For SS24, London label dropped a collection of Wall Street-inspired tailoring, slinky underwear-as-outerwear, and fetishy finishing touches, while hammering home the importance of staying joyful in the bleakest of circumstances
Jordan Bowen and Luca Marchetto’s label JordanLuca may only be in its infancy, but the two London-based designers are attracting international attention after switching LFW for the Milan schedule two seasons ago.
Beyond the fashion crowd, there’s also a handful of groupies who orbit the brand. Earlier this year, while the two were working away in their studio, there was a knock at the door. “This girl showed up and no one really knew who she was,” explains Marchetto over a crackly phone line. “She really wanted one of our bags, but couldn’t find it anywhere online, so she moved a layover flight from London to Seoul so she could come to us. It was so cute.”
It should come as no surprise, really, since the designers make really, really good clothes that regularly fly off the racks at stores like London’s Machine-A, Seoul’s Addicted, and Hollywood’s H. Lorenzo. You can see the stans lining the front rows of their shows: their signature flared jeans trailing across the floor, bulky-shouldered jackets jostling for space on the bench.
While it started as a menswear brand, across the course of the last couple of seasons, womenswear has been thrown into the mix. Right from the off, women have been swiping men’s styles, so the move made sense. It’s 2023 after all, when fashion is finally becoming a lot more fluid – it’s less about sticking to gender norms, and more experimenting with what looks good.
Back in January, there was a handful of women’s looks, but this season, at the boys’ SS24 show, it was split right down the middle for the first time. Drawing inspiration from the idea of the ‘lipstick index’ – which refers to an uptick in statement-making lipstick sales when times get hard economically – the designers debuted a collection that touched on the UK’s precarious financial situation, late-capitalism, and the ideas of fragility and protection.
Silky slips, slinky hammered satin pencil skirts, miniscule bra tops, and equally tiny leather hotpants clashed with hulking tailored coats, louche, wide-legged trousers, and thick striped ties, with looks finished with fetishy bicep-length gloves that clung to arms like cling film and formidable BDSM-esque spiked silver collars and cuffs – whether a welcome chokehold or representative of the less-sexy clutches of consumerism and ‘the sometimes Sisyphean challenges of life’ was unclear.
And while the collection’s palette of murky browns and neutral nudes was austere and restrained, and its inspiration was actually pretty bleak, there was nothing dour about it: flashes of lipstick red popped up throughout, signifying an unwavering commitment to seeking joy and glamour and in even the most miserable of circumstances.
Click through the gallery above to see the collection and get to know the designers below.
So first thing’s first. This was your first collection with a full women’s offering. Why was it so important to you to start moving in this direction?
Jordan Bowen: Each season we offer a collection which is ultimately a wardrobe that builds upon what has come before. There’s a lot more womensear than we did before, because for the first time we’re presenting a fully realised wardrobe that combines men’s and womenswear together. We found that women were buying from the men’s collection from the beginning, so it just made sense. We’ve made the clothes available in sizes ranging from XS to XXL, so guys and girls can dip into each side of the collection. It really informed how we thought about creating it and the structure of it, which was interesting from a technical point of view as well as a creative one. It’s interesting to think about it as one total wardrobe for one person, whether they are male or female. It’s quite dynamic.
You’re partners in life and love. Are you both aligned creatively, or do you have different points of view – and do you ever argue about Jordanluca’s direction?
Jordan Bowen: To be honest, sometimes we aren’t aligned, and I think that’s okay. We are both quite holistic in the way we approach things. Sometimes we want different things. We are thinking of different colours and different size pockets. But it doesn’t run into deep arguments, and we aren’t throwing things around the studio. I think that we rely a bit on the conflict of Jordanluca, the tension between ideas. We live together anyway – it’s not that we can come in and it can cause friction. We leave, we have to take it home and we live with it. We have to work through it. It’s an interesting way to work.
Luca Marchetto: Most of the conflict always started because Jordan is getting more and more Italian, and I am getting more and more British [laughs]. We’re going in opposite directions: Jordan wants to bring in more of the Italian side and I want to keep it very British. But either way, we always find a way to eventually make it work
How is it dividing your time between London and Milan?
Jordan Bowen: Surprisingly we’re not actually in Milan that much – I think it appears like we’re here way more than we actually are. But you know, remote working has opened up a whole new world which most people hadn’t considered before. You work on WhatsApp and Zoom calls, and now it’s a huge part of everyone’s lives. It’s definitely a big part of our process.
Luca Marchetto: Everything is made in Italy, but closer to Florence and the centre than in Milan, so Milan for me is more about my friendships, because I lived in Milan years before I moved to London. Joining the calendar in Milan and showing there was the best decision we ever made. We’ve seen an improvement in every aspect of the business.
It’s definitely a show that everyone gets pretty excited about – it’s really sexy, but with bit of grit and an edge that Milan doesn’t really have when it comes to its fashions.
Luca Marchetto: That’s why I love being in Milan so much. Being part of fashion week here with amazing historic brands like Versace and Fendi and Prada and doing something different is so exciting, but we’re also not here to create for creativity’s sake – we want to create a long-term, sustainable business.
Jordan Bowen: And we want people to wear the clothes! It sounds really trite and obvious to say it, but I think we kind of forget when we are being creative that we are making clothes for people to wear. And clothes are a vehicle for communication, and we want to put messages out into the world. I think people in the arts get consumed by creativity and there’s no thought of practicality or in this case, wearability. It’s part of a spectrum in a sense – there has to be that practicality to get people in our clothes to help spread our message.
Luca Marchetto: Actually something super cute happened in the studio earlier this year. We were working in there, really busy, and this girl showed up at the door and nobody really knew who she was. She was in Korea over Christmas, and had to fly back to New York. She really wanted one of our bags but couldn’t find it anywhere online, so because she had a layover in London, she decided to move the flight so she could come to us and see if we had the bag in the studio. It was so cute, and we were so grateful for it. It’s something you never expect to happen.
Did you sort her out with one?
Luca Marchetto: No we couldn’t, we didn’t have any stock of it either! But we took her details and sorted it.
You both seem so well-versed on the business side of things. I think there is a real tendency for young designers to not really know what they’re doing when it comes to that – they’re focused on being creative and then logistics-wise, they’re lost. You seem to be really clear on what makes a sustainable business. Did uni set you you up for it?
Luca Marchetto: I studied fashion and worked for Vivienne Westwood for eight years, but even though I was Vivienne’s assistant, nothing could ever prepare me for the experience of my own brand. I don’t think it is possible to have it before you start your own brand. When you start your own labour, there are so many things that you have to do. We are lucky today, because we have a great team. Our teams will call each other, but you have to take care of everything. Even with a great team, you have to think of so many aspects of the business. You aren’t sitting there all the time, constantly choosing fabrics and sequins. That’s only a few hours in the day. The rest is managing the circles
Jordan Bowen: I didn’t go to uni actually. I did an evening hat class, which was quite funny. It was just, like, two years of making flowers with a bunch of old ladies. And then I ended up working with [milliner] Stephen Jones. Practicality is a big part of how Stephen works, so I learned a lot.