The Anatomy of Heartbreak by Sapphire Cordial

The Anatomy of Heartbreak by Sapphire Cordial

Remember Painfully Hip’s very own Jamaica Cole? Some of the most riveting articles on this site were written by her. Well, she is also a true-ass fashion designer. Always looking for a way to promote real talent, I wrote this article about her latest collection for Zocalo Magazine. Accompanying is one of my favorite Painfully Hip Design Collective shoots to date! Enjoy.


By Amber Mortensen
photos: Ryan Mihalyi

Fashion designer and founder of Sapphire Cordial, Jamaica Cole, has been sewing almost since she could walk. But as we saw at Tucson’s inaugural Fashion Week last month, it takes more than just knowing how to sew to be a designer. So how did Cole go from sewing amorphous cow-patterned potholders at 7 to designing entire collections of elaborate dresses without patterns twice every year?

“Trial and error,” she says plainly, “emphasis on the error.”

Sewing without patterns is not only difficult, but yields one-of-a-kind pieces that don’t allow for exact duplication. But Cole has been doing it this way for every Sapphire Cordial collection since 2006. She compares her process to a musician selling only a single copy of his album.

“This has not been incredibly lucrative. Imagine a musician rehearsing all day all night for an album release show. He plays the songs! The audience cheers! People want to buy the album! But then they get to the merch table and there is only one copy of the CD. Someone buys it and takes it home, and the musician forgets how to play the songs. Such is the life of an independent clothing designer.”

On the other hand, why would an artist want to paint the same painting twice? Before moving to Tucson one year ago, Cole lived, showed and sold her ready-to-wear collections in Northern Californian boutiques, inspired by flowery visual influences ranging from New Orleans architecture to Edwardian luggage.

However, Cole’s Tucson Fashion Week collection was something else entirely. Based on her very personal interpretation of the grieving process, the Anatomy of Heartbreak was her first haute couture collection and her most costly and labor-intensive to date. Echoing themes of human anatomy, transformation and death, this collection was not designed to be a crowd-pleaser or quick-seller. This was art for art’s sake.

“2009 was an exceedingly dry year for me artistically, but since moving to Tucson last year, I’ve launched my website (, shown at the Tucson Museum of Art and Preen Vintage, and created my first couture collection for Tucson Fashion Week. I don’t know if it’s returning to the land of my birth, all the wonderfully sincere people I’ve met here, or just something in the desert air, but moving to Tucson has completely recharged my creative batteries and I’m very content for the first time in years.”

The rest of this amazing shoot:

(click the full screen button in the bottom right of the player to zoom)

Photos by Ryan Mihalyi
Clothing by Jamaica Cole
Modeled by Katie Palmer
Art Direction/Styling by Amber Mortensen
Hair and Makeup by Danielle Cushing
Special thanks to Abraham Cooper, James Grip and the Rialto Theatre, Tucson

43 comments to The Anatomy of Heartbreak by Sapphire Cordial

  • Incredible photoshoot indeed.

  • First off,I was blown away with the title, and Jamaica Cole’s designs are brilliant!
    The cut is very unique, and the fabric is flattering in a very feminine way.
    No wonder you are so proud of her, Cheers!

  • My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  • The photos are very sensual.
    Her collection portrays drama in an elegant way.
    Jamaica Cole is truly blessed.

  • Aw shucks you guys! I’m flattered!

    Thanks for the post, Ambo! <3

  • Ramya

    I would have to say Jamaica Cole’s designs are very unique. They are very feminine and elegant. The article was also very interesting. Trial and error really is key in creating a good collection. I’m in the fashion industry and without all the mistakes I’ve made in the past, I probably wouldn’t have been able to grow. The example of a musician and his songs is a very innovative approach to explaining how fashion designers work.
    It’s also great to see local designers showcasing their work. Congratulations on the new line and wish Jamaica Cole the best!

  • Stunning photos….they really show off the best of the designs, the attitude of the women, and the amazing quality of the fashion.

  • Great posts, especially this one – thank you! :-)

  • You are soooo gifted in writing. God is truly utilizing you in miraculous methods. You are doing a excellent job! This was a wonderful blog!

  • What a post. Thanks a lot!

  • Haha, Love it!

    Love your articles.. Keep up the good work!

  • “JAMAICA COLE SEWS HER HEART ON A SLEEVE”… Wow.. that’s really deep. Knowing that she did it for the love of designing and art, it also shows that her collection is a crowd-pleaser and can be a quick-seller. Her collection is amazing. Really sensual and expressive. Thank you for sharing..

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