When it comes to geek fashion, there are now seemingly endless options for finding the right clothes to put together the perfect fandom-themed ensemble.
But what about those days you don’t feel like going to the effort of donning an elaborate “casual” cosplay? Or those situations where it’s not really appropriate to show up in your Harry Potter robes, R2D2 sweatshirt, or bedazzled Disney princess dress?
That’s where Jordandene comes in.
Founder Jordan Ellis launched her subtly geeky, hand-lettered apparel company out of a desire to wear the types of understated, well-designed, super-comfy fandom-related apparel items her small business now provides.
From the shirt of the month — November’s features a famous, hopeful quote from The Lord of the Rings, to a recently unveiled collection in collaboration with Shades of Magic author V. E. Schwab, to tees and tanktops bearing feminist slogans, like “Fake Fan Girl” and “Don’t Tell Me to Smile,” Jordandene is helping geek girls express themselves in style and comfort.
The company’s clothes represent an impressive variety of fandoms, including Orphan Black, Star Wars, Disney, The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, Marvel, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, Stranger Things, and even What We Do in the Shadows.
Jordan and her team have also cultivated a lively, inclusive geek community with a gorgeous print magazine, The Sartorial Geek, which has evolved into a blog, a podcast, and an online forum.
I chatted with Jordan about the inspiration for her Brooklyn-based, woman-owned and operated business and the company’s emphasis on nerd pride, girl power, and positivity.
You’re the founder of Jordendene, a woman-owned and operated small business based in Brooklyn that specializes in subtle, hand-lettered “geek chic” apparel, accessories, and home goods. It’s such a simple, but effective concept. Why did you decide to offer more understated geek-themed products?
Honestly, I wanted to wear them! When we started Jordandene, finding subtly geeky and well-designed clothing was really hard. I wanted to have a closet full of nerdy options, and I realized one of the best ways to do that was to make them myself.
Tell me about where you got the idea for Jordandene and what the early days of creating the business were like.
Jordandené was really different at the beginning. We actually started as a small Etsy shop selling handmade (but still nerdy) home goods and accessories. I wanted a creative outlet because my day job was really boring, and I never expected that to turn into a company I’m now running full time. All of that just sort of built on itself, and I’m really glad it did.
On the first of every month, you release a limited-edition shirt. The November shirt features the phrase, “Even Darkness Must Pass,” from “The Lord of the Rings.” Where do you find inspiration for the phrases and quotes?
The shirt of the month is inspired by all kinds of things. This month’s LOTR theme came about because two good friends are heading to Hobbiton this year and wanted something special to wear on their trips. For the month of October, we always try to do something a little spooky. Sometimes the theme will be related to a recent event or a comic con happening that month. Sometimes it’ll come from a customer request or something I just particularly love. We have a long list of ideas just waiting to be made!
Jordandene’s latest fashion line is inspired by V.E. Schwab’s best-selling Shades of Magic book series. How did this collaboration come about?
Like so many things in my business, I was very fortunate that a series of events all lined up for me. Victoria was speaking on a panel at NYCC last year that one of my friends from Geek Girl Brunch was moderating. I really admired everyone who was speaking on this “Fashion in Fandom” panel, and I asked if I could put together a little gift box for each of the panelists. Victoria enjoyed my gift box, came by my NYCC booth to say hi, and we started chatting about ways we could work together. A few lunch meetings and a year later, we debuted the first round of our collection at NYCC this year!
Tell me a little about the process of conceptualizing and designing this line.
The Shades of Magic branding is so on point that designing the line was incredibly smooth. V.E. Schwab and her team brainstormed some favorite quotes (pulling both personal favorites and fan favorites), and we narrowed that down to the three you can see in the collection. The color scheme was obvious: nothing but red, black, white, and gray. We chose a few favorite product styles to start with, approved all the lettering designs, and officially released the collection last month!
One of the things I love about your business is its emphasis on nerd pride, positivity, diversity, and girl power. Why did you decide to make these qualities your focus?
Those are all things I personally care really deeply about. I like running a business, but I don’t want to run a business just for the sake of it. If we aren’t providing a product that people enjoy, a positive shopping experience, and leaving the world and our community a little better than we found it, I would rather spend my time doing something else.
As a nerd, I (and a lot of our customers) grew up not really feeling like there was a place I belonged. I want to make sure we feature and spotlight as many different people and lifestyles as possible and make it clear that everyone who wants to have a place in our community has one.
It’s really inspiring to see you collaborating with, supporting, and generally providing encouragement to other women. Why is this important to you?
Women don’t always have a great reputation for supporting each other, and we want to make it clear that’s not how we want to do business. Especially in the geeky space, women haven’t always gotten the respect they deserve. We are thankful for the platform we have to support, work with, and encourage fellow women, and we want to make sure we use that in the best ways we can.
Some of my favorite Jordendene products are the ones emblazoned with feminist slogans, like “Fake Geek Girl,” “Complex Female Character,” “I Know My Value,” and “Don’t Tell Me to Smile.” With these shirts, you’re actively combating sexist stereotypes. What was your thought process in creating these?
Honestly, you nailed it! We love combating sexist stereotypes whenever possible and empowering other people to do the same.
Aside from these loftier aspects of Jordandene, the clothes are just really comfortable (as well as fashionable). As someone who remembers the days when there were only the “boxy graphic tees,” I appreciate this. Why the emphasis on comfort?
First and foremost, I never want to sell something I wouldn’t personally wear or use. I would be so embarrassed to have a fashion line that wasn’t comfortable enough for me to actually wear every day. Because so many of us remember when there were only boxy graphic tees, we’re running with the opportunities we have now to change that!
It seems we’re living in a kind of golden age of geek fashion. Why do you think this type of apparel is so popular right now?
I think one of the main reasons is that it actually exists! This is something I would have taken full advantage of ten years ago too, but it just wasn’t possible. Now that so many companies are creating products in this niche, we can start putting together the outfits we’ve been dreaming of for our entire lives.
The geek fashion industry is growing in terms of diversity and inclusiveness. Are there still changes you’d like to see happen?
Absolutely. I love how many companies are doing their best, but I don’t think we should ever stop paying attention to how we can make our brands even more inclusive.
You also co-edit a beautiful lifestyle magazine, The Sartorial Geek, and there’s nothing else quite like it. (It’s also expanded into a blog, podcast, and online community.) Where did the idea for the publication come from?
We get to meet so many cool people through our work with Jordandené, and we really wanted to find a way to work with more of them. We wanted to have conversations with other business owners, feature beautiful art, and provide a platform for the incredible writers we met to share things they’re passionate about. Even though starting a magazine in this economy isn’t necessarily the most fiscally viable decision, we thought it was important enough to do it anyway.
Why did you decide to produce a physical magazine vs. a digital one?
Honestly, we think the magazine is too good to just exist online.
You’re four issues in now and funded the third issue through an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign. What does the future hold for The Sartorial Geek?
Hopefully more of this! We’d love to be able to keep producing our quarterly magazines and weekly podcast. Our next big project is to get enough sponsors that we can make sure we have the resources we need for our team and contributors. If that goes well, we have a lot of big ideas for the future.
I read that your personal evolution as a geek began with Pokemon and continued later with the Harry Potter series. How did these two fandoms help you unleash your inner geek?
Pokémon was the first time I felt like a part of a wider fandom. I was young, so that mostly looked like watching the animated show on TV and trading cards with my brothers and neighbors. Harry Potter was the first fandom I connected with as an adult. I attended my first convention and made real-life friends who introduced me to so many other exciting parts of geek culture.
Jordandene products represent an impressive variety of fandoms, including Orphan Black, Star Wars, Disney, The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, Marvel, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, Stranger Things, and even What We Do in the Shadows. What do you consider to be your major personal fandoms?
I think my top two are Harry Potter and the MCU.
I read that you enjoy throwing “extravagant” theme parties. I need to hear about some of the parties you’ve thrown.
In college, my friends and I threw parties with the goofiest themes. We had an “It’s Always Sunny” themed party where we all drank wine in a can. We also had parties where everyone dressed up based on our favorite online fan pages. My best adult theme party was my Harry Potter-themed 27th birthday. We sent out Daily Prophet invites, turned our front door into Platform 9 3/4, and had every magical snack and drink you can imagine.
What are your future plans or dreams for Jordandene?
I’d really love to grow the business to the point we can expand our team. I feel very lucky to have so many opportunities to work with cool and talented people, and I would love to be able to do that even more!