Junny Ann Hibbert photographed by Robert “Max” Twitty.

In honor of New York Fashion Week Fashion fast approaching, Downtown sat down with NYC-based designer Junny Ann Hibbert to talk about her Fashion Week collection.

Tell us about yourself, and who you are as a designer.

More than seven years ago, I was downsized from ESPN, where I oversaw news business acquisition as a director of sales. During my tenure at the company, I spearheaded several innovative partnership opportunities, including the inaugural sports and fashion collaboration between ESPN, New York Fashion Week, and IMG.

After being downsized and some deep soul searching, I started designing while working with local makers and designers in Harlem. My design journey began with one caftan. Since then, I have designed full collections, and my pieces are now worn by men and women all over the world.

What or who are your biggest influences?

My mother, Alex Melceta Johnson, was a seamstress. Coming from a Caribbean upbringing, designing was not considered a profession. But her dream for her children was bigger. She is and will always be my biggest influence. I am also transnational, so I draw much of my influence from the sounds and vibes of my Harlem home as well as my deep Jamaican multi-cultural roots.

What was it like being a part of NYFW for the first time in September, and tell us a little bit about your debut NYFW collection?

I debuted for the first time on the official NYFW stage in September 2021 with the critically acclaimed collection, Mama. The collection came to me as I was lying on my living room floor. I envisioned my mother in the kitchen wearing her favorite night dress. She would never go outside without a robe over it. So, the collection represented the cyclical journey through womanhood inspired by the image and imagination of one’s mother, the dreams of the adolescent girl, the young woman searching for meaning, and the grown woman being, becoming, liberated and celebrated. The pieces within the collection were bold, sexy, sensual, intelligent, daring, and eclectic — and they could easily translate from the Corner Social in Harlem to the Opera. Altogether, the collection paid homage to my mother and all women, past and present, who embody that strong, nurturing spirit. I then followed up with the collection Kingston 7 Yaad, which was digitally released during NYFW in February 2022. It captures the soul, strength, and sound of the rustic neighborhoods (or “yaad”) found throughout Jamaica’s parishes like its capital city of Kingston. And it represents how the music of my people have always centered around reclamation as a response to oppression.

What are you most looking forward to during NYFW?

NYFW is fashion’s biggest stage, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to showcase my brand during it. NYFW has always represented the audacity of hope. That feeling crystalized for me during my first official showcase in September 2021. When the press showed up at Spring Studio to see my collection, I heard the journalists of color say that they saw their heritage in the pieces. And they said it repeatedly with awe. When a reporter for The New York Times stopped by, they asked, “Is this where we find JUNNY? We hear that there is someone new and fresh in the house!” It’s a moment that I’ll never forget. And I would like all the Black and Brown children across the globe to see that if their dreams can come true if they dare to dream big. There is also nothing as majestic as fall in New York. You can literally feel the excitement in the air and the pulse of the city, especially during all the shows and soirees for NYFW. So, for me, NYFW signals a return to civility in the city. It’s magic!

What do you think about the inclusion of digital releases in NYFW? 

Many designers of color lack the necessary funding and resources to stage full runway shows season after season. It’s a struggle that I’ve had to navigate. That’s what makes digital releases so vital. They provide with a sustainable opportunity and solution for me and other designers who might otherwise be left out of NYFW to showcase our collections in innovative ways and use our platforms to drive meaningful conversations.

How has technology like that helped you as a designer and why is that important to the industry?

It’s important for the fashion industry to provide opportunities for diverse voices. During the pandemic, even mainstream brands used digital platforms to reach their audiences. Digital technology has helped create a dynamic infrastructure for storytelling and a more accessible way for designers to engage other creatives and audiences in the conversation. It’s also a more sustainable way for designers, especially those of color and those that are independent, to showcase our collections.

Is there anything you can share with us about your upcoming collection for NYFW?

This season’s presentation will be a digital visualization of the human heart and mind. Through fashion, dance, and spoken word, the collection will explore the complexities of how we create and persevere, with equal parts joy and pain. You can expect to see unexpected pairings and wearable, seasonless pieces with warm neutrals and bold splashes of color. Some archival favorites will also be making a return.

What is your favorite show you’ve done?

My favorite show took place in February 2022, when I released my Kingston 7 Yaad collection. I love that collection because it’s an ode to the land of my birth, my forever love. I found inspiration in dancehall culture. Dancehall music’s rhythm was formed in the ghettos and the lyrics came from the streets. It embodies the struggle and the resolution of the people. They appreciate all they have because they made it out of what many thought held no value. I’m rooted in that belief: that if you only dare to dream it, it’s possible! And that has kept me going all these years.

Photo by Jeffrey Gamble Productions.

What is your favorite piece or collection?

Ah, that’s a tough question. I love them all! But if I had to choose one, it would be My Mama’s nightgown. You see, no matter what, the memories of our mothers and our childhood stay with us. They become our anchors for our whole lives!

Because we’re Downtown Magazine, we always like to ask: what are your favorite places to go or things to do Downtown?

That’s another tough one. I’m a Harlem Girl! That’s Uptown Baby! And there’s nothing like it! But seriously, what I enjoy in Downtown Manhattan really depends on my mood, and New York has changed so much! I love having a cocktail at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown. I also love SoHo on a Monday evening because it’s so quiet. A table at Balthazar is always a welcome respite, especially after a bit of shopping. When I do venture into what I call the belly of Manhattan, The Occulus is always a fun yet somber treat, with the World Trade Center Memorial as its backdrop. And then I usually end up somewhere in Brookfield Place for apéritifs. And I can’t ever forget the home of New York Fashion Week — Spring Place! There’s nowhere in the city like it; it has most stunning views! The beauty of Downtown Manhattan is that it’s never boring because there’s so much to do and see, especially if you allow your imagination to guide you.

About JUNNY ®

JUNNY ® is a former ESPN sales executive who discovered her passion for designing after getting downsized from her position more than seven years ago. Inspired by her mother who was a seamstress, JUNNY ® has created her own clothing from an early age. Her collections are bold, creatively exuberant, and size-inclusive, drawing on the vibrancy of her Harlem and Jamaican cultural roots. She made her debut on the official New York Fashion Week stage in September 2021 with the critically acclaimed collection, Mama. She then followed up with the collection Kingston 7 Yaad, which was digitally released during NYFW in February 2022. JUNNY ® was a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund semi-finalist for 2022 and a Fashion Group International Rising Start finalist for womenswear in 2022. The brand was also chosen by Visa for its 2022 inaugural “She’s Next in Fashion” program. Explore more at junny.nyc or by following her on Instagram at @iamjhibby.

Check out more on NYFW here.