The Australian Designer Heralding Renaissance Fashion’s Renaissance

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Jordan Dalah Autumn/Winter 2021
Jordan Dalah Autumn/Winter 2021Photography by Jess Ruby James

As Jordan Dalah unveils his Autumn/Winter 2021 collection at Australian Fashion Week, the designer opens up to AnOther about his novel – but historical – approach to fashion

  1. Who is it? Jordan Dalah, a Central Saint Martins graduate, who just showed his Autumn/Winter 2021 collection at Australian Fashion Week
  2. Why do I want it? The poetic, Tudor-inspired silhouettes strike a perfect balance between theatricality and wearability
  3. Where can I get it? Jordan Dalah is available at Dover Street Market (LA, NYC, and Ginza), Gentlewench, Macondo Verona, Joyce Hong Kong, and Maimoun New York

Who is it? Jordan Dalah set up his eponymous fashion label after graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2017 – his Tudor-inspired balloon sleeves and frilled pieces suddenly popping up across multiple editorials that season, including being worn by Solange Knowles in AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2017. This season, the designer was invited to show at Australian Fashion Week which is running this week in Sydney, the first city to hold an in-real-life fashion week since the pandemic.

It was Jordan’s first catwalk show and, as if that wasn’t a challenge in and of itself, he set himself the goal of creating at least 40 looks. “The idea started as a smaller Covid collection, but very quickly I realized I wanted to do it big,” he says. “I wanted to go as far as I could into my story, into my world. The narrative was a continuation of the strongest things I saw myself making and looking at the things that speak to me from what I’ve already made.”

As an emerging designer – Jordan works by himself from his studio in Sydney with no one but a machinist (and the occasional friend) to assist him – producing a show can be a daunting experience. But with the support of the Australian Fashion Week, Jordan worked around budgetary constraints, finding creative solutions (which included a delivery of recycled carpet squares) to express his vision. “With Covid, I saw many designers changing their strategy and opting for video, but it’s something I would never do,” he says. “Especially for a brand like me, which plays with the vocabulary of historical costume, the runway is what stabilises my work as fashion.”

For the moment, the CSM alumnus has no plans to return to London. The fashion sector in Sydney might be very different from the city in which he was trained – more commercial, less creative – but the designer feels excited at the prospect of changing up the scenery. “I know my work won’t land well with everyone here. People will think it’s a costume or making a statement for the sake of it. I know my work won’t necessarily fit in with the other designers on the schedule, but there are enough people who are desperate to find a different, alternative voice in fashion. It just hasn’t penetrated the industry yet.”

Why do I want it? Jordan Dalah strikes this crucial yet hard-to-achieve balance between theatricality and wearability. The exaggerated silhouettes, rendered in painterly palettes, are also functional separates, designed to be integrated into a wardrobe that already exists.

This balance is achieved by the way the designer employs his historical references. Jordan discovered the Tudor aesthetic as a teenager, learning how to paint in the style of the Old Masters. “When I was younger I used to paint traditional portraiture. Now, I’m referencing the people in the painting but also the process – me priming my canvas, stretching it, adorning it with layers. These layers mirror the way a person in the Victorian or Renaissance period might get dressed in the morning.”

This gradual, meticulous layering in the design process contributes to the comfortable fit and style-ability of the pieces, while the sophistication of the cut and the luxury of the materials remove any association to historical dress.

“It’s the dialogue between costume and everyday clothing that really interests me,” Dalah says. “I’m inspired by theatre and costume, and I say that a million times, but I’m not making clothing for theatre or costumes. A costume is just shapes placed on a body. Nobody cares about what the inside looks like.” The sensibility of the garments is achieved through craftsmanship. It’s poetry, not performance. “My brand doesn’t exist in a fantasy world. I approach fashion as a playful medium, but it’s full of function.”

The secret lies in avoiding prettiness. Through a process that prioritises endless toiling and draping over technical drawings, the designer flirts with the boundaries of volume that push classic standards of beauty. The shapes are sharp yet bulbous, silhouettes blown up like a balloon.

Though the young designer feels incredibly supported by his network, he does hope the industry finds time to slow down. “Multiple professionals have given me the advice to dilute what I do to serve commercial purposes,” he says. “I see it happening all the time – designers are forced to water down their ideas before they’ve even had the time to develop them properly. But don’t be so impatient, give creatives enough time and you will start to understand what they do.”

Where? You can find Jordan Dalah at Dover Street Market (LA, NYC, Ginza), Gentlewench, Macondo Verona, Joyce Hong Kong, and Maimoun New York.