids back in 1998-2000. From there I moved on to BBC International in Boca Raton and left in 2004 with brands such as Marvel, Everlast, Steve Madden, and Director of Airwalk under my belt. The next step was flying back home to LA in 2004 to work for Rocketdog as a Senior Designer with Stephen Hoyt as my creative director to help start their sneaker program. When Stephen left to start Blowfish in 2006, I became creative director and lead designer for Rocketdog until 2009, which was to become one of the milestones in my footwear career. I then moved to Zigi to become their marketing director and created the brand Rock & Candy for them. Again, another challenging and exciting milestone in my career path.
I took my passion for eco-friendly & sustainable projects to a new level in 2012 when I started my own lifestyle brand Tigerbear Republik, a brand that had a mission to F.I.G.H.T.= Feed, Inspire, Give, Help & Teach. The products would help the world without hurting it. The brand was voted by Whoopi Goldberg on The View to be in the top 5 best brands to give as a gift in 2015. It was a surreal dream when I got to see both Hugh Jackman and Whoopi rocking my shoes on the show! After giving birth to my daughter Ara in 2015, I decided to take a step back from running around the world for my own brand and decided to just do it for Blowfish Malibu in 2016, partnering with my former creative director and one of my mentors, Stephen Hoyt.
It has been a challenging and thoroughly rewarding journey doing what I do best – SNEAKERS!
What projects at the brand have you been working on that you’re excited about?
The 4Earth program is a program I am immensely proud of. For those who know me, know I like a challenge and this has been quite the beast to wrestle. Since the start of my research into sustainable living and footwear in 2008, I see how much sustainable advancement there has been in the world of footwear. Not only do we as designers get to partake in designing & developing footwear that would provide awareness and an example of how to be sustainable, but we would also in turn help contribute to Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation in the world. Win-Win situation, wouldn’t you say?
What do you like most about working in the fashion industry?
Honestly, I love to travel the world, and working in fashion allows me this privilege. I love immersing myself into different cultures, foods, smells, history, art… literally everything. Covid-19 has taught us endless lessons and one lesson it taught me was to never take my traveling for granted. It is a gift, a pleasure, and a luxury that many cannot afford. I am quite blessed and grateful that it is wrapped in the nuances of my job.
In one day, I climbed the rustic cobblestones of Istanbul in search of the greatest colors and drank Turkish tea while snacking on Turkish delight. I sketched on the saffron-scented corners of the grand bazaar and reviewed the collection with the design team while lounging on gorgeous Turkish pillows, taking in the scents of roasted meats. Was that a made-up fantastic story? Nope, that’s me and that is why I love my job in the fashion industry.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
All of the above, and working with Chip Bronsky. That guy is the best design partner ever! Besides being quite talented, he deals with my crazy and always keeps me laughing, even in the worst of times. Cheers Chip!
The Blowfish Malibu offices are in LA. What’s your favorite thing about the city?
I’m a true & true LA Girl. Yes, I grew up overseas but I spent every summer vacation in LA to stay with my father’s side of the family. They are 2nd generation Mexican-Americans.
My favorite part of LA is that the city is always alive. There is always something to do and somewhere to go. Do you want to go play dodgeball dressed as a princess? Guess what, there’s a group doing just that. You want to eat a pancake that is wrapped in rice noodles and deep-fried then topped with maple glazed veggies and bacon? Well, I know the name of the restaurant. Where else can you watch an outdoor movie while sitting next to Charlie Chaplin’s & Marilyn Monroe’s grave?
LA is full of the greatest pleasures, adventures, novelties, and mysteries. I love LA.
Which is your favorite pair of Blowfish Malibu shoes?
Ok, so I am biased because I love all of the sneakers I design. Some sneakers may be prettier than others, but I love them all the same. So I like to spend valuable time with each and every one of them.
At this moment, the PLAY in Rainbow Tie-dye & the MARLEY in Latte Spots have been stealing all my attention… those spoiled kids.
What advice would you have for someone who’s trying to pursue the same career as you?
The advice I would give is the same I would give to my children when asked the question, “what should I do as a career?”
I would say do what you love. When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. When I started in shoe design, I really just started playing. Being a designer is more of a mental battle than anything. You have to keep innovating & challenging yourself to be better, work smarter and be somewhat of a foreseer. To see the future of fashion because that is where we live and breathe.
Have confidence in yourself and the work you put forth, because when you falter in your confidence, then your team does too. So, don’t let that happen!
So, if you love to design, love fashion, and love challenges this is the field for you. Do not give up on your dreams, ever, even when your path seems a bit discouraging. You have one life to live – there is no repeat or rewind button – so go out there and live your best life.
JUST FOR FUN
What was the last thing you were obsessed with?
Where are you from and how has that shaped you?
Oh, this is a long story, so I’ll make it short. I’m a third culture kid. Being an American growing up with a Mexican-American father and a tough-as-nails Thai mother in Saudi Arabia was definitely life-defining. So, my formative school defining years was going to an international school in the desert in the richest country in the world. How has that shaped me? Well, I’m crazy as a bat and that’s how I like it. I think my crazy mixed up life experiences has made me more compassionate and considerate to everyone. It’s also allowed me to bring all that crazy creative energy to my art which has made me quite successful. So a little dose of crazy seems to be the key to success these days! I can also make a mean Thai Curry Burrito.
What’s your dream travel destination?
It’s a battle between Egypt & Iceland.
If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
When do you feel best about yourself?
When I’m with my 3 children.
What’s your personal motto?
Live your life as if you are the superhero in your own movie. Dream big and live bigger and greater than you have ever imagined. Because limitations that are put upon you in life is only an illusion.
What’s a fun fact about you most people don’t know?
When I have a little vodka in my system, I like to pretend I’m in the WWW. My wrestling name is the Thai Tiger.
FILL IN THE BLANK!
I learn the most from: My children
I can’t live without: My children
You can find me shopping at: the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market!
My astrological sign is: Aquarius.
I’m scared of: Ghosts.
The last book I read was: IKIAGI, The Japanese Secret for a Long and Happy Life
Most people would say I’m: Crazy, but talented
I’m currently listening to: Joe Rogan, Bailey Sarian & The 5th Kind
My style mantra is: Comfort is key.
I feel most comfortable: In my sweats…all day, every day.
“Chancho! Give me some sweats!” Nacho Libre
When I woke up today I felt: Awesome.
Most people don’t know: Arabic.
I feel the best when: I’m in my design element and I happen to have neon pink eyeshadow on.
Thank you, Jannie! We’ll catch up with you soon.