story by Seth Friedermann
photos by Adrianna Favero
There are multiple paths to success as a fashion designer. Some attend schools and gain employment with established designers or design houses. Others sew at home and sell their collections at flea markets, online, and make appointments with boutiques to present their work. Still others mix those business models together. Then there is the curious case of the label Jolibe. Jolibe is comprised of designer Joel Diaz and designer/creative director Christina La Pens. Mr. Diaz first attended design school in his native country of the Dominican Republic before moving on to Parsons here in New York City. He worked for Helmut Lang for five years and freelanced for major labels before launching Jolibe in 2007. To visit the label’s website is to be sent to a sparse Blogspot page. There are pictures of current and past collections, minimal biographical information, and sales and press contact addresses… that’s it. No press clippings, no lists of stores where you can find the brand, no flashy videos or shots of celebrities (Natalie Portman is a major fan, but you’d never know it from the site). This “Margielaistic” approach to promotion and marketing can be risky, but with the label’s recent inclusion in the C.F.D.A Incubator, exposure should no longer be a problem. It might appear as if the duo are anti-publicity, but they’re not. Nor is it some sort of cool affectation calculated to attract by appearing devil may care. Ultimately it’s just not what they’re focused on. What they’re focused on is creating some of the most unique and beautiful clothing you’ve ever seen.
It is tempting to describe Jolibe as a minimalist label, but the description is not wholly accurate. The challenge that draws a minimalist is creating maximum impact with a minimum of elements. Though that is often, but not always, part of a Jolibe design, with Mr. Diaz and Mrs. La Pens there is more at work than that simple driving desire. Having viewed their collections for a number of seasons now, it seems that they are drawn to minutiae, as if they have a reduced field of vision and find grand inspiration from small details. For Spring 2011 they presented a capsule-sized 11-piece collection. This small selection contained a wide variety of styles of garments as well as construction techniques. This fact points to the heart of why Jolibe is such a special label. They are not, “about”, one approach to fashion. Instead they embrace whatever is necessary to achieve the vision for each individual garment. This is not to say that Jolibe lacks a signature. Their is definitely a consistency in the design elements that are used and a constancy in vision that allows their work to be identified. But they may employ heavy tailoring and a narrow fit in one piece, as they did in a gorgeous metallic silver women’s pant suit. And in the next look display clean and flowing asymmetrical draping, used this season in an ethereally lovely narrow striped rainbow cocktail length dress. This openness to multiple approaches actually strengthens rather than dilutes Jolibe’s collections.
This collection makes a strong statement about their desired client. They recognized that the Jolibe woman does desire easy-to-wear pieces, but wants to demonstrate a sharp sense of style in her dress. Not loud, and not forcefully radical, but still strongly distinctive and flattering. Her life demands variety in dress but she needs for it all to strongly express her. If you’re a woman and you’re reading this, and it sounds like your attitude towards clothing, you should go to that plain Blogspot page and find the sales @ address, and make Mr. Diaz and Ms. La Pens tell you where you can find their designs. Don’t worry, just like their clothing, the address will be easy to spot.
(modaCYCLE managing editor Seth Friedermann, left, with Jolibe designer Joel Diaz, right)