Interview with Jordana Howard, Designer of Echo + Air


I first connected with Jordana through a group called "Inspired Women of Los Angeles", which I joined after a recent visit that made me fall in love (once again) with the warm (thanks to both the sun and the people) and lush (thanks to both the plants and the wealth of art) city often mistakenly pigeonholed as just a movie town. Jordana and her line are a perfect example of the conviviality and creativity flourishing in the Golden State. I got to ask her some questions about her inspiration, schooling, Jungian theory, and living and working in LA. Enjoy!

What is Echo + Air? How did you start this project, and how have you cultivated it since the beginning?

I came up with the name Echo + Air through a brainstorming exercise. It’s a bit like a free association. I wanted the brand name to have a minimal and atmospheric sound. I never wanted to name the brand after myself (no one ever remembers my name, haha)… “echo” and “air” are two non-tangibles, and they aren’t really things or objects…I like that.

I began developing the line in June of 2013. I had worked commercially for a few years so I already had the foundations; understanding the pace of the marketplace and I knew how to get things done. I had relationships with local contractors and was able to get a sample line made. Of course, I do much of the leg work myself so that I see the process through every step from inception to production. My business partner and I have been able to maintain great working relationships and develop new relationships by simply treating people fairly. Providing the tools, paying fairly, and just treating people with respect goes along way. 

You say the line combines your love of storytelling and art, how did you decide fashion design was the medium you wanted to specialize in? Are there any specific practices you utilize or obstacles you've encountered in translating from one medium to another?

When I was kid; I wanted to be an illustrator. I would draw all the time. Most of my drawings were more fantastical with a fashion element (Yes, I am a complete nerd). I would look at fashion editorials and be completely inspired. I was also obsessed with garments and how they could transpose you to a different world. Something about the movement of the clothing, the endless cultural and historical references, the colors and textures,  are all a part of a narrative.

For a long time, I wanted to be a visual artist (painting and drawing). But I now see that as a stepping stone to becoming a designer. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to draw, but for me it's a means to an end. I really enjoy the technical aspect of creating a garment. And I think my creativity comes through via technical skills (pattern-making, draping, construction, etc.)

In regards to obstacles, I was already telling stories without words; so the progression into fashion design was natural.

What are some things that inspire you creatively? And the line specifically? Can you talk a little about your Scandinavian heritage and how that's influenced your design?

Anything that evokes mood or emotion whether it be music, film, literature, art, places, or environments. I am really influenced by an ethereal sort of feeling. Being Norwegian, I always felt connected to the vibe of isolation, mysticism, and the otherworld. It’s all about atmosphere. I really want the line to feel that way. I want it to transcend from just the tactile. So the line is influenced both by Scandinavian design and Japanese design. I really love the aesthetic and functionality of Scandinavian design. I think it is both organic and architectural, which is an ongoing theme in my work. In terms of Japanese design, I love their approach to pattern-making. It’s holistic and really makes you think about garments in a three-dimensional way. It’s so challenging and fun!

Photos by Jess Ruby

Photos by Jess Ruby

Do you have any specific training/education that's brought you to the point you're at now?

I have a degree in Sociology and a degree in Fashion Design. I also have experience working in the commercial fashion industry as well, before working for myself. Definitely, my degree in Sociology has been very helpful. I think it’s really helped me understand trends and their context. I think having an “eclectic” educational background has allowed me to evolve into a well-rounded designer. Many of my designer friends started off studying another discipline. Design is an evolutionary thing; you can really grow with it.

What do you do to de-stress?

I think just spending time with people who make me laugh is always good for my stress level. Reading, taking long walks, and sleep. I am still learning the art of balancing normal life with my business.

What or where is home to you?

Downtown Los Angeles. It has a great energy. It feels like a community. And it definitely influences my line, especially in terms of logistics. I produce all my garments in Downtown Los Angeles. I am definitely all about keeping it local.

Who are some of your female role models?

My mom, of course, is number one! She has always encouraged me to exercise my imagination. She has taught me so much about just being a strong woman and how to stand my ground. She definitely taught me the art of knowing when to be sensitive and when to say “fuck off”.

Then of course, there are women that inspire me such as; Patti Smith, Kathleen Hanna, Tilda Swinton, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, Yayoi Kusama, Anais Nin, the list is long….

Do you think about a certain archetype of a woman or have an idea of an audience when you create your apparel? What does that person/do those people look like or what characteristics do they embody? Do you see your clothes as pieces meant to enhance women and their existing auras, so to speak, or transform them?

I like this question. When I think of the word archetype, I think of Carl Jung. So, I am going to answer the question with his theories in mind, because I love the whole idea of combining psychology and mysticism. I would like to think of the Echo + Air woman as someone who is in touch with her “shadow aspect”; she is in touch with her dreams, her intuition, and the magic of the unconscious mind and all its metaphors.

Photos by Jess Ruby

Photos by Jess Ruby

What are three of your favoring things about living and working in LA?

The diversity in terms of geography - the natural beauty here is insane. The resources - you can really make anything here! There are always things happening. It’s hard to keep up, but I am happy that LA is evolving, especially DTLA.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?