Interview with Jourdie Godley
Founder @ East & West

East & West is fashion and lifestyle website created by Jourdie Godley that aims to bridge the two very different fashion cultures of Asia and the West. Since launching the website in 2015 Jourdie has had the privilege to work and collaborate with some of Asia's top designers as well as international brands such as Coach in a wide range of capacities both behind the scenes and on social media screens. Although East & West has been featured on a number of leading digital platforms throughout Asia Jourdie's extensive knowledge of social media and the fashion industry at large (including fashion diplomacy) has led him to work with renowned international fashion companies and programs including Jakarta Fashion Week and the International Woolmark Company as a freelance consultant / advisor. Through East & West, Jourdie hopes to inspire others through his love for fashion and break the negative perceptions society places on people with disabilities.
Hey Jourdie, could you tell us more about East & West and why you founded the company? What interested you about bridging Asia with the Western hemisphere?
So East and West is a fashion website and consultancy that aims to, one - bridge to the East and the West through fashion, and two - because I have a disability, I wanted to use the platform to break negative stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities in general, not just in fashion. The reason I founded East and West - or I created East and West - is because I saw from attending Fashion Weeks in places like Indonesia and Korea and China, was that the designers were so talented, but they weren't known to the outside world. And so that's why I wanted to make this platform, to promote that, and to help the designers spread their talent. I think one reason I'm really interested in bringing Asian brands to the West is because I think that I see that a lot of consumers like the clothes, but they just have no way to get it. And so by me promoting it on my social media, or by working with buyers, I think it would help consumers obtain clothes from really cool, talented, Asian designers.
Who are some of the most prominent designers you've worked with?
In the five years I've worked in fashion, I've worked with East and West, I guess the most prominent Western brand I've worked with is Coach. I got to do a collaboration with them while living in Indonesia, which was pretty fun. But I've worked with a lot of really talented, high profile designers from Korea, such as Ulkin, By.D'By, and I guess the biggest one right now would be Besfxxk - they're a pretty cool brand that is now taking the world by storm. They've been now stocked in Bergdorf Goodman, in Barneys in New York, so many stores around the world now stock Besfxxk. I think for me it's been really cool that I was one of the first people to work with and wear their stuff, so I feel really happy about that. Yeah I've worked with so many designers 0 it's really hard to say who is the most prominent, because I guess they're all prominent in their own ways - but definitely for the West it would be Coach. And hopefully this year I'll be working with a lot of other bigger brands, but you know - that depends on whether the brand is open to working with someone with a disability or not. But, so far, Coach has been really, really great. I have a great partnership with them, I get to tour their office in New York - it's been great. So I like working with Coach. Yeah, it's really fun!
What is a dream project you would like to take on at East & West? Anyone you're dying to work with?
I have so many dream projects, I have so many dream projects I'd like to work on. Oh my gosh. I would love to really collaborate with bigger global brands, not just as a model or a content creator, but also doing runway for them. And I think this stems from the second reason I created my company, which was to break negative perceptions of disability through fashion. I feel that by doing that, and being the first person with a disability to do a runway for a major brand, it would really break perceptions in such a subtle way and be such a big deal. And yeah, so I'd like to work with a lot of luxury brands, like Chanel - I guess Chanel would be my top. Chanel... maybe then followed by Alexander Wang - I love Alexander Wang. There are so many brands but I think Chanel would be probably my top, the top brand that I'd like to do a collaboration with. Maybe help them on a collection inspired by the East - that'd be really fun. So I mean, I have so many dream projects - working with Chanel would be one.
You are now based in Washington, DC. Why start East & West there, specifically? What does the city bring to your company?
So I am currently based in Washington D.C. - I actually did not start my company here, I started it in Indonesia. I'm based here because my parents moved here and I wanted to - although I was born in the US, I never lived here before - and so I wanted to try living in the US and be comfortable first, although I don't spend too much time here anymore. I spend a lot of my time in Seoul and Shanghai, in New York, but what I guess D.C. provides for my company is quiet. I'm able to come here, focus on my work, not be around all the hustle and bustle of the city - which I love - but D.C. enables me to also have a little bit of relax, and enjoy life and not be so hectic all the time, because I'm always in really big cities. In the last two years I really learned to like D.C. - I didn't like it too much at first, but I like it now. I'm planning to move to New York this year, and go between New York and Seoul so, we'll see! But D.C., D.C.'s a good city.
Can you tell us some of your future plans for East & West? Any big projects or collaborations happening?
Future plans for East and West... wow, so, I have a lot up my sleeve. This year is a really big year for me, so I'm really happy and excited for what's to come. The last big project I did was shot in March, in Brooklyn in New York, and that will be released at the end of this month, so please look out for that. It's going to be a really, really, really big deal. I can't tell you who it is with, because I signed a lot of non-disclosure agreements and contracts, but I'm so excited for this campaign to come out, because it's this it's going to change a lot - not just for me, but for a lot of people, and for the industry in general. I'm so excited for this to come. Other collaborations - I think this year I will be collaborating more with Besfxxk, hopefully with another Korean brand called Ulkin. And I'd really love to start collaborating with more Chinese designers. So for those who actually don't know my background: I grew up in South Korea, the Philippines and China, Southern Thailand for college and Australia, and then I moved to Indonesia for three years before moving here. So I'd really like to go back to Asia, and do collaborations with a lot of local brands there, to further promote them here in the US.
How did you initially become involved in the world of fashion diplomacy? Could you explain this concept to our audience?
I initially became involved in the world of fashion diplomacy when I went to Indonesia and started an internship at an embassy there. When I finished my internship I joined the cultural section, and they were starting to do a fashion diplomacy program. As I was the only one who'd been to Fashion Week and had experience in the fashion industry, they asked me to help run the program. So for those who don't know, fashion diplomacy basically can be explained as this: if your country wants promote your country's fashion industry in another country, their embassy will make a fashion diplomacy program. This program could help bring designers from your country to the country they wish to promote, or they could do collaborations with different designers. So let's say the American Embassy in Seoul wants to do a fashion embassy program: they might do a collaboration by bringing American designers to show at Seoul Fashion Week, or vice versa. Or having an American designer do a collaboration with a Korean brand, and have that shown in a special fashion show or event. So it's basically using fashion to promote your country, to promote your country's designers and your own fashion industry, and to really help shape a perception of your country, through fashion, in another country. I hope that makes sense.