Jacqueline City has an instantly calming presence. We giggle over how we both tend to forget questions we're asked in the middle of answering them and how much we loved True Jackson VP. She chats with me about junk food and fashion and the meaning of life as if she hasn’t just finished showing her second New York Fashion Week collection.
City is successful and grounded all at the same time—and it seems like she’s always known that she’d end up where she is today.
She's only 25—“I’m old,” she says cheekily—but she’s already lived a lifetime's worth of experiences. She’s the CEO of her own clothing line, Jacqueline City Apparel, which has been featured on British Vogue, Glamour, and more.
A native of Northeast Philadelphia, City is also an outspoken disability and invisible illness advocate. After suffering a brain injury at a concert during her senior year of high school, City began to experience an array of debilitating symptoms.
“I was fainting up to 20 times a day, and they were just telling me that they were panic attacks, that this was all in my head and I was just having anxiety," she says. "But I knew that there was something there, there was something wrong, and I kept pursuing it.”
City was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a form of dysautonomia—a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions. When symptoms forced her to withdraw from her studies at Drexel University, City poured her energy into making her own clothing designs and sharing them online as a hobby.
Artistic and entrepreneurial since birth, City taught herself how to sew at age six. “I would cut out my drawings on paper and Elmer’s Glue them to my T–shirts, ruining my T–shirts,” City laughs. “I heard on TV that you could make jean shorts from jeans, so I cut them to where you could not wear them because I cut them right through the pocket.”
She always dreamed of being a fashion designer. “For second grade, I went into my career day as a fashion designer, like the tape around my neck and everything," she says.
Soon after she started posting her work on social media, her Instagram boutique blew up. A year later, her collection was selected to be featured in New York Fashion Week.
For City, inclusivity has always been her guiding light. Offering plus–size options that are both trendy and affordable is a key component of her brand's mission. Customers can shop a variety of bright and bold women’s, men’s, unisex, children's, and plus–size options up to a 5X.
“Fashion is for everyone. We all wear clothes unless you’re in a nudist colony, right?” City jokes. “And you still probably wear clothes sometimes. So we all wear clothes, we’re all equal. I just want there to be options for everyone.”
Jacqueline City Apparel's commitment to fashion for all is reflected in all of its promotions and public–facing events. The brand's photoshoots feature healthcare workers, moms, and veterans rather than solely supermodels. Meanwhile, spotlighting people with disabilities in the company's advertisements and runway shows remains central to City's cause—ensuring that the voices and experiences of people with disabilities don't go unnoticed.
“These were all huge problems I felt. I never saw a disabled person on the runway as a kid," City says.
All of her pieces are vegan and made–to–order as well, highlighting her commitment to sustainability.
Clothing inclusivity and disability awareness aside, City emphasizes that she's incredibly passionate about her identity as a vegan Philadelphia foodie. “I always miss Philly, especially the food,” she says. The designer recently fulfilled her lifelong dream of moving to New York, but her hot take is that the New York vegan food scene pales in comparison to Philly’s.
Her favorite restaurant? “Triangle Tavern, but don’t tell too many people because if I go and can’t get a table, I will be upset," she says. City’s also looking forward to checking out the newly opened American Vegan Center in Old City next time she's in town.
After all of her adventures, City knows that there's no place quite like the City of Brotherly Love. “There’s a closeness in Philly that you don’t get in New York," she notes. “There’s more of a family sort of mentality, like we’re all looking out for each other.”
City's energy radiates throughout the entire interview: She’s funny, sharp, and above all, ambitious. She’s only just gotten started in the fashion world, and she's bringing a wave of change with her.