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Designer profile: House of Jazz


Nicola Brewer profiles the House of Jazz, the hot new duo who are taking the fashion world by storm.

No – it’s not the name of a trendy new Ronnie Scott’s style Soho hang out – House of Jazz is, in fact, the name of one of London’s new hottest and cutting edge labels.

Wowing the fashion press with their utterly individual style House of Jazz is fast becoming the one to watch (and wear). With an ability to pick up on key trends using sumptuous fabrics their collections are an amalgamation of fun, trendy and luxurious. So who are House of Jazz?

Hazel Robinson and Pablo Flack make up the design duo that is House of Jazz, the label that they started back in 2000. Based in London’s increasingly hip East End, the pair are busy preparing for a future that could include world domination – that’s the fashion world you understand.

On being ’the next big thing’ “If you’re not the next big thing any more and you’re a label that has no sales and just show sponsorship, you’ve had it. We’re concerned about production quality and delivery that will make us survive. We’re enjoying our 10 minutes while it lasts.”

According to reports, Robinson and Flack met while dancing on the tables of the Bricklayers Arms pub in Hoxton. Flack was manager of the pub at the time while Robinson had just sold her degree collection from Middlesex University to the Covent Garden store, Koh Samui.

After the success of her degree show, Robinson then went on to work for super cool designer Matthew Williamson. It was here that Robinson learnt much of the intricate skills that now go into the designs for House of Jazz. Fashion, I think it’s safe to say, was always to be Robinson’s future, but what of her partner Pablo Flack: was fashion his first calling?

“No,” says Flack. “I went to the London School of Economics, so I think I should be in the city now.” Having given up a future career in economics Flack went about setting up the 333 club with new-found friend Robinson pitching in to do some dj-ing.

Where did the name House of Jazz come from? “If something is Jazzy it’s cool, so what could be cooler than a whole House of Jazz!”

“I started working with Hazel on a give away wristband for the nightclub I was running.” Say’s Flack. The original give away wrist bands – named jazz bands – and T-shirts that Robinson and Flack made for the club were proving so popular that they decided to start selling them to shops.

Cottoning onto the fact that they could make a career out of designing, Hazel and Pablo went on to create their own hip label. So there you have it, unto the world (of fashion) a label was born; and it really is as simple as that. But it’s been the hard work that followed which has set them on the road to success.

“There is no such thing as luck,” says Flack. “It’s a combination of hard work, talent and who you know.”

What inspires you when it comes to designing? “People, parties and markets”

No sooner had Robinson and Flack decided to start up House of Jazz than Fashion East steeped in to award the duo with the chance to show off schedule at London Fashion Week, which was sponsored by the likes of Channel 4 and Cityside Regeneration.

Describing their first catwalk show as simply “exciting”, Flack and Robinson’s House of Jazz show was an instant hit, with Vogue describing them as “destined to be a London Fashion Week hit from the start, with Pablo Flack and Hazel Robinson wowing, they fully deserved their Grand patronage”.

“The funding from Fashion East is invaluable,” said Flack. “Instead of struggling to arrange a show we can spend more time putting good clothes together.”

How would you describe your style? “Cool and individual”

And put good clothes together is exactly what they did. Styled by Katie Grand, the collection consisted of curly-haired blonde models dressed in leather and denim, see-through baby dolls and big button-up trousers.

And it wasn’t long before they were soon spotted and scooped up by the likes of Barney’s (who bought the first collection for a reported £20,000), Selfridges (who gave them their own window in November 2002), Browns Focus in London and Collette in Paris.

News of the label had even reached the ears of those at the top of the hierarchical fashion ladder. Donatella Versace, no less, sent the duo flowers for their first show to thank them for the ‘Donatella says more’ T-shirts they wore that sold in abundance.

How would you describe the customer you design for? “Rich”

And 2002 was to bring the label even more success. Channel 4 launched The 4 Collection that year, a novel way of promoting a programme, event or season. For its Indian Summer season, House of Jazz designed T-shirts and knickers that were such a hit they sold out.

In February of the same year, House of Jazz had their second outing for Fashion East as they showcased their collection for autumn/winter 2002. With floor length poncho’s and killer heel boots the duo, yet again, managed to leave the crowd breathless and begging for more, with Lucy Ryder Richardson of Vogue exclaiming, “If any young company needs and deserves a serious injection of cash it is this one.”

However, it was the sponsorship they received from Saga Furs for their autumn/winter 2003 collection that got the anti fur activists hot under the collar.

Who, if anyone, in the industry (past or present) would you say that you admire or have been influenced by? Pablo: Karl Lagerfeld – Hazel: Coco Chanel

In an article in the Observer entitled Beauty and the beasts, reporter Tamsin Blanchard talked about the use of fur in fashion. Among the many designers to do so was House of Jazz. Using red fox fur for the collection, Robinson and Flack created fur pom-poms to dangle from their boots and hooded sleeveless gillets.

“It’s [Fur is] having something of a renaissance,” said Robinson at the time. “Houses like Prada and Gucci have helped make it acceptable. People aren’t as willing to argue with the big fashion houses.

“As I se it,” Robinson went on to say, “House of Jazz is a designer luxury label. The most luxurious thing you can have in a collection along with rich embroideries and beading is fur. I don’t have an issue with it.”

Do you think there is enough help and support out there for anyone trying to start up in the fashion industry? “People should have to take a fashion production or business component to their college course. Other that that there shouldn’t be any extra help for starting a fashion business as any other.”

House of Jazz have since never commented on their use of fur.

Already notching up their celebrity client list with the likes of Kelly Osbourne, Kate Moss, Katie Grand and Kylie Minogue, what’s next for House of Jazz?

Well, The British Fashion Council has just announced them as one of its star new designers for spring/summer 2004. Along with 15 other hot new fashion names, House of Jazz has been awarded the New Generation sponsorship in conjunction with TopShop. Now in its fourth consecutive season, the award will provide financial support to either showcase their new collection on the catwalk or in the exhibition tent of London Fashion Week in September.

Where do you see House of Jazz in 5 years? “Global”

So with a future that looks set to be rosy, what advice would Pablo Flack and Hazel Robinson give to anyone wanting to do the same?

“Firstly, don’t,” says Flack. “Secondly, if you must, then go and work for a large fashion company in Paris, Milan or New York and then set up your own label. And lastly, find a good business partner – two heads are better than one.”

By Nicola Brewer

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