Style: Cruise control

When London Fashion Week begins on 21 February, the spotlight will be on those designers who hold catwalk shows, and rightly so. But look beyond and there are plenty of successful fashion companies which choose to keep a low profile, and husband-and-wife team Joelynian is one of them

Joely Davis and Nian Brindle sell their clothes to some of the most directional fashion stores in the world. That's nothing unusual - their clothes are modern, sexy, and have the kind of look which has attracted the likes of Demi Moore, Courtney Love, Jade Jagger, Zoe Ball and a bevy of models - yet they have not courted these women; on the contrary, they and many others discovered Joelynian clothes for themselves. Which just proves it is possible to attract high-profile clients, and regular customers alike who come back again and again simply because they like the clothes which they saw and liked in - of all places - a shop. Not on a catwalk, not thanks to hype as "the next big thing" and not as a result of expensive advertising, although this certainly helps.

Their strategy has come about as a direct result of Nian's cynicism about the fashion industry, and his belief that a business with a good product will work, regardless of hype. They're also not comfortable "hob-nobbing" with the "right" people, and would rather go out with friends to the pub or for dinner. "We don't really need to show on the catwalk, our clothes are open to interpretation, but that doesn't mean we're not serious about the business. We are, but I for one certainly don't take it seriously," says Nian.

Both Atlanta-born Joely, 26, and Lancastrian Nian, 28, (so named because his mum is called Nina and his dad Ian) had misgivings about the route they chose at first, but their initial worries paid off handsomely. Within two and a half years, the pair have turned a pounds 25,000 bank loan into a business which will generate pounds 250,000 this year.

They put this down to having started their business at the right time. "A year before, or even after, and we might have missed that BritFash boat," says Joely with her bubbly American twang.

Joely is the one with a fashion background, and it shows in her appearance, with a red bob a la Karen Elson one minute, and a blonde cap of hair the next, but both take an equal hand in designing the clothes. Nian thinks about what he likes to see women wearing, Joely, naturally, thinks about what she would like to wear (she always wears her own clothes), but her main objective is to fit the fashion mood of the moment.

She studied fashion design at St Martin's and then Harrow, which she followed with a period as a fashion stylist. Nian was drumming with his band, The Milltown Brothers, when they met four years ago in Japan, and it was love at first sight.

The reason for their increasing popularity is, of course, down to the "buy me" allure of their clothes and swimwear. Joelynian only use modern synthetic fabrics like stretch organza, stretch velvet and gauze in brights and neutrals (their favourite colour is nude), which are cut into minimal shapes with simple embellishments. "We don't look back, we only look forward," says Joely. So, there are basic items like low-cut straight trousers, a slimline vest with embroidery, sleeveless T-shirts with slash prints, layered nude organza dresses with flashes of flame, royal blue and khaki, and sparsely cut knitwear. Then there are the clothes which are interchangeable with the swimwear line, such as sexy tops which can be worn to the beach or to the club, or both, with influences taken from lingerie. All their clothes are stretchy, which doesn't mean that only a skinny woman can wear them. In fact, curvy Jade Jagger looks fab in their clothes (above). But, asserts Joely, "our clothes are for confident women, whatever shape they are."

Their design philosophy has been inspired by both their backgrounds, ie rock dude/ fashion chick, but their business acumen was shaped by Liza Bruce, for whom they both worked until the company closed down in October 1996. "We learned so much from working with Liza," says Joely. "Between us we worked on every aspect of the business." The day Liza Bruce closed, Joelynian was born.

They now produce four yearly collections. There are the seasonal ready- to-wear collections (they are currently working on autumn/winter '98), as well as the newly launched Cruise line, which is doing exceptionally well in America, "We sell to Bergdorf Goodman, Barney's, Saks and loads of small boutiques, and most have doubled their order for next winter's collection," says Joely.

Next month, they will statically present their fifth ready-to-wear collection at London Fashion Week, but the Cruise line is currently bringing in the bulk of the money. In fact, their ultra-modern and sexy swim/ holidaywear is filling such a yawning gap in the US market that this could well be their main source of income over the next few years. Even so, they are not tempted to leave the UK, yet.

Catch them while you can.

Joelynian Spring/Summer clothes and swimwear will be available from Pellicano, 63 South Molton Street, W1 (0171-629 2205) and Koh Samui, 65 Monmouth Street, WC2 (0171-240 4280) from the end of January

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