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Stage style and synthesizers with Devojka of Operators
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Feat.

Meet the Designer: Study NY

Choose Day

Based in Brooklyn by way of Montreal, the woman behind Study NY is bringing the next generation of designers up to speed on sustainability.

Tara St. James’ contemporary Brooklyn-based label is the hangover cure to the over consumption of fast fashion. Study NY doesn’t subscribe the regular fashion calendar, instead creating seasonless clothing locally and ethically. Her latest project, Conversations in Craft, looks at the value we put on craftsmanship through a line of embroidered sweatshirts. A run of sweatshirts were made in their Brooklyn studio and sent to Peru, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the USA to be embroidered. Each country was given a pre-designed embroidery pattern, a fixed spending amount of $24, and instructions to stop working once they had reached the limits of their countries respective wages. Wage differences are comparable by how far the country made it with the pattern. The finished pieces are now being sold on the Study NY website and the project can be seen at Parsons. If that doesn’t inspire you to learn more about where your clothes come from, we don’t know what will.

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Study NY designer, Tara St. James.

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"I usually start with fabric sourcing and once I've found a textile that I love then I let it inform the structure and the design. It gets to decide what it wants to be."

TELL US ABOUT THE ANTI-FASHION CALENDAR. When I started Study in 2009 it was with a collection called The Square Project, a collection of zero waste garments made using squares, and it was intended to be more of a research project than a collection – hence the name, STUDY – but I was quickly absorbed into the fashion system and therefore the calendar. It took until now for me to realize that I didn’t have to subscribe to anything, and I could create my own calendar. While I’m not the first designer to choose to work outside the traditional fashion calendar (producing seasonal collections), it has become increasingly obvious to me that not only do the production methods used by fast fashion companies, as well as the fabric choices designers make, have a huge impact on our environment and the socio-economic well-being of other human beings, but our consumption has gotten so out of control that a statement needs to be made. By eliminating collections from my business model, and only producing a few garments every month, much closer to the season and when I feel there is a need for them on the market, my goal is to limit the availability of the brand to customers and hope they will carry these consumption values to other items. I only produce what I believe is beautiful and wanted. I believe consumers are starting to demand this change and are seeking out beautifully made, long-lasting quality garments that eschew trends. Fast fashion will reach a plateau very soon and send customers back to wanting original but less temporary items.

WE’D LOVE TO KNOW A LITTLE MORE ABOUT HOW EVERYTHING IS MADE. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH A PIECE FROM START TO FINISH? I spent the first 10 years of my career producing overseas (China, India, Brazil, Korea) and while I loved the efficiency of sitting in an office and emailing my designs to someone who would then do all the research and development, I now have a much broader understanding of construction, costing, fit and finishing as well as a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of garment manufacturing. The biggest difference between domestic and import production is that I no longer have the luxury of being able to sit back and let someone else source my fabrics and trims, which just means I am now responsible for all those decisions. I wouldn’t trade what I have now for any amount of efficiency in the world! I usually start with fabric sourcing and once I’ve found a textile that I love, that is traceable and sustainable and beautiful, then I let it inform the structure and the design. It gets to decide what it wants to be.

WE WERE SO EXCITED FOR YOU BEING A RUNNER UP IN THE CFDA / LEXUS ECO-FASHION CHALLENGE! WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE OR FEEDBACK YOU RECEIVED DURING THAT PROCESS? Thank you! To be honest the entire application process was informative and inspiring for me. It was really important that, at this time in the business, I sit down and evaluate what I’m doing in order to tell the story of sustainability strategy clearly. The application allowed me to do that. And the CFDA judges were so welcoming, warm and friendly, it really broke down some barriers and made me feel as though I was welcomed into a new family. It gave me the encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing knowing an important organization has given me their stamp of approval.

WHAT IS INSPIRING YOUR DESIGNS RIGHT NOW? The grey skies of New York and grey sea of Galway in Ireland where I spent my Christmas holidays.

THE DESIGNER: TARA ST. JAMES

  1. YOUR GO-TO OUTFIT: Striped French navy tees (from Saint James), Vintage men’s pleated pants, and brogues.
  2. ONE THING YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: My family.
  3. FAVORITE DESIGNER: Yohji Yamamoto and Jean Paul Gaultier.
  4. SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS CARRY WITH YOU: My phone, sadly.
  5. STYLE ICON: Tilda Swinton.

THE BRAND: STUDY NY

  1. TOP 3 SELLING STYLES: The Twist Dress, Shirt 1.1 (open back shirt), and Tank 4 (convertible jumpsuit).
  2. SOMETHING YOUR LINE IS KNOWN FOR: Transparency, convertibility, and sustainability.
  3. WHAT’S PLAYING ON THE SPEAKERS IN YOUR STUDIO? WNYC or BBC news, Morgan Geist, or The Cure.
  4. SOMETHING YOU’RE CONSTANTLY RE-STOCKING: See above three styles from question one, they’re all part of the Uniform collection.
  5. YOUR BRAND IN 3 WORDS: See above, question two.

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