Photography / Editorial / Print

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 12

To the soundtrack of 90's garage at Dalston Superstore, I interview Jessica Au, the young designer behind JAU LABEL, a new East London based line that launched last year.  Jessica's SS13 collaboration with VVVintage, named Neon (Greek νέον (neon) meaning "new one"), sold out at Somerset House and is inspired by Die Antwoord's "Zef Style" and the wave of neo-trash movement. Her first womenswear and menswear collection, it focuses on merging Japanese street style with stripper influences such as Brooke Candy and even the early to mid 90's rave scene with all the neon colours and glow sticks that were seen in clubs of the time.

Jessica's parents were originally from Hong Kong, migrating to Dundee when they were teenagers and Jessica was born in Edinburgh. She was "there until 11, then moved down to Newcastle, for another 8 years" and to her "was quite a change growing up in a small town in her teenage years" in comparison to her time in Edinburgh. Not that it held her back artistically, she has a love for illustration and "drew pencil sketches and portraiture for pocket money." With an A-level in Art and a BTEC from Newcastle college, where she specialised in ceramics and fashion, it led to, at 19, a move to London to start fashion studies at Middlesex University.

Tina Moore - Never Gonna Let You Go

It nearly didn't happen she tells us, as she nearly went down a more "academic route to study philosophy," but was glad she chose a fashion path, telling us she owes "her friend thanks for persuading her to follow her dreams." Graduating in fashion design, she recalls how "it was a bit unnerving moving to London by myself with just a suitcase of clothes."  Her first night in halls was an immersive one, there was a DJ in the floor above her and a party soon had her mixing with a new creative circle of fashion friends.

Her latest collection used off cuts and end of roll "in collaboration with VVVintage, who are all about ethics and sustainability. I had a lot of fabric from previous collections and SS13 took some time to finalise." We learn it was from a lack of money, time and other factors but more importantly, she "wanted to release a collection that she was happy with, preferring to wait than rush to put it out there." Sourcing of material for her collection has been wide and varied, mentioning visits to Goldhawk road, charity shops and fabric given by friends, Soho, Shepherds Bush, African shops around Dalston, eBay, J.T.Batchelor and even Leyland for Hinges. Jessica used neon yellow fur, "which is horrendous. It gets everywhere, the long hairs just disperse like dandelion spurs bursting out of a pillow. It even followed me to Berlin where I went a few months ago," she laughs.

Ripgroove - Double 99

Widely travelled, having been to America, Canada, Asia and most of Europe; of her time in Berlin, she describes "a great arts scene. It's like London but with more space. We are all like a pack of slippery eels on public transport here." Iceland is another place she would love to visit, we ask whether it was because of Bjork, one of her idols. " I know, I'm obsessed with Bjork and always talk about her. Hopefully one day she will takes notice and wears my designs. I love how she is not in her 20's, in the media, in mainstream, yet not mainstream. Not a size six typical girl, but is confident, political, a women  who has something to say."

Often starting with illustrations, the inspiration for collections "revolve around everything that is current in my life, people I meet, music I'm listening to, things my friends are introducing me to, even meaningful images on tumblr." It is amazing how imagery invades our subconscious and can lead to creative processes in our minds, which Jessica describes as the "osmosis of information" and lead to "fevered sketching of designs and ideas."

DJ Deekline - I don't smoke the reefer

Low points of her career to date have been the "tiredness, multi-tasking and working all the time." With a full time job as a store manager, she works on her designs until the late hours. "It's non stop, balancing friends, family, boyfriend, social life and 'me' time. I'm sure that it is the same for a lot of creatives, financially it is very difficult." Pushing aside any sense of dismay, she adds, "however, it can be rewarding to be able to make something out of nothing."  The collaborations with Somerset House and VVVintage have been welcome positives, as well as making the new collection and the Schizolog fashion film with Rob Heppell.

Describing "fashion is freedom," Jessica calls it "a way of life if you want it to be," but warns "its up to you how high you want the dial to turn but it’s also important to keep it in check and don't get into danger by wearing 10metre high heels." She laughs and pauses while thoughtfully adding that it's "a forever changing landscape and a very liberating thing when you get to experiment with what you wear."

Sweet Female Attitude -  Flowers

Speaking of designers, "I really like the print explosion, Kokontozai, Agi & Sam, Roberto Piqueras - I'm really loving what they're doing at the moment alongside Mary Katranzou who can make print wearable and fun." People who buy JAU Label are the kind who want something just a little different, she tells us, not conformist but also not afraid to mix clothes from the high street with stand-out pieces. In our brief meeting, she wears H&M shoes, a Louise McKay Bondage harness, a hat from Urban Outfitters and a baggy coat with a funky geometric pattern that was a present from Connie Lim, a student at CSM. An unusual mix, but fitting for someone with her sense of style, despite what she describes as being a bit of a "high-street whore," it works in an amalgamated way.

Jessica's collection has been housed in Japan's TEKNOPOLICE alongside massive underground labels such as Kokontozai and the iconic Philip Treacy. Her London based stockists include 123 Bethnal Green road alongside Dr.Noki and William R Green and Shop 172 on Brick Lane. Looking to the future, Jessica tells us she will look to "experiment with perspex chainmail," following the exposure of the perspex bags and will also look to use more fur and large coats perhaps" but as it is still in the design stage, things are tight-lipped.  We look forward to her next collection, hoping it will be as daring, bright, vibrant and memorable.

Interview and Portrait: Nardip Singh

SS13 Collection Lookbook images supplied by Jessica Au,
Copyright © JAU Label
Photographer: Sarah Brimley,
Assisted by Oliver Hillyer Riley
Make-up/Hair: Elizabeth Rita
Models: Lola at Nevs,
Melanie at RKA and Joel at EYE

Image description
Image description