Q&A: Nathan Jenden

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2008, 12:00am

When did you get into fashion?

I got into clothes as a teenager from watching Dynasty. My parents were also the organisers of Live Aid so when they did Fashion Aid in 1985 [at the Royal Albert Hall] I remember seeing the Armani show and how beautiful it was, especially the long sequinned fishtail skirts. From that moment on I knew I wanted to do fashion. I gave up my place at Oxford and went to Central St Martins College of Art and Design, followed by a masters at the Royal College of Art.

Why did you start off designing menswear, and then move to womenswear?

At the time, there was no one doing anything interesting with menswear, apart from Gaultier. Menswear was so much more experimental and interesting. Then at the RCA I did a big project - the Karl Lagerfeld project - and Julien Macdonald and I won it together. The brief was to design for a woman who was going to Miami for the weekend, so I did a bulletproof suit, which they loved. Then I worked on womenswear at brands such as Kenzo, Thierry Mugler and John Galliano in Paris, followed by Tommy Hilfiger and Daryl K in New York.

Most people recognise you as creative director of New York label Diane Von Furstenberg. How did you end up working with her?

Diane called me when I was in New York after leaving Daryl and I didn't know who she was. I had this vision of her as an elderly princess. I interviewed with her and although I didn't understand the wrap dress thing, I liked her.

I started four weeks before the runway show and nothing was made. So I got all these girls - Erin O' Connor and Devon Aoki - to walk for free and came up with the concept of a woman who lived all lives - a princess, a mother, etc. Basically, I built clothes around Diane's identity as a woman and it was a huge hit.

After several years at DVF, why did you decide to launch your own line, in 2006?

Things were going so well at Diane and I was really nervous that I would become too comfortable. When I told her my plans, she didn't think I could do both but I was determined. Eventually, she gave me her blessing so I did my first show in New York, on the same day my son was born. It turned out great.

How do you differentiate your own line, Nathan Jenden, from your designs at DVF?

Nathan Jenden is much more designed and draped, and more about cut, silhouette and proportion; DVF is about print, surface decoration and clothes that take you through life. I love tailoring so you're going to get a crafted origami jacket at my label, for example. A lot of what I do is creating structure, shape and volume without much underneath - I hate crinolines, corsets, shoulder pads, etc - the same effect can be achieved with fabric. I find lightness more modern.

DVF is creative in a different way - my inspiration for DVF is building a story around a show and these clothes, and people's perception of who Diane is. My own label is from myself and what comes around me.

What has been the biggest challenge in setting up your label?

At DVF I have a team I can give bonuses to, but at Nathan Jenden (below) I have one that I can't necessarily reward, though they are so devoted. But I'm determined to make it work.

What is your signature item?

A tailored suit - with a constructed jacket that isn't heavy to wear.

What are your long term goals?

I want to do menswear, but I'm focusing on women's first. Bags and shoes are coming - I'm working with British designer Jonathan Kelsey this season [autumn/winter]. I also want to incorporate fine jewellery in the next two seasons. The most challenging thing is co-ordinating it and trying to make sure my schedule can take it all.

Nathan Jenden is available at Joyce boutique