Photographs courtesy of Kristin Juszczyk; Collage: Gabe Conte
Kristin Juszcyzk will have quite the birthday celebration this Sunday. Then again, the almost-30-year-old has already had quite the year.
The clothing creator and designer went viral (her Instagram account is up to 973,000) after Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes wore two of her custom creations for the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFC Championship victory. Following that match-up, Juszcyk signed a licensing deal with the NFL for men’s and women’s apparel designs. And while her husband Kyle Juszczyk, an 11-year veteran fullback for the 49ers, is prepping for Sunday's Super Bowl, Kristin was in Las Vegas for her own Super Bowl-related media appearances this week.
For Juszczyk, the sudden spotlight is the culmination of years of hard work. The Massapequa, New York native began sewing her own designs years ago. Now, with celebrities like Simone Biles, Taylor Lautner, Mahomes and of course, Swift, wearing her designs, Juszczyk wants to bring her creations to the NFL fan masses. We caught up with her from her Vegas hotel room, as she prepped for several appearances.
So you’re at Super Bowl week, doing media–for yourself. What’s it been like?
Kristin Juszczyk: It’s been overwhelming. But the best kind of overwhelming.
When did you start sewing and creating?
My husband has been in the league for 11 years now. Maybe 5 years in, I was sick of wearing the same old t-shirt and jersey to every game. But I couldn't find what I was looking for, clothing-wise. So I said, ‘I’m going to create it on my own.’
Did you have a background in fashion/design or sewing?
I have no background, it’s a passion. I’ve always been into fashion and I love clothing. I am completely self-taught. I started watching YouTube videos. The first clothing I made was sweatpants, i.e. not something form fitting. If people scroll down on my Instagram page to years past, they can see that it literally started from the bottom. And now we are here. The things I used to make, I look back and crawl out of my skin [laughs].
The first YouTube video I watched was, like, “how to thread a sewing machine.” I was just learning the machine. From there, it was a lot of trial and error. The first look that I made, I had a box of all of Kyle’s merchandise at the time, a ton of t-shirts with his Juice Box logo. There were so many leftovers that I thought, “Let me make sweatpants with a matching crop top.” It’s so funny looking back because it was so amateur. And it snowballed from there.
Were you creating fits for other people as well?
The first few years, it was just for me. And I am still learning every day! But at that time, if someone gave me their measurements, I wasn't sure how to do it. I was using my own body as a mannequin to try on and alter things myself.
I started making things for other people this year. I’m a perfectionist, so handing it off and giving it to someone else was hard because I wanted it to be perfect.
This past season–really the past month–has catapulted you into a new stratosphere. When do you feel like this big push started?
This season kind of all really started during Halloween. I really wanted to be Justin and Britney from the VMAs, the full denim getup, and I said, You know what—I want to try to make this. I couldn't find it online. It came so naturally to me—I loved doing this, I can’t believe I found this love later in life. And the goal has always been to grow the business and be licensed and get things to fans.
What is the hardest part of the creation process for you?
Every bit is challenging, but I love a challenge. If you tell me I can’t do something, it pushes me to do it even more. That’s a big reason it’s been so successful - it’s all a challenge. Every piece of it requires a ton of patience–that is the number one skill set for sewing. Every time I make a piece, I’m learning. At first, that piece will take the longest time. But then once I perfect it, it becomes a lot easier.
Is there a certain piece of clothing that takes longer to create?
Every piece is so different. When I am learning something new, that will take me a full week. It also depends on if I am making it for someone else or for myself. If it’s for someone else, I’ll be a perfectionist and dedicate 50 hours to it and make sure it’s perfect. It’s time-consuming, but so rewarding. I love all my scars on my fingers, it tells stories. I don't view it as work.
Have you always wanted this to grow into a full-fledged business?
Yes. I have had this goal for a long time. I have a vision board as my lock screen on my phone, my goals for this year and I look at it every day. I’ve been wanting to hone in on my craft and get it out there. I believe in it so much. I told myself, “You’ll create something for every game, but also for other people, too.” But never did I think I’d land the people I’ve landed.
Do you have a staff of seamstresses?
It’s just me. I’m literally sewing on my husband’s ping pong table. I was able to get some incredible interns from the local fashion schools in San Jose who assisted me this week, because I’m just a one-woman show. There’s a lot that needs to get figured out moving forward. I’m not hand-stitching everything.
And you just signed a licensing deal with the NFL.
I’ve had meetings with them for the past few years, trying to get the licensing deal. This year in particular, even in the beginning, it gained more momentum, and my skill set has broadened. The NFL is such a family, it doesn’t really matter what team you’re on, so whether it was reaching out to fellow 49er families, Simone Biles, Brittany [Mahomes], they’ve been so supportive. I’ve tried to shoot my shot with everyone.
Deebo [Samuels] was such a huge help, too. He is the best, having him wear one of my designs helps me so much. I don't want to pigeonhole myself to just women, I have so many ideas for men, too.
Brittany [Mahomes] and Taylor [Swift]—that was icing on the cake. They really helped catapult my career.
Do you want to talk to whoever you’re making it for during the creative process?
I always ask, because I want everyone to feel confident and beautiful in what they are wearing. With everything, they say, we love anything, just go for it! With Simone, Deebo, Brittany and Taylor, I had full creative control. They were all really happy with it. And I understand the general concept of what they are looking for.
There’s a lot of things that come into play—is it a cold game? Brittany and Taylor, that was one of the coldest games in history, so making sure they have a lot of padding. With Deebo, I know he likes his clothes flashy, so I wanted to add fun designs to make it loud. For Simone, I wanted to add an Olympics patch and add flannel because it’s Green Bay. Taylor Lautner, he is so nice, I’m a huge Twilight fan, so that was a huge honor to make him something.
When did you first see Taylor Swift in your jacket creation?
I saw it live, with everyone else. It fit her so well—I didn’t have her measurements, so I was nervous about that, and it looked incredible.
Has your husband worn one of your creations?
Kyle will be wearing something for the Super Bowl. This will be the first time he’s worn one of my creations. We’ve had this idea for him for a long time, and we’ve been wanting to save it for a big moment. We can't think of a bigger moment than this Sunday.
You’re now at 973,000 Instagram followers (and counting). Has there been a moment this year where you’ve just kind of had to pinch yourself at what is happening?
This whole year has been a pinch-me moment. I hosted a 49er women’s event at Levi’s Stadium where we got 250 women in to encourage creativity. I got to meet all the amazing people supporting me, I got to do a panel.
Everyone in the creative space can feel discouraged now and then. I’ve been at this a few years now, trying to get stuff out there and get the licensing deal. A good friend said to me, “If someone told you it’d take you 100 ‘no’s’ to get 1 ‘yes,’ wouldn’t you be so excited to get your first yes?” And that stuck with me to my core. Those nos got me that much closer to my yes. The 49ers event was my first big yes.
What are your next steps?
Right now, I’m trying to stay as present as I can. My husband is playing in the Super Bowl and that’s been our family goal forever, to win that Lombardi Trophy. I’m trying to stay present this week. Hopefully when we win that Lombardi, I can dive into my business plan to see what this whole thing will be. It’s been incredible.
Is there anyone you haven’t designed for you yet who you want to?
As much as I feel so honored to dress these celebrities, my goal has always been to dress the fans. I want to walk into the stadium and see people wearing my designs. This is a later passion. I want to advocate to everyone that it’s never too late in life to find your love or passion.
Originally Appeared on GQ