Zoë's winning formula

DUBLIN-BORN designer Zoë Jordan’s new collection is inspired by Amelia Earhart, who said: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers”.

The quote has personal significance for Jordan, daughter of Grand Prix founder Eddie, who left a high-flying career in the City to start a luxury fashion brand in 2007. Just five years later, her show is a hot ticket at London Fashion Week and Thandie Newton, Keira Knightley and Jessica Biel are fans. Her eponymous label is stocked in 12 countries and she plans to open her first store by the end of next year.

The former Credit Suisse bond trader has no formal fashion training but was determined not to let fear of the unknown quash her dream. “I think the City and the lifestyle and security it [traditionally] offers can suck you in. I was well looked after, and with the promise of a yearly bonus I knew it would get incredibly difficult to leave. Once I knew I wanted to, I didn’t think about it too much. There were always going to be reasons not to try. It was quite scary to make the leap, but I would recommend it to anyone.”

Her first career instilled a work ethic invaluable to getting the fledgling brand (then called Irwin&Jordan) off the ground. “I was used to getting up at 5am, travelling and working in a team with many other nationalities. I think people entering the business from a purely creative background pick these things up later,” she says. Once she has selected a colour palette and fine fabrics for each collection, she works with a pattern-cutter to create clean-lined silhouettes. This is more practical than beginning with a pencil and paper. Even haute couturiers can discover their sketches are unworkable in 3-D. Jordan cares more about cut and attention to detail than being hailed as directional.

When the economy began to tank, the brand was well-positioned. “We were quite lucky compared to some of our competitors, because we were quite lean. We started [in summer 2007] when things were calm and things have stayed that way for us. [The downturn] made us assess our strategy and think every move through, avoiding silly mistakes. Everyone on my team is a good all-rounder: creative and business-minded,” she says. The company has yet to decide a location for its first store but has tested with pop-up shops in Mayfair and Montenegro. She says the latter is Europe’s next fashion hotspot.

Ms Jordan studied architecture (like designers Tom Ford and Gianfranco Ferré), which gave her an appreciation for structure and design. She draws on her peripatetic childhood for inspiration. Her family lived for several years outside Cadiz, and vivid memories of Andalucía inspired her latest catwalk offering. “I didn’t appreciate them as a kid, but as a designer I’ve been very inspired by the Pueblos Blancos, the Alhambra palace and other Islamic architecture,” she says. Her models wore sombreros and mini-ponchos at her February show. The colour palette is reminiscent of Sevillian sunsets and the Sierra Nevada dawn.

Before starting her brand, Ms Jordan wanted well-made, luxurious pieces she could wear all day, and go out in at night still feeling great. Hence, each collection is a capsule wardrobe, with pieces that work at the office and your favourite bar. She is a self-described tomboy and her clothes are comfortable and easy to wear. If you choose just one of her pieces for your wardrobe, make it a coat: the tailoring is Savile Row standard. This season, her pearl tweed jacket is classic and perfect for summer. Though her style is modern, she isn’t swayed by trends. “I think when people talk about fashion now, they don’t necessarily connect it with quality and luxury. To me, it is more important that clothes be elegant, luxurious, and a great fit than on-trend for the season.”

She hopes Zoë Jordan will become a lifestyle brand. Thus far, she’s explored new product lines through collaborations with Spanish shoe designer Ursula Mascaró, and British bag label Cherbi. She seeks out partners who emphasise quality, luxury and fine materials. For this season, she launched a sunglasses line with Austrian face-furnisher Andy Wolf. The frames exhibit the same 1930s influence as her summer collection: think the Mitford sisters and Grey Gardens. Several artists who share her love of modern, understated elegance have been invited to apply their work to limited-edition clothes. The Bird print created by fine artist Lois Norman makes a beautiful triangular-cut t-shirt.

Chic and cosmopolitan, Ms Jordan seems well-grounded with a strong sense of fun. She chats about fashion without a hint of pretension. She admires her mother’s style more than anyone’s and would invite her Dad to her dream dinner party “to make me laugh.”

Though now based in Hong Kong, Ms Jordan still occasionally rides around London on an open-topped bus to get inspired. She is a huge Chelsea fan and has been known to belt out The Zutons’ Valerie at Christmas parties. You can imagine her checking she can dance in each style before she sends it down the catwalk. In an endorsement-crazed industry, Ms Jordan is unique in hoping her brand will remain “a bit of a secret that our clients feel excited to discover. I don’t really care who wears the collection, as long as they enjoy it.”

* Zoë Jordan is available in Ireland at Diffusion in Clontarf, Dublin 3. See diffusion.ie and.zoe-jordan.com

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