Sweet and Sexy
A Lafayette couple’s clothing company hits the fashion big time.
Jamie Finegold’s interest in clothes surfaced early. “I had an amazing wardrobe my freshman year of high school,” he says. Through a family connection, he’d had the chance to tour the Levi Strauss and Co. facility in San Francisco. Let loose in the sample room, where he was allowed to choose clothes to take home, the 15-year-old Finegold was like a kid in a candy shop, and he quickly put together a new style, including woven dress shirts. “I had to learn to iron,” he says.
His penchant for fashion resurfaced when he was at UC Santa Barbara. Inspired by the neon-colored surf wear popular in the late 1980s, Finegold—a beach volleyball junkie—created his own line of just-as-bright volleyball gear and sold the designs around campus. Later, he got a crash course in apparel production when he agreed to make 120 dresses for a sorority event, earning less than 25 cents an hour on the project. “It was incredibly difficult and very frustrating,” says Finegold. Nonetheless, he was hooked.
Seated side by side in black leather chairs at their Concord-based headquarters, Finegold and his wife and business partner, Dana, reminisce about their early fashion ventures. Jamie is animated and dramatic; Dana interjects occasionally to bring the story back on point. The college sweethearts started dating in their junior year, and Dana quickly became an integral part of the business. Then, like now, Jamie oversaw design and sales, and Dana, an accounting major, managed the money. Back then, neither contemplated that they would one day be the owners of a successful, nationally distributed women’s clothing line that generates $18 million a year in sales. “It’s been an adventure,” says Jamie.
The couple, each 43, launched JD Fine and Company in 1996, and sales grew exponentially as it quickly established a following. Tart Collections, its contemporary women’s sportswear line, is sold in more than 700 high-end boutiques and department stores across the country. Tart wear is a regular on the pages of the hottest style magazines. And celebrities including Katy Perry, Kourtney Kardashian, and Minka Kelly, to name-drop just a few, have been spotted frequently wearing Tart dresses and separates.
Making it in the fickle fashion industry isn’t easy, and a women’s apparel business led by a husband-and-wife team is pretty unusual. Add four kids between the ages of seven and 16 to the mix, and it’s a lot to balance, but the Finegolds seem to have tapped into the recipe for having it all. The Lafayette pair’s complementary skills—his artistic yin balanced by her structured yang—make it work, says Dana. “He likes to create chaos, and I like to organize it.”
Tart’s designs reflect a combination of Jamie and Dana’s individual styles as well. Jamie’s fashion sense is instinctive and adventurous. Dana, who has striking girl-next-door good looks, describes herself as a fashion conservative who opts for comfort. “Jamie has always had a knack for spotting trends. In high school [They both went to Northgate High in Walnut Creek, although they didn’t really know each other.], he bleached his Levi’s, dyed them pink, and wore them to school,” says Dana, “I was more of a 501 kind of girl.” Today, Jamie usually dresses in the standard male designer uniform: jeans paired with a simple black or white tee or button-down shirt. Dana is the muse for Tart’s designs, says Jamie, and he credits her with pushing him more toward the center.
Although Jamie frequently travels to the fashion meccas of New York City and Los Angeles to stay in touch with the ever-changing fashion scene, the Bay Area remains their base of operations. “We have a good network of manufacturers here, and technology enables us to easily flourish in the global world of fashion design,” says Jamie. Currently, online sales represent 20 percent of Tart’s retail market, and he sees that segment only growing. In the East Bay, Tart is sold at Edge in Danville and in several Daily Method studios, and a Tart outlet in Concord has been a huge success.
“This spring is all about bright colors,” says Jamie, as he and Dana flip through photos of Tart Collections’ resort and spring lines. This season, they are betting on vibrant hues, like poppy red, pool blue, and nectarine. Dana says that Tart’s feisty spring colors are reminiscent of the bright Day Glo tees they first marketed back at UCSB. “I’ve been waiting patiently for this trend to cycle back,” says Jamie, “and I am really excited.”