Bre Boeh started college at Penn State as a biology major … or as what she calls, a “biology mistake.” Her intense love for art and passion to create inspiring pieces led her to say goodbye to biology at the end of her freshman year.
Boeh, now a junior, is double majoring in visual arts with a concentration in new media and advertising. Although it’s as easy as a few clicks on LionPath to change your major, the reality of the switch left her wondering if it was the right choice.
“I sunk into a panic,” Boeh says. “I felt behind in my artistic development compared to students who had started college as art majors. In the meantime, I got a summer job at a sweet little flower shop in my hometown called Stems by Syd.”
Boeh’s panic quickly came to an end, as she explained her dilemma to Syd, who she describes as one of her “motivators and inspirations.” After Syd recognized Boeh’s love for painting, she introduced her to the world of painted jean jackets and allowed her to begin harnessing her craft during less busy hours in the shop.
This all led to the birth of my first jean jacket … and who would be on the jean jacket other than Frida Kahlo,” Boeh says. “I felt it was a perfect tribute to my inspirations. Frida emulated flowers and Syd emulated the independence and ‘kick-ass’ nature of Frida.
To complete the jacket, Syd let her use some leftover silk flower scraps to sew on the finishing touches.
“I was hooked,” Boeh says.
Although Boeh’s first painted jean jacket featuring Frida Kahlo was made during the summer after her freshman year of college, her love for the artist isn’t new.
“As I began to acquire a repertoire of favorite artists like Matisse and Gauguin, my seventh grade Spanish teacher introduced my class to her favorite artist, Frida Kahlo,” Boeh says. “Her love for Frida sparked my love for Frida. She has been one of my favorites, both as a person and through her art, ever since.”
She may have only discovered Frida in middle school, but Boeh knew she held art close to her heart long before the seventh grade.
“I had always possessed an intense love for art. My Aunt Nan is an art teacher and growing up she would spend hours watching watercolors run off pages or sticking glitter to anything possible with me,” she says.
Artistic ability runs deep in the Boeh family. Her mom, another source of inspiration, is a talented artist who has been studying jewelry-making for nearly 3 years and is looking to launch her own business soon. Her younger brother also recently launched his own clothing business.
“Witnessing my teenage brother produce a stellar clothing business was beyond inspiring. If he could do it, I could do it,” Boeh says. “With the entrepreneurial encouragement from my Mom, brother and Syd, I, after three years, finally decided to truly launch my jacket painting business.”
The time had finally come, and Boeh launched her jean jacket business, fittingly named “Frida Jean.” Her jackets are upcycled, hand-painted and customized with inspiration from all of the biggest influences in her life.
“I have chosen to name my business after Frida Kahlo because of the role she plays in my life and what she communicates in our culture today,” Boeh says. “She exemplifies self-determination, as she paved her own path in the art world and used art as her weapon against suffering.”
In her own life endeavors, Boeh hopes “to be half as courageous as [Frida].”
As her jacket-painting hobby was in the process of being nourished into a business, time became Boeh’s “undeniable enemy.” Her first commissioned piece took around 14 hours and only profited $50, which is about $3.50 per hour.
“While I loved what I was doing, my time was becoming undervalued,” Boeh says, “I longed to make my jean jacket-painting business more lucrative, yet life seemed to be getting in the way.”
Putting her business on the back burner, Boeh traveled to New York City during the summer of 2018 for an internship with a jean company called Vanilla Star Jeans. As a design assistant working on the design floor, she was often sent all around the city on “trim runs” and in search of designer inspiration.
“By the time my internship was over, I think I had just about visited every fabric store in Manhattan,” Boeh says.
Through this experience, she came to realize that the fashion industry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as many designers and artists are underpaid and overworked.
“Being there, I realized that even if I was being overworked and underpaid, at least I was going to be doing what I loved,” she says. “Not only did this solidify my career pursuits, it also heavily influenced the way I viewed my own sense of style and confidence.”
This summer, Boeh will be returning to New York City to work as a design intern for The Esteé Lauder Companies’ hair product brand, Bumble and bumble.
The quirky and colorful nature of Bumble and bumble’s design is “right up Boeh’s alley,” and she is incredibly eager to soak in as much of the experience as she can.
Going forward, Boeh’s goal is to ensure that Frida Jean reaches its maximum potential, and she aspires to go into a career in design after graduation.
“I am hoping that my experience at Esteé Lauder this summer will be my North Star as to what I want to do,” Boeh says.
With the recent launch of the Frida Jean Instagram account, @fridajeann, she has created a new storefront with which to highlight her pieces, spread inspiration and give the gift of hand-painted jean jackets to the world.
“As I grew up and college drew nearer, I had regretfully accepted that art would have to continue being my favorite hobby and not my career,” Boeh says.
However, after years of soul searching and jacket-painting, a little girl’s favorite artist and most beloved past-time became a reality: Frida Jean.
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