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Welcome to the fifth chapter of NEPENTHES PEOPLE. In this series we reach out to the customers who embody the essence of our store - in other words, our “NEPENTHES PEOPLE”.
Across age, profession, and background these special New Yorkers each tell a piece of the Nepenthes story.

On a sundrenched Monday afternoon in June, seated at a folding table outside of Vinegar Hill’s Cafe Gitane (the quieter, though still fashionable, counterpart of the Manhattan bistro) Jordan
Thomas sips an iced Fresh Mint tea and makes his case for outlawing umbrellas.

” I think they should be illegal,” he asserts. “The design is outdated, they take up too much space, they prevent us from using our hands. They’re the opposite of human development.” Smartly dressed in a pair of four-way stretch Mont-bell pants, a pristinely white cotton T-shirt, and a South2 West8 Boulder Shirt in Green Poly Stretch Twill, his unassuming appearance contrasts starkly with his big ideas about fashion.

Fashion is defined by constant change. The hope of discovery fuels experimentation and the search for something fresh. Among this tumult of trial and error, Nepenthes delicately navigates tradition and innovation in order to source originality. The label's brands produce products that elevate heritage components while allowing for technical inroads between collections and over time.

According to Jordan, society at large is teetering on the cusp of a new era that will intertwine clothing with technology. “It’s possible to look good and be comfortable,” he says. “All we need is a little push.”

The second son of a jazz session musician, Jordan was born and raised three blocks from Yankee stadium. With his neighborhood crowded by baseball fans in the summer and mostly deserted in the winter, he spent much of his childhood reading at home or visiting his grandmother one stop away in Harlem. Looking out from the backseat of his father’s car as it
drove up the FDR Drive, he would wonder what lay beyond the twinkling lights across the river.

The creative spark that ignited Jordan’s passion for clothing came when he saw his cousin wearing a Purple/Black North Face Mountain Light Jacket with US Army OG-107 olive green
military fatigue pants. This pairing of function and form was a waymarker that pointed to a larger and brighter world. Intrigued, he felt the urge to create.

Like most fashion neophytes, Jordan sought out a community, finding acceptance downtown at Andre Munoź’s now-defunct vintage boutique “Catalog” (which later became coffee shop Honey Haus, and whose location is currently home to Procell). Located on East 11th street, the store stocked a hand-picked collection of American Traditional, Japanese, and technical clothing alongside a selection of books and small products that Andre curated. Jordan saved up what money he could and made frequent trips to the store, learning about brands, and finding himself a mentor.

At Catalog, he received an informal education in minimalism, a philosophy Andre constantly emphasized. Quoting Steve Jobs during their arguments, Andre challenged Jordan to come up
with a product and then reduce its design. Music became another source of study. Jordan recalls, “I grew up listening to a lot of jazz because that’s what my dad listened to. But when I
heard “Kind of Blue” in the store I started to understand these musicians’ mindset. Miles Davis said, “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” He didn’t have to use every note, only the
good ones”. Jordan discovered that removing embellishments to prioritize function doesn’t mean sacrificing beauty.

Military clothing and its utilitarian doctrine naturally became a centerpiece of his sartorial research, with iconic pieces like the M-65 Field Jacket holding particular interest for him. Like a
geologist who studies the flow of an ancient river by examining the dry canyon floor, Jordan investigated what made that jacket so popular outside of its intended combat environment. He
remarks, “Soldiers coming home were saying, ‘I love my jacket. It keeps me warm, it has great storage. I always want it with me.’ Then I realized technical gear is our era’s version of the M-65.”

The correlation between apparel and military goods is not simply theoretical. Patagonia, Mystery Ranch and Arc’teryx all produce under military contracts in addition to their commercial
businesses. As technology improves and becomes cheaper, the division between military, outdoor, and urban clothing has blurred. Jordan believes in breaking down this barrier even
further. A rain jacket is just as useful against precipitation on the Upper West Side as it is upstate, and cobblestones are their own rough terrain. He asks, “Seventy years ago, every businessman was expected to wear a trench coat - shouldn’t we update that?”

An aimless walk through New York’s Garment District brought Jordan to Nepenthes New York. The barrage of polka dot patterned clothing (Engineered Garments’ SS12 collection) caught his eye, but he stayed for the hardware. Needles, Engineered Garments, and South2 West8 under one roof proved to him that balance between form and function could coexist across aesthetic philosophies. He comments, “My Engineered Garments Over Pants are so easy to move around in and keep me warm in the winter, and my South2 West8 Poly Stretch Jacket is built to let a light breeze through but keep out the rain. They come from different places, but they both find an equilibrium”.

Over the years, Jordan has worked across the fashion industry, from stores to marketing to wholesalers. He has formulated his beliefs through production, selling, and retail perspectives. “I
want to help everybody be more comfortable while expressing themselves,” he says. “We already have the technology, so now I want to make a pair of super lightweight, water resistant stretch pants that look good in the city.” He has helped create products for Arc’teryx, Salomon, and Clark’s. The Shelter CS WP boot he designed for Toronto’s Better Gift Shop featured purple and olive hues on the uppers, an homage to the outfit that started his journey.

Asked about his design process he takes a moment to consider. “Sometimes I think about Gerhard Richter's Forest series. He transformed nature into something technical and glitchy but executed it in almost a renaissance style. He's painting towards the future. It’s not meant for you to recognize it's meant for you to kind of think past him.” His goal is not making a coveted product, but something that can seamlessly integrate into someone’s lifestyle across all environments.

As a third generation New Yorker, the city is an inseparable part of Jordan’s outlook. “New York is a living organism; everything is always changing. There are so many different environments,
so many people from different walks of life - everything bounces off the other.” He relocated from the Bronx to Brooklyn in 2020, finally satisfying the curiosity that started on his childhood
drives. When he’s not in Manhattan working, Jordan likes to spend his time in Brooklyn Heights, where he enjoys the slower pace and abundance of quiet restaurants.

The only member of his family still living in New York, Jordan wants to stay. It’s in him too much to leave, and he’s determined to leave his mark. He remains optimistic about the future, stating,

“People say New York is coming back. But has it ever gone anywhere? We fall in love with a version of New York that we like, and when it changes, we say ‘New York is wack.’ But it's not wack, it's just changing. We have to adapt.”

Written by  James Donovan 

Photos by   Winston Tolliver