When I heard the words androgyny, lingerie, and hometown roots all attached to the same label, Jordan Alexandra, I was pretty sure I needed to talk to the designer bold enough to bring all of that into ready-to-wear separates. Jordan Saenz is the 27-year-old Brooklyn-based creative director and co-designer (along with her sister Jennifer Pawloski) of this alluring and enigmatic womenswear line. And when I looked at images of their Spring 16 designs—which fluidly combines these disparate elements into tops and trousers and skirts—it was confirmed: Jordan Alexandra is a rare and awesome bird in women’s fashion.
First—to contextualize my interest and in the interest of full disclosure—I have always sort of loved the gender-bending bare-bones—yet somehow smoking hot—getups in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The civilian looks in particular are impressively androgynous and sexy at the same time. For example, Jean Luc Picard’s casual pants on foreign planets (you simply cannot argue against an image like this) reveal that the magic of this look is understatement. When clothes get out of the way, the person becomes the focal point. (And, oh, what a person Sir Patrick is.) Still, the clothes are by no means superfluous; they are exactly the thing that reveals the better-defined, more confident, and therefore better-looking human.
So with this general belief in mind, I was thrilled to see what Jordan Alexandra’s Spring 16 collection looked like. This was a way more modern, more sexy, yet definitively androgynous iteration of a similar concept. Plus, there’s that out-of-left field element: lingerie. But these garter belts are made in leather and paired with black-and-white separates and your basic white sneaker, so even they become neutralized. It’s subtly unexpected enough that something very exciting surfaces in the person who wears these separates.
Saenz, who now lives in Kensington, grew up in a tight knit family in Texas; her father is Mexican and her mother is also Hispanic but from California. Despite the great age-gaps between herself and her siblings (her older brother is 38, her younger brother is 20, and her sister—co-designer and business partner—Jennifer, is 43), she says she owes her success to the support, emotional and logistical, which she gets from all of them. And next year she will expand the family business. Saenz and her father will open a production factory in Mexico, which will provide ethical yet affordable production for small-label designers like herself.
“It will give designers the same overseas price with the quality you would get in the US,” says Saenz. “A small company budget is very tight and there is not much room to get very creative. We realized we wanted to create a platform for other designers for fair trade in Mexico, in an environment where they feel good about what they’re producing.”
Indeed, Saenz and her sister should already feel great about what they, in particular, have come up with. “It came from the strong part about being an independent female,” says Saenz, about the no-frills look. She struck out solo from her Texan home to study design in San Francisco when she was 18. “That brings out the harder parts of my personality—having to be on my own—and that has developed into a less than baby-girl aesthetic.”
But then there is that seemingly antithetical element to all of this—lingerie. When Saenz moved to New York after design school, she unexpectedly landed a job designing lingerie for Oscar de La Renta. The experience was a total but delightful surprise. “I developed a passion for lingerie, which was out of my box, but I got used to the community and technical language for designing lingerie,” says Saenz. “When I left the company I felt like I needed to incorporate what I learned into my personal style; I want to take the lingerie and make it hard, not soft.”
And, as is clear to me, she has succeeded. For the line’s second season, Saenz said she and her sister wanted to introduce more widely sellable pieces, and design for a broader base of customers. “We wanted to add some feminine flair in there, but not too much, because that’s just not our brand,” she reasons. “It’s a casual girl that likes to mix and match gender-neutral pieces.”
Though Saenz will soon be spending more time in Mexico getting the factory set up with her dad, New York—and Kensington, specifically, is home. “I feel the comfort and quietness of being back home,” she says, referencing Laredo, Texas, where she grew up. But it’s the energy of the city that she taps into to fuel her designs. “If you’re used to that environment, and you leave, you feel like you’re on your head,” says Saenz. “It’s amazing being around people that are inspiring.”
Find more of Jordan Alexandra’s very inspired clothes at Crinoline, 449 Main St. in Greenpoint; Foravi, 1067 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; and these locations around the country.