How hope and optimism can cure everything from climate change to fuck boys with Jordan Wake - Boyfriend magazine
I spoke to Jordan about what it's like to be in your early 20's in 2019. You can get the issue here - https://boyfriend-mag.com/product/boyfriend-magazine-issue-7-september-2019-digital-copy/?v=79cba1185463
“You can just call me the queer Carrie Bradshaw!” laughed Jordan Wake halfway through our morning coffee. Had I heard this statement from anyone else I would have laughed about the impossibility of anyone being as charismatic, crazy and caring as Carrie. But coming from Jordan, it felt right. This is the 22 year old who has not only taken me, an aspirational writer, under his wing since our first introduction at London Fashion Week; he has dedicated himself to supporting emerging fashion talent, helping those in need and using his voice for good. It was only two months ago that Jordan’s emotional response to the outrageous Brunei law, which made homosexuality punishable by death, resulted in the Gay Times and the LGBTQ reporter for the BBC reaching out to him to speak on the matter – one which was eventually revoked, in large part, due to the boycotts and protests that Jordan was an integral part of. When he’s not using his voice to fight the inequalities of the world, Jordan is sat front row at fashion shows, being invited to exhibitions, or at glamorous after-parties in true Carrie Bradshaw style. After ensuring me that he does manage to get eight hours of sleep most nights, he delved into all things fashion, why pride within the LGBTQ community is still important, and how hope and optimism are essential for keeping us afloat in times of confusion.
For Jordan, fashion has always been important. “Fashion was always a way of presenting myself to society or feeling comfortable with myself. Before coming out I think fashion was a platform that I could use to feel comfortable in the clothes I was wearing before I was even able to feel comfortable in my own skin”. When he decided he wanted a change of career, it was obvious to him that he needed to be in the world of fashion. With no knowledge of the industry, no contacts and no experience, he decided to set up a blog where he could talk about clothes and fashion. The blog soon gained a following and it wasn’t long until he was being invited to fashion shows in London. “That was the plan for the blog – I wanted to use it as a platform to get me into the industry” said Jordan. “I came into London for fashion weeks for a few years whilst blogging, and then I moved here to work with Hilary”. Hilary Alexander is the editor-at-large of Hello Fashion, the former fashion director of the Daily Telegraph, and has been named Journalist of the Year not once, but twice, at the British Fashion Awards. It’s safe to say that for his first job in the industry, Jordan was in safe hands. How did he get the job? “Totally by chance. She was doing a talk with a former royal ballet dancer Eric Underwood, and then afterwards I ran up to her quickly and just said “I love your work, I come to your talks every year, can I have an internship?” I knew I had to just get to the point. She said I could help her with a gala she had that September, so I interned for her throughout September and never left!”
Coming to London didn’t only provide Jordan with a job in the industry he loves, it provided him with a sense of freedom and belonging that he hadn’t yet experienced. “Going from a small village where I thought I was the only gay in the village to this!” With “this” referring to everything from the multitude of men available to him on dating apps (“it’s a mass consumption of men!”) to the wild and exciting experiences that the fashion industry has to offer (more on the night that led to Jordan owning a cardboard cut-out of Anna Wintour later), it’s clear that Jordan is exactly where he belongs. For his second year of pride celebrations in the city, Jordan found himself taking part in the parade; “I was marching with my friend’s football team and I was dancing and cartwheeling all through central London. It was a very special moment. The atmosphere at pride is something I’ve never seen anywhere else”. The sense of belonging and “togetherness” that he felt at pride is something that’s magnificence and beauty is not lost on Jordan. As a gay man from a small seaside town in Norfolk, there were times where acceptance felt like a far-off ideology, something to only be achieved once he had moved over 100 miles away. “I feel like, if I had a pride, or seen there was a pride or been to a pride that was closer to me, I would have felt more accepted. I’m in London now, but it shouldn’t have to have been that I need to escape to the city to be accepted”.
Jordan’s compassionate nature means he knows that for every moment in which he has felt acceptance and love, there are people who perhaps aren’t as lucky. Pride is a celebration, one in which he is free to cartwheel through the streets he calls home with his friends, surrounded by love. He understands, however, that the world in which he inhabits is made up of privileges that are often overlooked – the privilege of location, skin colour. “It’s great that I live in such a diverse and accepting city, but I just think why is that fair? Why do I get to have that and there are loads of people around the world who don’t get to have that?” This year’s pride celebrations marked 50 years since the stonewall riots – the first moment in which the LGBTQ community started fighting for their rights to simply exist. One of the pride events that Jordan attended was a screening of Raymond Braun’s documentary State of Pride. The running question throughout the documentary, said Jordan, was ‘is pride still relevant?’. The answer to this question is, simply, yes. As Jordan said, “it’s very easy to feel like in cities like New York and London we have so much acceptance, so maybe we don’t need it anymore. But there’s smaller cities and towns outside of those spaces that aren’t as accepting. Also, we aren’t just marching for London, we’re marching for the world. It’s not like we’re fully safe here, but we are much luckier here. We are marching for those that are on the outside. Those who don’t feel as accepted or maybe are in a community that is less diverse”. After scrambling for his phone and searching Instagram, Jordan shows me the account Voices4, an account dedicated to sharing the voices of the queer community. He showed me one post in particular, one that shows why pride is still important. It is a picture captured by Harry Adams of a protester holding a poster that reads ‘queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere’. The reality of the queer community is that yes, pride in London is a party where Jordan can dance through the streets and feel free, but at the same time in a different area of the world, people no different to him are being persecuted for trying to be themselves. “Just this morning I saw on the news that a Russian LGBTQ activist was killed after being listed on a gay hunting website. It’s great that we can celebrate here but that’s not the reality for some people around the world. This is why we do it. We’re fighting for people who can’t fight for themselves”. Sometimes, even now, it’s hard to see London as being completely safe –a few months ago a lesbian couple were publicly assaulted by a group of men because of their sexuality. It is these acts of violence that make it clear that the LGBTQ community has a long way to go. The acceptance that Jordan often feels may not be felt by others within the LGBTQ community. “There are so many layers of marginalisation within the community” said Jordan, “so within our community, we have to amplify our voices for the other groups that are even more marginalised than I am, like trans women of colour, for example”. This is where the quote on that poster rings true, that as a part of a community, you have to understand the layers of that community, and where you are positioned within it. As Jordan said, “you have to understand your privilege and if it gives you an advantage then you can use that advantage for good. I’ve been given that white male voice, so I’m going to support and amplify the voices of others”.
The world of fashion has also provided Jordan with a platform for his voice that he often uses to amplify the focus on the LGBTQ communities. “Fashion is relevant to everyone, even if you don’t understand it” he explained to me. “Everyone lives their lives within the clothes that we choose to put on our back. Every happy moment, every sad moment is lived within your wardrobe, and you remember those memories”. That it is so relevant to everyone, both those who care about trends and those who don’t, is the reason why it is the perfect industry to place a focus on the LGBTQ communities. You’re able to send a message through so many channels, whether that is brands like DB Berdan sending jackets printed with the slogan “fuck ur double standards” down the runway, or Anna Wintour boycotting the Dorchester hotel when the Brunei laws were first implemented, it is hard not to take notice of the goings on in the world of fashion. It’s really important to mention, also, that the fashion industry isn’t just helping the LGBTQ community by amplifying voices like Jordan’s, it is also helping those people on a personal level, too. “I’ve found that sense of belonging and knowing that I’ve found my people in both the fashion industry and the LGBTQ community. I felt a lot of oppression, not because I wasn’t very well supported – I was very lucky in that respect – but I spent a lot of my life resenting myself. I feel that sense of community in fashion too. Both communities are so special to me and that’s why I find it so intriguing, essential almost, to overlap the two and discuss how one can benefit the other.” Whilst both communities are so intrinsically connected on an emotional level for Jordan, they are both important to each other in that they both inspire difference and expression within an individual. In this sense, it is not only those working within the fashion community that feel a sense of belonging; the clothes created by the industry are necessary for expressing identity in a public way, too. “Fashion is so prolific in that sense”, said Jordan. “The two go hand in hand, really. I look back to the 80’s and that period was so horrific for the community because of the AIDS crisis, but there was also Madonna. You can really see through her music how fashion, the queer community and pop culture have overlapped and are really influential in complimentary ways”. In recent years, it seems more apparent than ever that it is not just artists such as Madonna who gain traction through what they are wearing; Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton’s outfits were often the source of front-page news articles. Rather than focus on the negative attention that these articles garnered, Jordan decides to focus on the positives. “The amount of traction that clothing brings is crazy, just think about what you can do with that level of attention. It’s very powerful”.
Fashion is powerful, and emotional – something Jordan has experienced first-hand. The last day of London Fashion Week in February was so emotive, in fact, that it ended with him sleeping for a very long time and then writing down everything that had happened in an attempt to be able to comprehend it. The day started on an intense high at the Shrimp show where he met his favourite actress, Helena Bonham-Carter, but that feeling of euphoria was quickly shot down by the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s death. “It was so surreal” said Jordan, recalling the moment he received a text of the news whilst in between shows – firstly believing it “had to have been some sort of sick joke” before having to process that it was, in fact, true. Richard Quinn’s show reinstated a feeling of hope that, for Jordan, was symbolic of the importance of fashion. “In a time of such uncertainty and disruptional sadness it was a reminder that fashion has this element of being able to bring people together. Even though the industry was collectively in mourning, Richard uplifted everyone with his incredible show”. And then? “Then the Duchess of Cornwall showed up! It went from Helena Bonham-Carter in the morning to Camilla in the evening. With everything else that had happened in between it was so surreal. There was the happy, the sad, the iconic. It was such a special day”. After a big sigh, he jumps up in his seat – “the day didn’t even end there! That night was Matty Bovan’s party called a night of a hundred stars. He had all these cardboard cut-outs of celebrities – well you know the story” (I do, I follow him on Instagram. But I wanted to hear it a second time anyway). At the end of the night, the party-goers’ focus turned to taking the cardboard cut-outs home and Jordan, unsurprisingly, jumped on the Anna Wintour cut-out. “I called an Uber, but she didn’t fit in it!” Did she not bend? Could she not fit? “No! I wasn’t going to bend her!” Not one to shy away from a challenge, nor one to ever leave a man behind – especially when that man is Anna Wintour - Jordan and cardboard Anna went home that night on the 176 bus, accompanied by Rose Danford-Phillips and her Julien Macdonald cut-out. That was, for Jordan, the biggest day in fashion. “There was fashion history being created that is so relevant to everyone but also history that was important to me. There were so many personal and emotional things that happened in a way that I will probably never experience again”. It was these intense emotions that assured Jordan he is exactly where he needs to be – that people can come together and uplift others through the medium of fashion on a day of uncertainty and sadness reassured him that there is no other industry he would want to be a part of.
When it comes to optimism, Jordan is a shining beacon of light. “People really need to recognise what change you can make just by people coming together”. Whether that’s regarding boycotting hotels to revoke laws halfway across the world or by shopping more consciously to help the planet, change can be made when people come together. “The key”, said Jordan, “is to stay hopeful. If I lived my life thinking that the planet won’t exist in 15 years or Boris Johnson is going to ruin the country then there would be no hope. But if I thought optimistically, accepting that yes things aren’t great now but you don’t know what will happen in five years if everyone comes together, then that could lead to a really positive change”. It all comes down to being open, to having honest conversations about our worries and our experiences. When those experiences cover such broad territory – “we are experiencing everything in the generation from fuck boys to climate crisis! How do we even breathe!” – it is clear that he could not be more right. Having an open heart and an optimistic outlook is, really, the antidote to everything.