Taking cues from the fashion of the Tudor period, Jordan Dalah is creating everyday – but exhilarating – clothes. Here, he speaks to Scarlett Baker about his approach to fashion and his Spring/Summer 2021 collection
- Who is it? Jordan Dalah is a Sydney-based designer and Central Saint Martins graduate channelling Tudor-inspired silhouettes that interrogate the female form and the meaning of everyday wear
- Why do I want it? Dalah places as much emphasis on the exterior of each garment as the layers of corseting and linen that make up each piece. Bestowing each garment with a story, his references to the past are modernised with a fresh view and sustainable conscience
- Where can I get it? Jordan Dalah is available to shop at Dover Street Market stores and Shoreditch boutique, Gentlewench
Who is it? “I hope you don’t mind if I multi-task during this call – I’m working on a garment. Deadlines looming, you know how it is,” says Jordan Dalah, speaking ahead of his Spring/Summer 2021 collection, his third since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2017. He’s working hastily in his white-walled studio in Sydney, where he spent his childhood before making the cross-continental move to London to study womenswear. Unsurprisingly, given Dalah’s engineered inventions that range from amplified skirts, distorted jackets and oversized ruched hats, the designer trained as an architect before transferring his attention to fashion. His love affair with architecture came to an abrupt end due to an incompatibility with the technological aspect of it, though the mathematics and geometrics of the practice still inform his fashion creations. “I just can’t use a computer and I realised that architecture is literally being on a computer. It was the frustration that forced me to follow up on what I really loved: fashion.”
Despite describing himself as a rigorous planner, Dalah positions his design process somewhere in the space between spontaneity and instinct; his eagerness fostered during his tenure at Central Saint Martins, where the pace felt moderate at times. “You go to fashion school and yet you are asked to do 100 drawings throughout the year, but then granted only three months to make a project. It’s all bureaucratic of course – I guess you can’t all take up table space for the whole year. I got told by my tutors to make a nice sketchbook, but I couldn’t just sit there and doodle things: I had to get up and do.” An apt lesson for a designer up against the force of a pandemic.
With his exaggerated silhouettes and bulbous gowns, Dalah’s repertoire spans a mock-Tudor aesthetic, positing puffed-hems and rotund sleeves that exaggerate the body. Were the artists of the Tudor court still in existence today, Dalah would most certainly be a principal, his work drawing on the hallmarks of Hans Holbein and Marcus Gheeraerts’ infamous Portrait of a Woman in Red. But making the intrepid decision to launch his own label fresh out of university, rather than pursue the crowd of MA students or commit to a pre-established house, Dalah began to extend the narrative of his graduate collection that centred around a childhood hobby. “I always painted before growing up. From a young age, I always drew women.” Mimicking the work of the Old Masters, he has since carved out his niche in producing his balloon-sleeved bustiers.
But he is quick to note that he won’t be shoehorned into one genre. It is not simply replicas of the past he is creating here; rather, his designs interrogate the space between fashion and historic costume to create something unexpected. The anatomy of each garment is fringed with layers of intent; secrets sewn into the hems, rendering each garment as compelling on the inside as they are out. “Besides,” he notes, recognising that the essence of his work isn’t subjective to one moment in time, “I never actually reference anything historically accurate and that’s what I prefer, blurring what is actually a Tudor silhouette and what is a mock costume one. It’s up to people how they see it.”
Why do I want it? Dalah’s creations have a powerful story to tell, not only through his ability to recontextualise figments of the past into a contemporary narrative, but through his commitment as an artist to contributing towards a sustainable future. Particularly in light of Covid-19, he promises fewer collections, changing his own fashion calendar, and removing gendered barriers. For while identifying as a womenswear designer, his pastiche of the historic fashion stems from “a love of Tudor garments having no gender; there’s an effeminate sensibility to it, but there’s freedom also. Having these layers upon layers, from cotton to gauze tops and under bustles in oatmeal shades,” it’s an open-ended conversation that interrogates the idea of one homogenised human form.
So how will Dalah’s post-pandemic prodigies be different? Despite the obvious pursuit among designers to refine their collections, Dalah proves that now more than ever, there is a need for escapism in the face of turmoil. “I originally thought I should do this experiment with all white fabrics, just white basics layered interestingly. I was responding to the minimalism. I was thinking buyers aren’t going to buy this season, so there might be a backlog of stuff to sell because shops have been shut.” And while sacrifice and compromise become the antidote to a taxing year, “the worst thing you can do as a designer is dilute the product because you think somebody’s going to buy something more basic. I decided to do the opposite and stay true to what my brand is, which is puffy and dramatic. It’s going to be a bit more pajama-y and billowy this season but it’s still got all the volume. It’s a little less Tudor,” he admits, “but I want to give people what they expect from me, not this diluted version.”
Ultimately, it’s Dalah’s boldness both in spirit and in stitch that make his designs feel like something new, creating an everday wardrobe that offers something exhilarating. He is constantly thinking ahead, asking how, from his Sydney studio, can he propel change, granting each garment a more purposeful intent. “After all,” he says, “it can’t just be palatable. I never want things to look pretty. I need to make sure everything I do is intentionally awkward or it can be pushed further. How can this be taken to the edge? It’s not just left to be safe.”
Where can I get it? You can now shop the A/W20 Jordan Dalah Studio collection at Dover Street Market Ginza, Dover Street Market Los Angeles, Dover Street Market New York, and latest stockist, Gentlewench.
Styling: Bridie Gilbert. Hair and make-up: Peter Beard. Model: Georgia Fowler.
Thanks to 1 Granary.