Career Spotlight: Julia Farr Connolly (C'88) and Ann Tierney Prochnow (C'88)

President and Creative Director, Julia Farr Collection, LLC

Julia Farr Connolly and Ann Tierney Prochnow met their freshman year at Georgetown, when they were living on 2nd New South. They didn't become friends right away, though, due to a sartorial mishap.

Julia Farr Connolly (C'88) and Ann Tierney Prochnow (C'88)Julia: It was the screw-your-roommate dance, the first official dance of our freshman year. I was wearing my new and most favorite purple Laura Ashley dress. Then, I saw Ann walking down the hall in the exact same dress.

Ann: We matched from head to toe, from our single strand pearl necklace right down to our bone colored stockings and black patent flats.

Julia: We didn't really know one another yet and this was not a bonding moment for us.

Ann: It took us until our senior year to get over it, but our friendship has been rock solid for the past 25 years.

Their friendship turned into a business partnership two years after Julia opened her eponymous boutique, Julia Farr, in 2010.

Julia: After 17 years as a corporate securities attorney, I left that world to start my own business.

Her boutique was met with immediate success, receiving numerous accolades as "Best in Washington" and "Best in Bethesda." Word quickly spread through women's professional circles that Julia understood their wardrobe needs.

Julia: A lot of women that I knew from my years as an attorney came into the store looking for sophisticated clothing to wear to work, as well as to consult with me on how, and when, to wear it.

But when Julia went to market in New York, she couldn't find the type of clothing that her clients were looking for.

Julia: The skirts were too short and the dresses were not office appropriate.

The Julia Farr Collection was launched in 2012 to fill this gap in the marketplace, providing sophisticated pieces, primarily for the professional woman, as well as essential and occasion-appropriate designs for every woman's wardrobe.

Ann: When Julia first opened her boutique, I was so happy to see her pursuing a long-held dream that I dove in to help her in whatever way I could—developing her website and helping her craft her business plan. When she decided to launch the private label, we made the partnership official.

Ann had begun her career in fashion, working for Ralph Lauren right out of Georgetown. She brought that wholesale experience, as well as her apparel production contacts, to the business. She spearheads the manufacturing and business side, while Julia drives the creative side.

Julia: We were both involved in everything at the beginning, but now we've each moved into defined areas of the business based upon complementary skill sets.

Ann: Julia and I were both history majors at Georgetown. We've found those life-long skills that we developed as liberal arts undergraduates—to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems. These are all essential skills for any entrepreneur, particularly when you enter into a world in which you are learning a new industry.

Julia: Our Georgetown experience has influenced our business in so many ways. All of our designs are named after places in Washington, D.C., including places on Georgetown's campus. We feature the Healy pencil skirt, the Dahlgren Dress and the Gaston Jacket: foundational buildings and halls on campus representing the foundational parts of a woman's wardrobe.

Ann: Our shared values, shaped by our Georgetown education, have also influenced how we set up our business. All of our clothing is made in the USA under fair labor conditions. We donate a portion of our profits to women- and children-based charities. With less than 30 percent of American companies owned by women today, we are proud to be entirely women-owned and operated.

Julia and Ann have both served as members of the Georgetown Alumni Association Board of Governors, Ann as chair of class advancement for the past four years and  Julia as president of the association from 2010-2012. They both have served as class leaders for the Class of 1988 since graduation.

Julia: As alumni volunteers, we meet so many different Georgetown alumnae, most of whom are professionals involved in high-impact positions. These women live highly complex lives, juggling demanding professions with family and charitable commitments. Many of them don't want to spend time thinking about what to wear, but they understand that their wardrobe telegraphs an immediate message about them when they enter the courtroom, boardroom or client meeting. Their stories drive our designs.

Ann: Women are leading some of the most powerful institutions in the world today—the Federal Reserve, Yahoo, the IMF. Women make up the majority in American universities, as well as holding over 50 percent of all professional jobs. The need for appropriate, polished, feminine clothing will continue to grow as more and more women ascend the ranks of power. Gone are the days when women have to dress like men to seem more formidable.

Julia: Julia Farr Collection clients are women who work in the White House, the State Department and in the media. These women return to us each season because they trust us to have the wardrobe pieces that they need for their busy, full lives.

Ann: Whether or not you care about fashion, the simple fact is that you have to get dressed every day. We all want to look good, the bonus is to feel comfortable, polished and confident—ready to face whatever the day might bring.

Julie:  The most rewarding moment is one that occurred when we launched our first collection but now happens repeatedly: it is the life cycle of our designs. Seeing our designs go from creative concept, to design, fabric selection, final creation and then fitted on a client, who will wear it for a significant moment or meeting, is just a thrill and incredibly rewarding. That women love our creations and choose them over many other design options available to them is daily re-enforcement of our joint vision and mission.

Ann: I am very proud of the fact that we have built this business on a shoestring, growing thoughtfully and conservatively. 2014 marks our second full year in business and our sales are 50 percent ahead of last year. We are at a crucial point in our business, striving to increase our brand awareness on a global level. Right now, we deliver our product directly to our professional client through the boutique, regional trunk shows and online. Our next step is to showcase Julia Farr Collection through women's professional organizations throughout the country.

Julia: As we grow our business, our friendship is still our foundation. Before we begin any business call or meeting, we always take a few minutes to catch up on our personal lives. Many times, that involves discussing what we will wear the next time we see each other, so we don't show up wearing the same thing!

Ann: We learned our lesson all those years ago.