In an industry where the emphasis has been on economy of cost and efficiency of production, it is utterly refreshing to find someone who flagrantly disregards both. Imbued with dollops of style and brain in equal measure, Jacqueline Nurse is setting the foundation for a new school of thought through her latest endeavour called The French Seam Project. Classy, sassy simultaneously vulnerable and iconic, this ‘old-world dressmaking endeavour’ creates an identity all on its own.

Designer - Nelle - showcased at The French Seam Project & Photo by Caren Wiid

Designer 'Nelle' & Photo by Caren Wiid

Still in its formative stages, Miss Nurse can be found after-hours with paintbrush in hand; lovingly refurbishing her space in the predominantly high-end dining quartier, looking onto the courtyard of the Cape Heritage Hotel in Cape Town. The building built in the 1780’s, has been declared a national heritage site making it the ideal location for Jacqueline’s brainchild.


‘Although there is a long waiting list for the space for tenants who would like to use it (I imagine)toward culinary ends, the landlords were quite keen to keep the creative vibes flowing from the space. My project seemed to fit the bill, and it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.’

The project’s name finds its origins in the French seam, which is a labour-intensive method of enclosing the raw edges of fabric by sewing them together first on the right side and then on the wrong. This process Jacqueline describes as an analogy for what she is attempting to achieve; a slowed-down and more considered approach to clothing as a whole. The French Seam Project’s website advocates attention to detail and a return to the sophistication and class that was the defining characteristic of times gone by.

‘…a slowed-down and more considered approach to clothing as a whole.’

Dividing her time equally between The French Seam Project and consultant to project and gallery spaces within the fine art arena, Jacqueline has honed her thought-processes, which have always been informed by the world of fine art and utilised them as a point of departure for her foray  into the ever-evolving and transient world of fashion. Her aim in this latest venture is to illustrate to designers, textile-lovers and connoisseurs of fine clothing (I give the term ‘fashionista’  here a wide berth)- alike that ‘normal’ clothes are worthy of the equivalent thought, attention and love that is devoted to the magnificent run-way creations of Alexander McQueen, for instance. Says Jacqueline of her intention:

‘My love for particular and complex aesthetic, with a keen interest in the processes of fabrication and the narratives that inform any construction of an identity have paved the way for my new venture.’


Classic fabrics coupled with off-beat intricacies


Perhaps the most provocative aspect of Jacqueline’s approach lies in the way she views fashion. To her, clothing is not merely something that subscribes to trends and the obvious utilitarian slant; it is something to be treasured- each piece is an objet d’art;she tellingly refers to one of her collaborator’sdesigns as ‘constructions’. Through The French Seam Project, Jacqueline is marrying the idea of using gallery space as a platformto exhibit accessible, lovingly crafted, high-quality street-wear.  Harbouring strong sentiments on the role of clothing in shaping one’s identity, and not much of a trend-follower herself, Jacqueline describes her own personal style as eclectic. Structure in a garment is of paramount importance as is her love of things that ‘…do not immediately make sense.’


The curator hard at work


Although Jacqueline currently orbits the periphery of the fashion world, she is well-aware of the cyclical nature of the industry and recognises its reflective nature:

‘In the same way that art will mirror the time in which it is being created-either through overt statements or pure aesthetic-so it is with fashion.’

The French Seam Project sees the collections of two Cape Town designers, Nelle and Suzie Diamond as its initial ‘exhibitions’. Both have made fine fabrics, one-off designs and quality craftsmanship their primary focus resulting in timelessly wearable pieces of art. Jacqueline has hopes for her own collection in the near future and is currently in discussions with other potential collaborators in the form of an artist and textile-designer as well as a milliner.


Swingtags designed by Jaco Haasbroek


This twenty-something Capetonian is one to watch.Hoping only to attract like-minded people, Jacqueline’s world echoes that of her approach to clothes: peaceful and purposeful. And one in which everyone is well-dressed.


Words by Leanne Davis