The parallels between the worlds of fashion and whisky may not reveal themselves immediately but they can be summed up in a simple statement of process: Experiment. Patience. Editing. And repeat. It’s a formula that demands precision while celebrating the surprises that come from the creative journey. It’s also the ethos that cemented the most unexpected of collaborations: the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky Glenfiddich and Australian designer Jordan Dalah.
Dalah, whose debut show at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week has gone down in history for its breathtakingly risky silhouettes, was tapped by the award-winning Glenfiddich to become creative director on a new campaign that would reimagine their Grand Cru. The result is an unexpected twist on presentation, a box-within-a-box trompe l’oeil stamped with a pattern that, according to Dalah, was inspired by one of the prints that featured in his collection.
“To debut the bottle, I was looking at a particular style of print in my collection,” Dalah tells GRAZIA. Despite being born and raised in Sydney, Dalah has the soft inflection of his time spent in London where he studied and graduated from the prestigious Central Saint Martins. “This particular print [used for the Grand Cru], wasn’t in the collection but that was intentional. I didn’t really want to just do one plus one equals two..”
“I wanted to design a custom print but one where you can very much see where that sits in the collection in terms of it has a very gesture-like or circus-like sensibility to it, which is reflected in a lot of the bold prints I use from the circles, the checkers, even just the way that the colour is blocked in.”
Red swirls that verge on the garish yet never quite tip too far from the right side of tasteful, the print is a departure from the classic, almost masculine codes used in the Glenfiddich branding. But this sense of risk, of breaking free from convention, serves as the common thread between Glenfiddich and Dalah. “Alcohol alongside fashion wasn’t on my trajectory of goals,” jokes Dalah. “But with all the foresight of what we’ve done, the collaboration between us has been one that’s been so exciting, rewarding, and free flowing.
“Every collaboration I do has to feel really meaningful, and I’ve really given something to it. It’s the same with my collections. There’s so much involved in every look. Every look is its own story.”
“I think that Glenfiddich’s approach to working with creatives is looking at the narrative of what we, together, are trying to say and what we’re trying to achieve. I think with Glenfiddich it’s the attention to detail and the attention to their craft that is so appealing. It’s not so much that whisky per se necessarily aligns with creativity, it’s this passion in what they do, and this expertise. They really hone in on their craft to get their products to be the most elevated version of what it is, especially when you have the Grand range.”
According to Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador Ross Blainey, Dalah’s appeal to the brand was a similar drive to experiment with the unexpected, even if that means going against the grain of what others consider to be “trends”.
“My favourite thing about Jordan is that he does what he believes in and doesn’t compromise,” says Blainey. “There is no conforming; he has a clear vision and a fascinating creative process that leads to what he believes in – this means he won’t hold back, even when it gets right to the edge, making him a true maverick in the industry.”
And for his part, Dalah was fully prepared to take the collaboration to its furthest point.
“I feel like Glenfiddich really do take risks with the way that they present their brand versus the way that whisky has been presented through history, if that makes any sense. They are really approaching it in a dynamic way, and that’s not just with me, it’s globally, beyond Australia, just the different people and industries they are tapping into to create amazing collaborations is really, really exciting.”
In fact risk is something the Scotch whisky knows well and Glenfiddich has garnered a well-earned reputation for creating lauded drams that are both robust and nuanced. None more so than their Grand Cru. This may seem like a somewhat contradiction in terms but in the context of whisky it explains how a drink can achieve such complexity in flavour and aromatic notes all within the one vintage. The crispness of apples, pears and softness of peach blend into a melange of melted butter notes that warm the throat. The reason that Grand Cru already has such a following is it walks the fine line between invigorating and comforting. This fine-tuned attention to detail to create a sense of balance within structures that are bold is the signature touch of Dalah. His debut show at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week in 2021 was a highlight, indicating a talent that wasn’t afraid to redefine fashion.
While other brands were attempting to reinvigorate new ideals of glamour, or capitalise on comfort inspired by pandemic needs, Dalah chose to take up space. Literally, with a collection that engulfed its models in large, amorphous shapes it was a show that defied conventional fashion standards. Size was exaggerated, ballooned outward from the body in ways that departed abruptly from what a traditional dress, or coat, should look like. Dalah’s strategy was equally brilliant – he presented it as ready-to-wear. A gamble to show to an audience more accustomed to the beachside aesthetics or night time chic clothing Australian designers are known for? Absolutely. Worth it? Without a doubt.
“What I do is absolutely ready-to-wear,” stresses Dalah.
“In fashion, we speak about inclusivity and being open to the fact that not everyone wears the same thing. I’m serious about my designs. My clothing isn’t always serious, but that is part of it. There is also humour to it.”
One of the reasons that Dalah’s aesthetic stands out so much is that his journey to becoming a fashion designer is tied into the way he views fashion as an extension of art and the importance of taking the client on a journey of self-expression with his own brand.
“I was always interested in exploring the human body as a means of expression. I would always be drawing silhouettes of women before I knew I was drawing fashion, and I would be drawing clothes, and I would paint portraits of women and people. Not just women, but growing up, I loved art.
“I’m trying to create a brand, not a label, where I have codes within what I do, and people associate those codes with my brand. It’s really been a journey about finding what it is I stand for, and that’s what I love about what I do.”
But are such extravagances sustainable? One of the few things that people consider when it comes to creativity is that for every great idea, garment – or delicious drop of whisky as the case may be – there are many more that don’t meet the standards of the maker. This editing process, so integral to the art of fashion and a delicate art in the development of whisky and its maturation to know when exactly when to bottle it and achieve the right flavour profile, is where the real skill lies. Dalah says that when it comes to staying inspired on the design journey – from the ideation to the manifestation of garments – he remains open to the opportunity of everything and anything.
“I don’t really shut off,” he explains. “Ideas are flowing through me constantly. At the beginning of this chat, I talked about what got me into fashion and how I used to illustrate and draw. I don’t actually illustrate and draw that much anymore, because I think I spent my childhood frustrated that I could never make clothing, I could just draw it, because I couldn’t find the resources, nor did I know that sewing was even a thing. But I do working sketches and then I just start making, and as I make, as I start going 3D, I start with one idea, and then four ideas come from that one initial drape. Do you know what I mean?”
While this first drop of the collaboration between Dalah and Glenfiddich has already been snapped up by keen fans of both brands, a second will be available at the Heinemann Duty Free in Sydney’s airport from 6 April 2022, just as we head into Afterpay Australia Fashion Week. Perfect timing. And this is just the beginning, says Blainey.
“Handing over creative reins to a trailblazer like Jordan Dalah may be unusual for other whisky brands but not for Glenfiddich. Genuine collaboration starts with shared values and finishes with the idea that neither of you would have delivered alone. For Glenfiddich and Jordan, it’s about pushing the boundaries, being thought-provoking and asking “where next?”. Jordan pushes boundaries in fashion and fabric, creating garments no one else has seen. He is a genuine leader with an incredible imagination and unique designs. The campaign and the pack, which are a work of art themselves, are a taste of what is to come from our partnership.”