Juliet Polonus felt like something was missing. She was looking for casual, high-quality shirts with cool graphics, but she couldn’t find the exact style she was envisioning. The tops she did come across that she liked were often designed for a West Coast audience, with images of the ocean and desert.
“Being from the Midwest, I felt that it was nothing we could relate to,” she says. “There was a need for hand-done graphic tees.”
So, Polonus set out to fill what she saw as a void in the market. As a working mother, she started sketching designs inspired by the unrefined landscape of the Midwest. It wasn’t long before her shirt line, BEHÖVA, was born.
Polonus started selling her shirts in 2015, working with a local screen printer based in St. Charles. All her designs are hand drawn and aren’t edited on a computer. The name of the brand comes from a Swedish word that means “need” – a nod to Polonus’s heritage and the need for her creations.
“It’s been a very cool experience,” says Polonus. “I’m very grateful and excited to see people wearing the shirts and getting a positive reaction from people. The idea that this simple drawing could turn into this brand is very humbling.”
Many of Polonus’ designs pay homage to her Midwestern roots. She has lived all around the region, including more than a decade in the Geneva area. One shirt features a skull intertwined with native plants from the area. Another depicts dandelions and weeds to represent the ruggedness of the prairie.
“I’m Midwest through and through,” says Polonus. “I love the idea of honing in on the area and trying to portray that in these images.”
BEHÖVA features a varied selection of women’s tops, such as tanks, V-necks, long-sleeve shirts and more. The shirts are made from a soft cotton blend and the fit is meant to be casual and flowy. The brand also offers options for children and men, which are inspired by Polonus’s husband and two kids.
The line is now sold exclusively at Jori & June clothing boutique in Geneva. Polonus opened the boutique with friend Melissa Parkos in June of 2016. The aesthetic of the store plays off of the vibe of BEHÖVA; both are practical and comfortable, but still chic and unique.
“Jori & June came about and we hit the ground running,” says Polonus. “And developing this brand and BEHÖVA within it – you have to take the opportunity when it’s in front of you.”
Polonus has a long background in both retail and art. She attended school for art and graphic design and always doodles in her spare time. She has worked in retail for more than 15 years, including Odalisque Beauty Apothecary in Geneva and the now-closed Anthropologie in the Geneva Commons.
She hopes that bringing her vision to life can spur other aspiring entrepreneurs and artists to chase their dreams, too.
“Just do it. The fear is always going to be there,” says Polonus. “If anything, I hope it can be an inspiration. You can do anything. Everything is at your fingertips – the resources that are out there. If I can do it, I know anybody can.”
For more information on Jori & June or BEHÖVA, visit joriandjune.com.