Balearic bliss... designer Zoe Jordan's Majorcan idyll
Designer Zoe Jordan has a fashion label beloved by the cool celebs, but she also has three little girls, and there is nothing she loves more than hanging out with them in the Majorcan idyll she has created for her family
There's an old Irish saying, Briseann an duchas tri shuile an chait, which roughly translates as, 'What's in the cat is in the kitten', so it's no surprise, then, that fashion entrepreneur Zoe Jordan, daughter of two sports stars, is herself sports mad. Zoe's dad, Eddie, as everyone knows, was one of the world's greatest racing drivers, and is still, at 70, in demand as a racing commentator, while her mother, Marie, played basketball for Ireland.
In Zoe's case, she loved hockey when she was a kid, and, more recently, she's got into hiking, golf and paddle tennis.
She also inherited her parents' competitive spirit and drive - qualities which have fuelled her desire to succeed, albeit in a totally different field to her dad. And, in a nice twist, sport is always a huge source of inspiration in the creation of her fashion collections - for example, in her spring/summer 2018 range, the motif of the lacing on boxing gloves was used extensively, while in the current range, mountaineering and rock climbing are referenced in the utilitarian, yet effortless, quality of the styles.
"There's always a sporty reference. I guess I find those shapes to be really practical, really functional," Zoe says. "This season, we have some new ribs and lacing details, more technical knit blends and hardware details - a striped arm on the bomber jacket, etc - but they are mixed up this season with more feminine skirt shapes. I guess I find the brand has its signature DNA in well-known shapes with that slightly tomboyish twist, but they are given a luxury makeover," she says, explaining the essence of her eponymous range, which is stocked in top shops in the UK and the US, as well as here in Brown Thomas.
The rangy blonde also has her parents' spirit of adventure, and she's currently living in Majorca with her husband, Steve Aspinall, and their three girls - Eden, (six), Dylan (five), and Inez (two) - an echo, she says, of her own childhood, when her dad was beginning to make his name in his chosen field.
"I was born in Dublin in 1980. My dad worked in AIB, but he was trying his hand at a few other things, too - trying to sell smoked salmon outside Lansdowne Road after the matches, racing on the side," she laughs.
"My childhood was quite a bit different to my youngest brother's, for example; there was quite a lot of travel, and quite a gypsyish, nomadic lifestyle, in caravans and to racetracks around Europe," she recalls.
Zoe adds, "When I was about six or seven, we moved to Spain for two years, and I went to the international school there. I think those memories and that time and that fun, and all the sport and outdoors, and the simple, fun life, probably stayed with me. When I think about what I want to give my kids and where I want to be as a family, it's some of that feeling. It's a bit crazy that we repeat what our parents did before us," she says.
Zoe goes on to exemplify that lifestyle with an anecdote about her parents.
"I love this story that mum used to tell. She was going out with my dad, and they had a ball to go to, and they would be on the move, so she just showered in the sea and put on a ball dress, and off she'd go. It was that kind of 'carefree, in a kind of spontaneous, throwing-caution-to-the-wind, seeing where it takes you' kind of way," she says.
As the family grew - Zoe is the eldest of four - and as her dad got more serious about racing, the Jordans became more settled. The family continued to go back to their home in Spain on holidays throughout Zoe's childhood, but after that spell living there, the family moved to the UK, to Oxford, where Zoe went to a couple of different schools.
As a child, Zoe went through a period of not wanting to be too different from her peers - obviously, the Jordans stuck out somewhat with their larger-than-life dad and Irish accents. Zoe decided to tackle it, and she put her independence of spirit to good use. "We lived in a house where all four of us could walk to school, which was great. And then - I think, because as the eldest, I wanted to grow up a bit quicker - at about 12, I went to Blackwell's, the high-end bookstore in Oxford, and I got The Good Schools Guide out," the elegant 30-something explains, adding, "I did my research, and decided which school I wanted to go to, and I called them, and I booked myself in to go to boarding school."
Zoe wanted to go to boarding school for several reasons: her day school was all girls, and she liked the idea of a mixed school; and her chosen school had incredible sports facilities.
She also had a third reason. "Boarding school was a very British thing. We were Irish at home, but we lived in England. I guess it was me wanting to fit in a bit more. At those kinds of schools, you need to fit in. I quickly went from a 'baat' to a 'bawth'," she notes with a laugh, first pronouncing 'bath' as we Irish tend to, and then as a posh English person might.
"My mum was like, 'What's going on here?' I had an Irish accent till about 12; a term at school and it was gone," she says in her nice accent.
She adds, "My mum still has an Irish accent - it's soft; my dad's is stronger. He likes it for the TV, or when he's on stage, when he's trying to get the crowd going, because he still plays the drums a lot."
Luckily, Zoe's dad was pretty successful at that stage in her life, as the school she chose was one of the most expensive in Britain - Marlborough College, the same exclusive public school that Kate Middleton went to. Indeed, though Zoe was a couple of years ahead of Kate, they did play hockey together. "A nice girl," Zoe confirms.
Her favourite subjects at school were design, technology, maths and Spanish. She was doing a lot of drawing, styling, creating and having fun with fashion from a very young age, but in those days, she says, fashion wasn't so much of a clear-cut career, so after her A-levels, she opted to study architecture, as she felt it was a good combination of the design and maths.
However, she realised within a year that it wasn't for her. "I enjoyed the process, but the technical side didn't get my juices flowing," she says, adding, "I think I was more interested in playing hockey at that stage."
After that, she opted to do a business degree at Newcastle University, where she met her husband, Steve Aspinall, who has his own finance business. They've been together, on and off, for nearly 20 years, and the couple married eight years ago.
Zoe also went into the banking business for a while. "I'm not one to shy away from a bit of a challenge," she says, "so at the time I finished college, as everyone was talking about banking graduate schemes, I thought, 'I can do that', and I went into HSBC as a trader. I did two years at HSBC and two years at Credit Suisse."
She spent the first two years in New York. "It was the city lifestyle, but on steroids - New York and that crazy financial world. It was pretty mad," she says, adding that she knew characters like those in the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. "There were some boys' clubs, and there was definitely that legacy; that was tough. But it's a bit of an Irish trait, isn't it? You can diffuse some of those situations. In a smart way."
It was the era of The Big Short, the time before the crash, but, nonetheless, Zoe enjoyed it. "It was 2003 to 2007, everyone was making millions. Looking back, it was a crazy time, I didn't have anything to compare it to. It was quick-paced; it was a challenge; it was intellectual. You had to understand all about your sector, but also about what was happening, politically and geographically; we learned a lot of accountancy," Zoe says, adding, "I really enjoyed it at the time, but I did work out then that eventually I wanted to build something for myself - but at the same time, I got to spend two years in New York, and to be financially independent straight out of college, which doesn't happen in many industries."
All in all, she feels it was good for her. "It was all an experience, and I think it was a good one, in that it gave me that sense of urgency when it comes to business - that sense of reacting to the market. There was a sales aspect, finding out what people want," she says. "It was a bit macho, but coming from a sporting background, I didn't feel so out of place. It was an opportunity. I prefer to focus on the positives that come from things."
After spending four years in total in that world, Zoe then began to focus on creating her own business, something she had always wanted to do, and this brought her back to fashion. "I started playing with some ideas around fashion. I started travelling, I went to Vietnam and found some silk suppliers; I found some men's manufacturers in Leeds," she says.
"I did a small capsule collection, 10 to 12 pieces, the wardrobe essentials, and I put them in the back of the car and went to different stores. The first store was back in Oxford - it was a store Mum and I used to like. I went to them and asked them for feedback, on the product, and the price - and eventually the owner decided it was something she wanted to sell."
That was back in 2012, and the business has grown gradually. At the core of Zoe's collection is, she says, the strength of the product. "It's not just the design, though that is important, but it has to be well made and relevant - that's essential," she notes. "How it looks, but also how it feels, the weight, the colours, how the neck sits, all those little intricate details."
Her philosophy has worked - she now has quite a big business in the US, selling particularly well in Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. The well-off Americans like her structured, sculptural, almost architectural shapes, made up in luxury fabrics. She has built up a nice celebrity following - including Selena Gomez, Sienna Miller, and Gigi Hadid - but equally important to Zoe, she says, is seeing people on the street wearing her collection.
"I like to take a well-known shape, like a cashmere hoody, but give it a slightly unusual shape. We made a name for ourselves with cut-outs. It should be effortless. I might take the classic shirt and give it a zip rather than buttons," she says, adding, "We're now launching a menswear line in Harrods, and doing a kids' line, slowly decking out the whole family."
It's not the easiest industry, so she's constantly looking for new things - like trying to reach the customer in a more novel way. "There's so much product out there, so we're working on new things like monogramming, and customisation, looking into elements where you'd design your own, to keep ahead of the game."
She and Steve have a lot going on in terms of work and family - they each have their own business, so it can't be easy with three small kids and a move to Majorca. "We share the same values in terms of family and adventure and enjoying life, which is great. We had our eight-year anniversary last month," she says, adding with a laugh, "We made it through the seven-year itch."
They actually got married in Majorca, so when they decided to live abroad, it seemed like a logical place to set up home. After they got married, they first lived in Hong Kong for two years, then went back to England. "After four years in London, we were ready to go again, and I guess we just were open to the idea of moving and not overthinking it. Maybe we'll only be a year in Majorca; at the moment, it's a great place for us," she says.
"I love the outdoor life; hiking with the kids. We did a 10k hike in Kerry; the kids came, too. Does that make me a tiger mum? Bringing up kids in Spain is easier; we do stuff as a family a lot. The kids can be in a restaurant making a lot of noise, playing hide-and-seek, and everyone thinks it's great."
The kids are all learning Spanish and Zoe hopes they will retain it - "Oh, does that make me a tiger mum?" she asks again with a laugh.
Because both she and Steve commute a lot - Zoe does Monday to Thursday in London, every second week - they needed to be near the airport, so they live 15 minutes from Palma, but their new home is deep in the countryside, a big hacienda complete with a swimming pool.
They have decorated it simply, with an easy indoor/outdoor vibe, and the furnishings include lots of locally sourced, yet tasteful, craft pieces.
Adding enormously to the eclectic feel of the decor are stunning photographs, which, it turns out, were all taken by Zoe's mum, in places as far-flung as Africa. The photographs are obviously a huge source of pride to Zoe, as indeed is everything about her parents' life and the way they reared herself and her siblings. "What Dad is incredible at is mixing life with work. He always had great drive and work ethic, but they always had fun with it. Damon Hill would be there, and suddenly Dad would have him on guitar and Johnny Herbert on drums, and they're singing something," Zoe says. "It's that zest for life combined with work, it's aspirational."
Zoe may have rebelled a tad when she opted to go to that posh boarding school, but age and experience have obviously brought her full circle, back to where it all started - back to family. Zoe's collection is available from Brown Thomas, and from zoe-jordan.com
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by Katta Tubio
Sunday Indo Life Magazine