Smash Pages Q&A: Jordan Ellis on ‘The Sartorial Geek’

The founder of the clothing line Jordandené discusses the crowdfunding campaign for the quarterly “geeky lifestyle magazine.”

Jordan Ellis is the founder of the clothing line Jordandené, a geeky chic clothing line that’s handmade and sweat-shop free. Based in Brooklyn, the company has had a presence at shows across the country, and this year they launched The Sartorial Geek, a quarterly magazine that Ellis co-edits.

With articles that range from Sally Bowles to gatekeeping, Jane Eyre to cosplay to conversations with artists and designers, the magazine doesn’t read like anything else out there right now. Currently they’re running a Kickstarter before sending the third issue out. I reached out to Ellis to ask why anyone would launch a print magazine in this environment and trying to do something no one else is doing.

To start with the first, obvious question, why would anyone launch a print magazine?

That is a great question. The honest reason is that we put the content together and then it just felt like it was too good to only live on the internet. Even though this was not an ideal economy or time to do something like this. We put the first issue together and we wanted to do a better service to the artists and the writers than to just have this be a pdf that floats around. It’s so different when it’s a tangible magazine. Even though it’s maybe not the smartest financial decision we’ve ever made, we’re trying to make it work because we think it should work.

You’re running a Kickstarter for the new issue of The Sartorial Geek. Do you want to say a little about the campaign?

We have issues one and two out already and we have self funded those. We’re going to keep doing the magazine for as long as we can so the kickstarter is more a way to hopefully reach a wider audience than just a purely funding campaign. The cool thing about doing something that doesn’t make a ton of sense is that no one else is really doing it. A lot of people who have found out about the magazine are really interested in it, so we’re hoping to just get the word out about it. We want as many people to enjoy it and know about it and read it. We’re hoping that the kickstarter is a way to get it in front of all the people who would actually enjoy this project.

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You’re not putting out a catalog with some articles. This is a full on magazine. The second issue has a cover drawn by Jen Bartel. What have you been trying to do with the magazine?

We were thinking about it being a geeky lifestyle magazine. Basically if you read a lifestyle magazine but you’re a nerd maybe you’ll be into some of the stuff but maybe it won’t overlap with a lot of your interests. The nerdy publications are only about tech or only about entertainment, so we were hoping to combine all of those things. In the first issue we had a self care for days that you need it article, but with a nerdy twist you wouldn’t necessarily see in a regular lifestyle magazine. We have articles on fashion icons in every issue, but they’re from nerd culture.

Geeky lifestyle is how I would describe the clothing line.

Everything overlaps under that umbrella. You’re living your normal life but you’re also into geeky things, so what does that look like? That’s how everything overlaps.

How exactly did you end up starting a clothing line in the first place?

I went to school to be a teacher and I moved to New York unexpectedly and became a nanny. I started this as an etsy side hobby and then it took over. I really didn’t ever intend to run a business, but seven years ago when we started there wasn’t really an overlap of feminine things and well made, well designed things and nerdy things. I wanted stuff to wear that was referencing my favorite movies but wasn’t plastic ink giant Darth Vader on a crew cut t-shirt. That was all you could get for a while and there’s way more now, but that’s where that idea came from.

One line that you have is the Fangirl Galaxy collection, which you made with Sam Maggs. How did that happen?

Sam was one of the first internet celebrities I ever met in real life at one of my first New York Comic Cons. She was signing for The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was on my radar for a long time and I wanted to work with her. Eventually because I have a relationship with Quirk who publishes her books I got to meet with her. She was up for doing a collab and her brand lines up perfectly with our brand and audience. It was the easiest collab ever. The things she wanted to use are perfect for the people who are already shopping with us and her color scheme is great. I think it’s been our best selling collection ever, which is great.

You also have a podcast, you have the magazine, I know you run a monthly book club. How do you see them overlapping and also carving out own unique space?

Through the clothing line we were able to dive into the geeky community and specifically the feminine geeky community. We saw a bunch of things that we didn’t see anyone else really doing and wanted to do, but doing them under the clothing brand didn’t really make a ton of sense. I said already that we wanted to promote other cool brands that we found, but that’s a really weird thing to do as a brand yourself. Especially because in a lot of ways we’re competitors. As a shirt company that didn’t really make sense, so this is our response. Our customers are our favorite part of the business. I like clothing, but I’m not passionate about t-shirts. I’m passionate about giving people things that they love to wear and that they can pick a certain shirt to wear for a certain experience and that whole interaction. Basically it’s our way to interact with fans in the way that we want to.

You seem interested in not just building a customer base, but building a community and being a part of this community that’s been forming.

It feels that things are pretty separate. Not intentionally, but the comics community is sort of separate from the TV community which is sort of separate from cosplayers. They interact in some ways, but not necessarily. You have to find your specific thing and see if there’s overlap. It seems a little crazy that there isn’t a broader overarching community where people can have more than one interest and overlap in those ways. We’re interested in trying to create a space where people can interact in all kinds of different ways and not just join the facebook group to learn about cosplay or follow this page to get updates form this one production company. The overlap is huge. Most people don’t just have one interest and it’s a lot of work to find other fans on your own. It’s my job to know where everyone is hanging out and what they’re all doing, but if you’re just a casual fan you might not know the different platforms that lend themselves to different people with similar interests to you. We’re hoping to make a place where all of that can exist together.

As part of that, do you want to say what’s in the third issue?

We’ve had an overarching theme for every issue so far. The first issue came out during Women’s History Month so it as a lot about women throughout history and the present and cool things they’re doing. The issue with Jen Bartel’s art on the cover came out during Pride Month so it’s a lot of love and romance and relationships. This issue is about Sci-fi and Science and STEAM so we have a range of things. There is a cosplay group where the members are all actual scientists who cosplay to tell people about the actual science they’re doing. We have a lot of talk about cool women in sci-fi. The thirteenth doctor is a female so we’re talking about her. It’s fictional women in sci-fi and science and then real life people in the field.

When does the Kickstarter end?

September 21. We have two exclusive Jordandené products that are just available through the Kickstarter.

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