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Jordan DalahPhotography by Lucie Rox, Styling by Monika Tatalovic

Meet the Young Designer Putting His Craft Before All Else

Central Saint Martins graduate Jordan Dalah’s meticulous work is upholding what the fashion industry could soon be set to lose

Lead ImageJordan DalahPhotography by Lucie Rox, Styling by Monika Tatalovic

Jordan Dalah, a graduate of Central Saint Martins’ esteemed fashion BA course, is just 25 years old, but his outlook when it comes to design is the same that could be found in almost any of the most storied couture houses. “I wanted the final collection that I made at Saint Martins to be extremely polished,” he explains over the phone, calling from his native hometown of Sydney. “I wasn’t sure whose hands it might be found in, but I wanted everything finished in a way that if it were to be touched by a buyer or stylist, they would consider the garments to be of the highest standard.” 

Certainly, his work – based on the Tudor-era dress depicted in 15th-century paintings – puts meticulous craft front and centre, with the designer carefully considering everything from the topstitching to the label sewn inside an item of clothing. “To me, a great garment considers not just the way it looks from the outside, but also how it looks inside,” he says. “So, I think about the linings, the hem finishing... Not just the overall, superficial shape of a piece of clothing.”

Although celebrated for producing some of the most prestigious names in fashion, from John Galliano to Alexander McQueen, Central Saint Martins is not renowned for its comprehensive guidance when it comes to teaching technical skills. “It’s very much that they let you design and then when you stumble, when you come across an issue, there are pattern cutters that can help you with a particular garment,” says Dalah. “Whereas a lot of my friends from other schools learnt week one: make a jacket; week two; make trousers.” It is particularly impressive therefore that Dalah is almost completely self-taught, combining both the art of complex toile-making, learning how to produce corsetry and also incorporating innovative new structuring techniques into the sculptural forms of his clothes. 

Dalah credits his placement year at JW Anderson as a huge learning curve, too, which is unsurprising when you consider the similar way that that designer too places emphasis on the art of making. “The design team there was all very much on a computer, as it is in a lot of places now,” says Dalah. “But I was really watching the sewing machinists work and asking them loads of questions all the time, because what I would gain from Saint Martins wasn’t sewing skills and it wasn’t pattern cutting either. It’s one thing having an idea, and which so many students at Saint Martins have, and that is so important. But for me, execution of that idea is equally important.” 

Does Dalah think that fashion is set to potentially lose this kind of heritage? “Yes,” he says. “Young designers are definitely exploring their options more, they’re finding new techniques and with that there’s a lot being found. At the same time there’s a lot being lost. But the making generation is older now. If you go into an atelier, it’s often all older people making garments, and they’re all people that have families and are looking to retire now. They’re not willing to work these kinds of hours anymore – they’ve done their bit. So I think there is a risk of it becoming lost.

“Especially in Australia where I’m working now,” he continues. “I work with a few machinists here, but most Australian designers get everything done in Bali and in China. I also think that because it’s so hard to find the resources to make bespoke garments. It’s very hard working in a small team. The way that I work now is I make patterns, I fuse all my fabrics, I cut everything and then when the sewing needs to happen I sit with the machinist in my studio here and oversee the entire process. It’s very time-consuming.” 

Of course, the issue of sustainability plays on Jordan Dalah’s mind, as it does with most designers today, either established or emerging. But his approach is very simple: “My idea of sustainability is that it has to be realistic. It’s a., Knowing exactly who made my garments and b., knowing where my fabrics are from. I’m not saying that’s all it will ever be, but for the moment that is what I focus on.” 

“I’m currently designing a much larger collection than my first,” Dalah says, when asked about future plans. “I’ve been working on it for a while, and I’m not really sure when it is launching. It’s not finished yet! I sometimes get asked whether I would like to go and work for a big design house. At the moment, I’d rather be doing my own thing whilst I’m young... I’m in no rush!”