Skiing has a sense of playfulness and costume; whether it’s spring skiing when people are wearing vintage onesies and dinosaur costumes or a powder day when people are whooping from the chairlifts, any ski day is cause for celebration. It is this same joie de vivre that the luxury women’s ski brand Cordova seeks to inject into its imaginative, tailored ski clothes.
Founded by Jane and Cody Seim, Cordova is a passion project that evolved into a full-blown career over the course of a few years. Longtime visitors to Sun Valley from their hometown of Seattle, the Seims got married at The Roundhouse in 2014. That same year, Jane made the switch from snowboarding to skiing, a move that made her feel true power in her body as she cut turns in the snow—and she wanted that feeling embodied in her outfits. “I tried to find new clothes to ski in and wasn’t super stoked on what was available,” says Jane. “It felt a lot like men’s brands taking a men’s cut and trying to fit it to a woman.”
Jane, a consultant at the time with no prior design experience, began to experiment with putting together her own playful outfits. When women began chasing her to the bottom of runs to ask where she had gotten her outfits, she realized she had struck a chord.
As she brainstormed and began researching the history of ski fashion, Jane felt inspired by the ’60’s and ’70s “jet set” era. Ski nostalgia is something Sun Valley has in spades, and Jane and Cody found themselves inspired by the history of ski culture here.
“This is the first ski resort in North America, and it has a very nostalgic cache that Jane was initially inspired by,” says Cody. “We’ve traveled to other resorts, but they didn’t have this connection to ski culture that drove the initial brand story of Cordova.”
As Jane used her vacation time from her consulting job to attend trade shows and learn aspects of the industry, she was developing a firmer idea of her ideal fit and aesthetic for an initial one-piece ski suit prototype. She also secured the name “Cordova,” the town in Alaska where her mother and oldest sister were born.
In April of 2016, Jane quit her job and devoted herself full time to her new project, which launched in December of the same year with three styles and 120 units, all of which completely sold out. Something that Jane had considered a test of the market had proved wildly successful and meant the creation of a second season. Today, Cordova is now designing for its seventh season. As someone without any design or fashion background, Jane says she often questioned whether she could call herself a “designer.” But the success of her brand has proved that she is as much a designer as any. “I didn’t go to school for fashion design; I just had to teach myself, and I had some really good mentors and people who believed in me,” says Jane.
Eager to be immersed in ski culture and have access to the slopes on a daily basis, Jane and Cody moved to Sun Valley full time in January 2020. Living in a rental in Board Ranch, the Seims feel truly inspired in this location, whether they’re sitting on their porch in the morning, enjoying coffee while looking at color samples or taking in lunch laps on the hill.
“There’s something about Sun Valley,” says Jane. “You have a feeling of home here. I really appreciate the low-key nature of Sun Valley as a resort town. We’ve been lucky to travel to a lot of different places and sure, they’re fun places to go ski, holiday and party. But that’s not a place that we want to live.”
With an office above The Cellar Pub, Cordova’s small team of 10 works collaboratively to make each season’s designs a reality. Available at stores in Sun Valley, Aspen, Vail, and Park City (as well as many international and online retailers), Cordova doesn’t have its own brick and mortar storefront, something that the Seims were grateful for when the pandemic hit. Going forward, Jane plans to figure out new ways to design and to expand the collection to include pieces that accommodate a woman’s whole experience, from on the mountain to off. “I think we’re always trying to think about who [our customer] is, what her daily experience looks like, and how we can build into that,” says Jane. “What is going to make her feel good?”