We expect more now from our clothes than we ever have. After a year of lockdowns and pandemic measures, there is a fresh attitude to fashion. We want, and need, it to do more, both for us as human beings, and for the world in which we live.
Leeds-based fashion brand Ehsani launched in May last year to offer eco-friendly streetwear. It began with its Global tees, designed to style down, perhaps with jeans, or up, maybe with a blazer and leather trousers. “We also bring a sense of functionality and versatility,” say founders Jordan Bassue and Chris Powell. “Our Defiant Hoodie embodies this with our MA1 front pouch, which stores and holds everyday essentials.”
Ehsani’s first venture into loungewear came with the Deviant tracksuit, described by the pair as “our lockdown piece”, made in fleece cotton, in olive with black embroidery. “Again, we wanted functionality with this so we used zip pockets, hardly revolutionary, however, so vital and appreciated in loungewear as it is common for keys, phones and make-up to slide out of pockets while slouched on a sofa for hours into a Netflix binge.”
The resulting comfort and practicality means this has become a bestseller for the fledgeling brand. The tees are made mostly in California via a Leeds-based supplier, with other designs made in Pakistan. The Memento Mori tee has a skull design. “Our intention is to remind people that we only have one chance at life,” says Chris, who leads the design process, although heavily influenced by Jordan. Their working relationship, they say, is one of trust in each other’s visions and strengths.
Chris is single, and has three children with his former partner. Jordan lives with his partner. Both are 30 and from Leeds. They first met when they were 13, then they both went to Notre Dame Sixth Form College in Leeds. “Since GCSE Business Studies in high school, I knew I wanted to own my own business one day, but needed money to live, so I chose not to go to university and started working,” Jordan says. His parents now work for the council but had multiple jobs to provide for himself and his sister as they grew up. For inspiration, he looks to Jerry Lorenzo, American fashion designer and founder of luxury streetwear label Fear of God, and also Denzel Washington for his persistence and overcoming rejection.
After school, Chris studied Sports Coaching Development at Leeds Metropolitan University. Music, art and the environment are his greatest influences. “How art can be worn, how it is synonymous with music. Clothing has always been a statement for me,” he says, adding he was particularly inspired by Kanye West as well as UK garage music, the fashion of the 90s and 2000s, and by his mum, Deborah Powell, who works at Leeds Art University. “I was surrounded by eccentric art, loud fashion and was inspired by how vibrant the college was,” he says. His auntie, Kaz Shaw, showed him how to be bold and different through her famous Leeds club night, SpeedQueen.
“The name was the most difficult. Nothing stuck, so we decided to focus on the why, the purpose, values, vision,” says Chris. Ehsani is an Iranian and Arabic word that means, he says, “having strong faith and showing it with deeds and action, a social responsibility to be better”.
Jordan says: “We believe it is our responsibility to be more than a fashion brand, using our platform to stand up for social, environmental injustices and wrongdoings. We want to help make the world a better place and do our part. Our way of doing this is through clothing, using eco-friendly products, using less water to print and finding green ways to package but also educate and change the minds of people who may not know how fast fashion is adding to our CO2 footprint.”
The core customers tend to be 18-35, fashion-forward, sociable, eco-conscious individuals. Most are in the UK, although Ehsani has also shipped to the French Caribbean. Jordan and Chris are working with agency Northern Talent on collaborations with influencers including TV and radio presenter Sanchez Payne, while Leeds rapper Graft, winner of BBC3’s The Rap Game UK, is another collaborator.
Both have day jobs. Chris works for Leeds Council in housing and Jordan works for HSBC. They funded the Ehsani launch with their savings and have made that investment back already.
They plan to grow Ehsani organically, continue to spread the word about the impact fast fashion has on the environment, and provide opportunities for other aspiring young creatives.
For now, Jordan enjoys being his own boss and “being held accountable for the successes and failures – learns or lessons, we call them – challenging myself, seeing and feeling the love from our customers and loved ones who want us to succeed. The feeling of euphoria when I visualise telling my parents, ‘you never have to worry financially another day in your life’”.
Chris says: “It’s exciting to take that leap of faith and have success, but also to grow something from the ground up. I have loved the creative aspect of the business, seeing my image become something that people buy, wear and love. It gives me huge satisfaction that people like something I designed.”
All clothes available at EhsaniGlobal.com.
Shoot credits: Photographer and stylist– Emily Bradley; location – Leeds city centre; models – Sophie Blakeman, Tre Foggarty and Olivia Danby; hair/ make-up – Emily Bradley.