Fall 2014

Jamie Loeks Duffield, ’12

Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Starts Luxe Loungewear Line

By Lori Atherton

Jamie Loeks Duffield, ’12, has always enjoyed fashion, but she never entertained the idea of starting her own clothing line until a Christmas Eve shopping trip left her empty handed.

Duffield and her mother, Barrie Lawson Loeks, ’79, were looking for stylish pajamas to give as gifts to family members, ones that could be worn long after the holidays were over. Instead they were disappointed to find mostly flannel PJs adorned with candy canes or other kitschy motifs.

“My mom and I thought there should be pajamas that are really comfortable and nice, ones that you can wear all the time and aren’t embarrassed to be seen in if a neighbor stops by,” Duffield says. “People spend so much time relaxing or working from home, why not look as nice and stylish there as you do the rest of the time?”

Wanting to be “on the other side of the table,” Duffield left her associate position at the Miami law firm Shutts and Bowen in July 2013 and returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start Duffield Lane, a loungewear/resort wear line that can be worn at home, out to dinner, or at the beach. 

Launched in January, the collection, which Duffield describes as “classic and timeless,” includes pajamas, tunics, and dresses.

Duffield has been involved in all aspects of the business, from sketching the initial designs and working with a freelance designer to refine them, to researching fabrics and manufacturers, to marketing the brand and developing the company’s website. She concedes there’s a lot to learn about the fashion industry, but credits her education—which, in addition to her JD from Michigan Law, also includes a BS in international business from Georgetown University—with giving her the right tools to succeed.

“It’s been really helpful to have a law and business background,” says Duffield, who was a student in the Entrepreneurship Clinic at Michigan Law. “I came into the fashion industry with the opposite background as most people. Typically you have a designer who knows how to get his or her line out there, but has no idea what to do with a balance sheet or setting up an LLC, whereas I’ve had plenty of training on how to organize a business and what capital structure to use. It’s made me more confident, especially when signing contracts.”

Duffield sells her line on her website and at trunk shows hosted by family and friends. Her collection also is sold at boutiques in Grand Rapids and on Useppa Island, Florida, and soon will be available at boutiques in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York following her foray into the trade show circuit.

“We went from having three stores in two states, to having 10 stores in five states after I attended trade shows in Atlanta and New York City,” says Duffield, whose goal is to sell her collection at major retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue. “It’s really exciting and a nice affirmation that people like what we’re doing.”

While Duffield never imagined a career in fashion, she knew at a young age that she wanted to start her own business. The entrepreneurial spirit was fostered by her parents, Jim and Barrie Loeks, who founded the movie theater chain Star Theaters. Duffield’s parents and her husband, Ryan Duffield, also a 2012 Michigan Law grad, have been extremely supportive of her endeavor and make it possible for her to run the business without outside help.

“Business is going well, or as well as I could hope at this point for a small business,” she says, “but I would love to take Duffield Lane as far as it can go.”