Beautiful Finds with Jordan Risa Santos

Jordan Risa Santos shares her sources of inspiration and finds that bring joy, both past and present.

Jordan Risa Santos, London 2023
Photographer: Emil Levy

January 2024

Meet Jordan Risa Santos, the Los Angeles-based creative consultant and founder of Seen Library. With a unique ability to capture beautiful moments through her distinctive visual style, Jordan has applied her meticulous eye for detail to projects with the likes of Rose Inc. and Merit. In 2021, she established Seen Library—a global community facilitating more than mere book exchanges, but a platform that fosters new connections and meaningful dialogues. Follow as Jordan discusses inspiration, traditions and finds both past and present.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get into the work you are doing now?

My name is Jordan Santos. I am a Filipino-American creative born and raised in a suburb outside of Los Angeles. I have worked as a social media strategist, consultant and content creator for the past 10 years, and have recently founded a book community called Seen Library, which has been a passion project of mine, where I host various book exchanges, book pop-ups and book drives, all focusing on the stories of historically excluded voices.

"I’ve poured my heart into curating and hosting in-person events for readers—new and old, casual and serious—to connect and immerse in meaningful and inclusive storytelling"

I have loved clothes for as long as I can remember and wanted to go into fashion since I was a young girl (much like many others who grew up watching 13 Going on 30, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Devil Wears Prada). I studied Public Relations in college, hoping to go into fashion PR, and had several internships during university — working with brands like Vera Wang, Gucci Beauty and contemporary LA clothing brands. By the time I graduated, social media was really taking off, and my first job out of college was for an influencer marketing start-up when influencers had just begun making money off Instagram. I then moved on to another start-up where I oversaw numerous brands at a time, managing social media accounts and providing big-picture strategy and content creation. After a few years there, I went in-house as a Director of Social Media for a beauty brand founded by one of the biggest celebrities of our time, and then went out on my own. Since 2018, I’ve been consulting on social media for brands like Rose Inc., MERIT, and Emi Jay, as well as personalities like Sofia Richie-Grainge. While working on social media for brands, I’ve also done content creation on my own personal Instagram.

In the past few years, though, I’ve become pretty disillusioned with social media — especially as someone who spends so much time on it for work. In December 2021, I decided to take a step back from work and reflect on what it is I really want to do, and that’s when Seen Library was born. Since then, I’ve poured my heart into curating and hosting in-person events for readers — new and old, casual and serious — to connect and immerse themselves in meaningful and inclusive storytelling. It’s been incredible to see the friendships that have been formed and the thoughtful conversations that have been had through Seen Library, and the goal is to do more with it in the future.

"For too many years I let trends of the moment dictate my taste instead of figuring out what it was that I actually like. Now, I ask myself if what I like will stand the test of time..."
What has had the greatest influence on your design taste?

Time. For too many years, especially in my teens and early 20s, I let trends of the moment dictate my taste instead of figuring out what it was that I actually liked. Now, I ask myself if what I like – whether it be a piece of clothing, pair of shoes or coffee table – will stand the test of time and be something I’ll still love years from now.

Where do you find inspiration? What references do you continue to refer back on?

For the past few years, I’ve found myself referring back to the simple and timeless off-duty looks of the 90s. Often, you wouldn’t know what year the outfit was from if you didn’t already know the person wearing it. I want to be able to look back at what I’m wearing 20 years from now and still be able to love it and even wear it.

"I want to be able to look back at what I’m wearing 20 years from now and still be able to love it and even wear it."
What has been your most treasured find? What was your journey to sourcing it?

It’s a toss-up between The Row Everyday Bag in Espresso or my vintage Jil Sander pumps — both I wear with almost every outfit.

The Everyday Bag is a purse I ordered to see in person as I wasn’t sure about it. Once it arrived, I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted to keep it — it was so plain and nondescript that it was almost underwhelming to get in the mail, but, now unsurprisingly, it has easily become the most worn piece in my closet. It goes with everything, and it’s my most asked-about accessory.

stumbled upon them, and they were a great steal — maybe $50 at most. I’ve worn them so much that I’ve brought them to the shoe cobbler twice now!

Is there something you continue to collect in different variations?

Does The Row Everyday Bag count? I loved the Espresso one so much that I have since also got it in Oyster, which is a light beige colour. I wear both so much that it’s made me shop for bags less because I know I’ll likely choose this bag over any others I’d buy.

The Row Constance Heel is also a piece I love so much that I have pairs in two colours – Espresso and White.

Also, a classic white button-down. I’m embarrassed to say how many I have in my closet, but I swear, they are all so different.

Seen library has become a source of inspiration and connection for so many. What books have you discovered that have had a profound impact on your everyday life?

Severance by Ling Ma is one of my favourite books I’ve read in recent years. The concept is so clever; a zombie apocalypse story but what is to fear is modern society and the American obsession with consumption, productivity and mindless routine. It captured how I’ve been feeling about the hustle culture I found myself in, and was a needed reminder of the balance between earning a living and making enough to do what makes us feel alive. It’s the book that made me take a step back from working so much and made me reflect on what it is that I want to spend my time on (which is how Seen Library was born).

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the first book that made me think about race and identity in a deeper way. It’s a beautiful book about so many important topics, all wrapped up in a romance that makes it enjoyable to read. It was the book that made me realise how important it is to read books from perspectives that have historically been excluded or ignored.

Beauty Sick by Renee Engeln is a book that validated my anxiety over ageing, body image and insecurities. It was a relief hearing someone talking about our society’s harmful obsession with beauty, and reminded me that my views on embracing ageing don’t have to be archaic. Renee questions what would happen if we tried to change this culture that puts so much value on beauty (which oftentimes means thin, young, able-bodied etc.) instead of clinging to, and upholding, the unattainable beauty standards we physically can’t hold onto forever. What are we going to do, and how will we feel when our appearance changes? Will we look back and wish we built a different foundation? It’s a needed reminder that the beauty standards that often make us feel low or unworthy come from those who benefit from our insecurities most.

Other favourites: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, and Salt Houses by Hala Alyan.

A passed-on secret to preserving your pieces is:

Admittedly, I’m terrible at taking care of my pieces – I don’t store them as I should and I often leave shoes, clothes and bags out, on chairs, desks, etc. But I will say, when a piece does get super worn, instead of leaving it in the back of your closet to collect dust or throwing it in some donation pile, find a reliable shoe or leather repair shop and get it fixed or reinforced instead!

One find in each city you’ve lived in/spent a lot of time in:

Schindler House is an architectural house in West Hollywood that draws from traditional Japanese design. It has cool concrete walls and floors, and open indoor-outdoor spaces connected with sliding doors. It’s a source of calm and inspiration when I need it.

I visit London every summer as my husband is English and, during our last trip there, we tried Akub in Notting Hill, which has easily become a new favourite. The dishes are full of flavour and so delicious — and the interiors are beautiful, too. It’s a must!

What do you consider to be rare in your life?

Time for pure play and passion. I hope for more of that this year.

Source Jordan's Finds

The Row </br> Constance Heels
Charvet </br> Poplin Shirt
The Row </br> Everyday Bag
Source now