While traveling the world, Jamie Jensen learned what it took to become a successful entrepreneur. She is the owner of Portland’s Gypsy Chic, a women’s fashion retail store. Jamie has traveled to more than 35 countries, most by the age of 25. And that’s not all; she also speaks five languages.
Jamie grew-up in the small town of Shawano, Wisconsin. “There are probably more cows than people,” Jamie said. Although she loved the closeness of a small town, she was yearning to experience more of the world. So she did just that.
After applying to the Rotary Exchange Student Program, Jamie went to Sweden for a year. She then studied in Germany for a year while at the University of Wisconsin. After receiving her degree in three years, she traveled to Mali, West Africa with the Peace Corps. And that’s just a handful of her travel destinations. When she came home from the Peace Corps, Jamie bought a round-the-world ticket and started traveling with just a backpack.
It is no surprise Jamie developed such a unique sense of style after experiencing so many diverse cultures. During a trip in Thailand she met Jamin, a master tailor and a designer. This is when clothing became more than just a passion and her friendship with Jamin evolved into a business collaboration. Gypsy Chic now has three Portland locations and offers a variety of clothing and accessories.
This free-spirited and business-savvy woman has traveled to more countries than most people do in their entire lifetime. Jamie’s next adventure happens to be local and possibly includes opening a new store location in late fall.
What three words describe your personal style?
It’s a few more than three words, but it not only embodies my personal fashion but also that of the store: “World fashion meets urban style.”
Have you always loved fashion?
It is passion and raw instinct that I have. I seem to instinctively know how garment structures fit bodies and what is flattering. My mother always had a keen sense of style especially for a woman in small town Wisconsin and I am grateful that somehow she was able to pass this along to me.
Where have you traveled?
I’ve been to over 35 countries, including almost every country in Europe. Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, England, Italy, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, France, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Morocco, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Benin, Togo, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Bali.
What was your favorite place?
I have two favorite places for different reasons. First, Africa because it was so life changing. I felt embraced and nurtured by the culture and people despite Mali being one of the poorest countries of the world. In fact, the people I met there were so rich in values that I found I had more to learn from them at times than they from me. My second favorite is Thailand. I travel there annually with my family and I feel very connected to the people and culture. It is like an extension of our family in that our kids have grown-up with our tailor’s kids. Both of my children have a passport and their first trip to Thailand at 6 months old (15 years earlier than I did)! Jamin, our tailor, speaks little English and his wish was for his daughter to go to a school where she could also learn English. This is something in which our business helps facilitate.
What item should every woman have in her wardrobe?
I think that they should have a good pair of boots and chunky jewelry. My favorites are cowboy boots and turquoise. They give an outfit a raw but refined, bold statement.
What do you like about Portland fashion?
How people put together pieces from local designers, vintage and inexpensive finds to create a totally unique look. Most of my customers “get the look without the price tag,” hence allowing them to be able to save and splurge on a statement piece by one of the many great labels made right here in Portland.
You’ve been in business for 13 years and have three store locations. What’s your secret for success?
My biggest piece has been the great team including my husband, Brian. We met at the Saturday Market in 2002 while he was filling in for a vendor. His family had been involved in the market since the late 70s, so he grew in the festival environment. We have an extremely loyal client base that has supported us through everything as we have grown. When the recession hit, many of our patrons would come and spend what they could, just to keep us in business (and end up looking good in the process). Festivals have also been a consistent and strong revenue stream that has helped us maintain the business in lean times. In addition, strong and independent women have joined the business. They have shared the vision while giving their heart and soul to the business. Although it has changed over the years, we have been consistently fortunate in creating and maintaining a strong team.