When Jorden Bickham and Ahlem Manai-Platt met in 2017, they instantly hit it off. At the time, Jorden was a fashion director at Vogue.com and AHLEM was the new kid on the block, but each recognized a rare talent and energy in the other, and a friendship was born. When Jorden agreed to collaborate on designing a custom AHLEM frame, we knew it would be as radiant and original as she is.
How did you get started in fashion?
As a child, I was drawn to clothing. I remember saving change in a bag so that I could go to the mall to buy clothing. I was fashion obsessed from a young age. I see so much of myself in my 8-year-old child. I studied fashion design in college but pivoted after completing an internship in the fashion closet at W Magazine in 2008. Prior to my internship, I hadn’t realized there were jobs you could have in the fashion industry other than being a designer. From there, I became Camilla Nickerson’s assistant for two years and eventually landed a role in the accessories department at American Vogue. A few years later, Sally Singer came back to Vogue to relaunch Vogue.com and hired me as the Fashion Director. I was given an incredible opportunity to develop the language of the website through digital storytelling alongside Sally and some other really incredible creatives, until I eventually went freelance in 2017 while still contributing to the magazine and website.
Tell us about your collaboration with AHLEM. What brought you and Ahlem Manai-Platt together?
I met Ahlem in 2017 when she was a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. I was the fashion editor for the shoot that ran in Vogue. I was amazed by her taste and talent. The brand is timeless yet modern and pushes boundaries. The commitment to craftsmanship is unparalleled. I was honored when Ahlem reached out to me in the spring of 2021 to collaborate on a pair of frames. It’s thrilling to put your stamp on something so personal as eyewear, and I was especially invigorated by her model for collaborations, which is to allow the collaborator to choose where proceeds of the sales go.
Can you describe the Jorden frame and share a bit about what you wanted to create?
I was inspired by the vintage safety glasses that my partner, Soraya Zaman, has been collecting over the years. I wanted to design a modern interpretation of a frame that works for all and, as Ahlem puts it, has “a casual authority to them”. They are an expressive pair of lenses and they are fun to wear.
Tell us about the shoot for the frame. What was the concept?
It was important to me that the imagery for the shoot reflect my friends and community as well as G.L.I.T.S. My partner, Soraya Zaman, shot the images and we cast friends and individuals who are part of our creative network as well as part of Soraya’s work. The direction for the shoot was “come as you are.” This was not about making people into something they weren’t, or conforming everyone into a single vision for the imagery. It was about celebrating the multitudes of ways that we express ourselves and how beautiful that really is. I love my job, but I really love my job when I get to work with people that I adore and I get to facilitate the process of allowing them to show the world the best version of themselves.
In terms of social progress, how has the fashion industry evolved since you entered it? What changes would you like to see in the future?
A lot has changed in recent years, but there is still a lot of change that needs to happen. We are seeing more queer and trans representation in fashion and media, but a lot of times it can come across as tokenization or ticking a box rather than true inclusivity being woven into the fabric of brands and media naturally.
Can you tell us about G.L.I.T.S. and the work they do?
G.L.I.T.S. is an NYC advocacy organization that provides TLGBQIA+ and BIPOC individuals with access to healthcare and housing, among other basic human rights. In addition to those essential services, they offer support and real community.
I met Cayenne on a video project I worked on during the pandemic with Bardia Zeinali. I was immediately taken with her energy and power. The work that she does with G.L.I.T.S is imperative.
What’s your dream project?
Designing children’s clothing. There is such a problem, especially in America, with children’s clothing. It follows such a binary view of societal norms and leans into basic gender stereotypes. It doesn’t allow for any nuance, complexity or expression. There is so little thought that goes into it. It is disappointing.
The Jorden is an acetate sunglass with universal appeal, innovating a classic pilot shape to express strength, versatility, individuality and joy. At Jorden’s suggestion, proceeds from the sales will benefit G.L.I.T.S. (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society), an NYC nonprofit dedicated to fighting systems of oppression and discrimination. Here, Jorden tells us about her life in fashion, the inspiration behind the new frame, and her dream occupation.