By Kristin Smith
Mother Marilyn Jones and her daughter, Cecy Jones Korematsu, came to their family business in an unorthodox way. They weren’t born into it, and it wasn’t a lifetime dream to create a booming business together. It happened uniquely and organically—a theme that continues today with the production of their custom silk scarves.
Before Cecy and Marilyn joined together as J&J Designs 24 years ago, their lives and art were very different. Marilyn was spending her days painting and using her fine art degree in San Francisco. Cecy was in Chicago working on her own art: a series of metal sculptures that she describes as “Burning Man meats motorcycle art.”
Marilyn shakes her head thinking about Cecy’s old art. It was “interesting,” she jokes, before turning her attention back to the thin piece of velum on her work table.
But Cecy’s foray into silk scarves wasn’t that unlikely. As a student, she had visited Amelio Pucci’s factory in Italy and saw how it worked. Growing up, she and her parents lived in Singapore, so they had connections to designers and manufacturers overseas.
On Marilyn’s 50th birthday, she called her daughter to discuss an art project. A nonprofit she supported needed auction items—something that would speak to the organization. A scarf that reflected the organization’s art seemed like a great option. Marilyn asked her daughter for help, and out of that single project, they launched what is now a bustling business.
In their more than two decades of partnership, J&J have designed one-of-a-kind scarves for museums, nonprofits, schools, and society groups across the country. But it’s here in San Francisco where they’ve really made their mark. J&J have produced work for the SF MoMa, the Symphony, the Metropolitan Club, and numerous other local institutions.
Watching Cecy work today, it’s hard to imagine her banging away on a large metal sculpture. She stands over a light box with a pencil, painstakingly drawing a complex knot for a piece they’re working on for the Saint Francis Yacht Club. On the other side of the small light table is Marilyn. She’s drawing a sail on the same piece of thin paper.
Before they even get to the drawing stage, Marilyn and Cecy spend hours researching their subject and collaborating with the client. Each scarf reflects the nature and history of the organization they’re working with, and each design element is carefully chosen. For a project with a private school in New England, Cecy and Marilyn studied the Gothic buildings on campus, pulling in complex elements like arches and gargoyles. Studying any of their scarves is like a scavenger hunt.
Recently, J&J Designs started producing some digitally printed scarves and more affordable items. But their signature is still their hand-painted, labor-intensive silk scarves. While Marilyn and Cecy may not have come to the family business in the traditional way, their artistic process and craftsmanship certainly is traditional. They’re old world, just like Pucci taught them.