This week we catch up with Joel Boyd, founder of London menswear brand JOBO. The GFW14 graduate discusses how he’s incorporating his passion for music into his work, the importance of creating a more racially diverse fashion industry, and the anti-climatic start to his career. Joel’s honesty and perspective on fashion is refreshing, and he’s got some simple but crucial pieces of advice for young people entering the industry.
Which university did you attend, and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I went to the University of East London. I think one of the stand out things I learnt was not to rely on mannequins when it comes to toiles and fittings. Clothes aren't made for mannequins, they are to be worn by people, so its best to be seen on a person so you get and accurate feel of how a garment sits, moves and feels. I also learnt that documenting the process is just as important as the fitting for you to look back on and refine, especially in this age when the consumer wants to see every step of the process of what they are buying.
Which area of the industry have you chosen to pursue, and what informed this choice?
After I had taken part in GFW and graduated, I knew I wanted to design and I do that for my own menswear brand, but I'm also a stylist. I began doing that during my placement year and I think that really informed my decision to do both.
When I first got into styling, I was burnt out from designing and wanted a break from it, but still wanted to be in the same realm. I interned at Urban Outfitters with the e-com team as an assistant stylist. Taking that time away from design made me realise how much I enjoyed making, so once I had finished my time at UO I got an internship with Kit Neale where I was thrown in at the deep end and solidified my decision to design.
“I feel like as creatives, we should let our passions be a part of what we do and not pigeonhole ourselves with one discipline… I think I’ve just got a restless spirit. ”
Tell us a bit more about your career journey since showing at Graduate Fashion Week. How have you found life in the industry?
I think my journey was a bit anti climatic at the start. After GFW and graduating, I thought it would all kick off but nothing happened. It took me a year till I found a job — at one point I was on the dole, but I used the skills I learnt during my placement to get work.
I freelanced for a bit assisted some stylists and made a few commissioned pieces from time to time, mostly for musicians before I got a job. The industry is a tough one to get into and you need a tough skin to deal with what seems like a lifetime of rejections, but I’ve been quite fortunate to meet some of the people I’ve met during that time, they have really supported me and pushed me to keep going.
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
I like to put a tongue in cheek social commentary narrative in my work. My first collection spoke about gentrification, my latest has a few hints to the state we are leaving the earth in. I think sometimes it can be a bit too intense — shoving your agenda on people — and I don't tend to take myself too seriously. When going into making clothes, I wanted to have somewhat of a reflection of myself in them, so I think a satirical approach suited me best.
Where are you hoping to be in five years time?
Ha! Well if we haven’t totally destroyed the earth, I’d like to be in a position where the brand is fully established. I still work a full time job and doing the two is a major drain, so I’d love to be able to be designing full time and be able to have a few other projects going under the JOBOSTUDIOS HQ. The goal for me when I started out was to never make my brand about the clothing alone, but to be the nucleus of the operation.
At the moment I’m working on an outreach project to work with the clothing side, but music is my other passion, so I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate the two. I feel like as creatives, we should let our passions be a part of what we do and not pigeonhole ourselves with one discipline. That’s my opinion, if you are happy doing that I more power to you, I think Ive just got a restless spirit.
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements?
Yeah I think it’s about time we started to tackle these issues, but I am interested to see whether or not our industry treats them as just passing trends. We tend to see a lot of people jump on the bandwagon just to be seen and fall off along the way — remember Kony 2012.
For me the big issue right now is diversity. As a black designer I think its great seeing people like Edward Enninful and Virlgil as heads of big brands and companies, but I want to see more people like me Edward Enninful, Virgil Abloh and myself at every position from entry level to CEO or creative director — and to be given their jobs because they deserve it, not to tick a diversity box or because it might be what the brand needs to bring in new customers.
Lastly, to any students that are reading this in admiration of your career — what advice would you give to the students hoping to showcase this year?
It’s gonna sound cheesy and cliché, but i think the best piece of advice to give is to have fun with what you're doing. I think we take fashion way to seriously, in the end of the day we’re not here to save lives — we tell stories through our designs. Don't get me wrong, there will definitely be stressful moments, but I think if you're not enjoying yourself throughout the process, it’s gonna reflect in the end product.