In Conversation With Jewelry Designer Pamela Love

You don’t need an introduction to Pamela Love. The New York City-based jewelry designer has been a household name to anyone following fashion for nearly a decade, racking up countless magazine credits, stockists, collaborations, and awards. The brand’s blend of on-the-nose aesthetics, careful material sourcing, and made in America production quality has proved to be the perfect storm for continued success in the rocky retail climate that’s emerged since Love began tinkering with jewelry making back in 2007. We spoke with the established-indie designer on dealing with copycats, price point backlash, design integrity, and more. Read on for more on the balance of art and commerce with Pamela Love.

CONGRATS ON TEN YEARS IN BUSINESS — THAT’S PRETTY REMARKABLE. Thank you! I kind of feel like it’s a cheat to say ten years because the first two years I was experimenting; I sort of sold stuff, but not really. It’s always funny to say we’re ten years old and we started the company in 2007 because I think from 2007 to 2009 was just me fucking around and I think I sold to one store. I don’t know if we’re allowed to count those first two years as, like, “doing business,” as much as it was like, “Pam playing around.”

WHAT WAS THE MOMENT WHEN IT FELT LIKE “OFFICIALLY” A BUSINESS? It got to a point where I had to get an office space, and I had to quit my day job because I didn’t have time to juggle both. It was a great feeling, but also really sad, because I loved my other job. But I couldn’t juggle everything, so I had to pick.

It was a great feeling to be creating something that was supporting me and other people, I was able to hire some jewelers. It was a great feeling to be able to see that I was able to support jobs here [in the US] and myself. As soon as I was old enough to work, I was working. So it was really nice to be able to be a business owner.

AND NOW YOU’RE DOING YOUR FIRST STORE, WITH THE CFDA RETAIL LAB. Yes, we have a temporary retail space through the end of September. We’ve done little shop-in-shops, but this is the first time I’ve gotten to curate a space and, for the most part, get to represent the brand the way I would if I had my own store.

IF THE PERFECT STORE SPACE PRESENTED ITSELF AND YOU COULD DROP IT INTO ANY NEW YORK CITY NEIGHBORHOOD, WHERE WOULD YOU OPEN? Probably on the Bowery. I’ve been obsessed with this one building forever — it’s right across the street from the Bowery Hotel — that’s housed a variety of brands over the years, and I’ve had this dream that I would one day occupy this space on the Bowery. I don’t know if that will happen or not — it seems to be occupied currently.

WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THAT SPACE? I love that neighborhood, I love the architecture of that building, the interiors are really great, there’s a lot to work with. I just always found it to be a really magical spot.

I CAN’T IMAGINE THIS IS THE FIRST OFFER THAT’S COME FOR YOU TO DO A STORE. WHY DID THE CFDA OPPORTUNITY FEEL RIGHT? We love the CFDA. They’re so supportive and they make projects like this available to brands who may not be able to front [the money]. Their programs allow us to experience things we wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. I’ve always wanted to open a store, but I never thought it made sense for us, financially, to do that right now.

THE CFDA HAS BEEN REALLY GOOD TO YOU. I love the CFDA.

HOW DID YOU GET HOOKED UP WITH THEM TO BEGIN WITH? We applied for the Vogue Fashion Fund many years ago, and we didn’t get in. And we applied again the next year, and I was finalist, and then a runner up. After that, we applied to be a CFDA member, and since then my brand has won the Swarovski accessories design and the CFDA Award for accessories design. That was something we were nominated for three times, and in the third year we won. I think it’s actually kind of cooler, because I got to go through it three times, which puts attention on your brand for three years. I was so excited to win the third time instead or the first time — or at least that’s what I told my team.

WHAT DO YOU IMAGINE YOUR GROWTH WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF THE CFDA? I don’t think we’d be here without Vogue, without the CFDA. I think I would have given up at a much earlier time. The access to mentors and people who can help grow and guide you was so integral to the growth of my business.

There are so many factors that go into whether or not your brand is successful, so I don’t think the CFDA is a silver bullet, but I do think it is an integral ingredient and wonderful support structure for finding success.

IN YOUR EARLY DAYS, YOU WERE KNOWN FOR A CERTAIN AESTHETIC: THE TALONS, THE DAGGERS. WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE NOW WITH THOSE PIECES? It’s a funny thing that happens when you start a company at 25, 26 and then you grow up. I was a single girl living in Greenpoint, wearing cut-off denim shorts and combat boots, started getting tattoos, I thought I was so cool, I smoked cigarettes, and the [brand] aesthetic was very much that. And at some point it started to transition to be more bohemian, but at some point you grow up and you want to make things that you identify with, that you would wear every day and not just things that you know will sell whether or not they appeal to you any more. That’s been an interesting transition for us. Some of the pieces won’t really die, for lack of a better word, and at a certain point you say, “This isn’t who we are any more, so I don’t offer this.”

And we’re changing again. Next season [spring 2018] is going to be very interesting, because we’re sort of going to be closer to going back to home but with a very different point of view. It’s going back to the origins of the brand but with more of a sense of humor and not taking itself so seriously.

Those transitions can be hard because people do think of you as one thing, and it’s hard for them to think of you as something else. There are definitely some mistakes I’ve made, from a design perspective, or designing on the requests of a retailer versus going with your gut. It’s a learning process. You’re not going to do everything right every time.

WHAT IS THAT LIKE WITH RETAILERS, WHEN THEY HAVE ASKED YOU TO REPRODUCE SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT BE INTO ANYMORE, BUT THAT YOU KNOW WILL MAKE YOU MONEY? I definitely have made mistakes making things I didn’t stand behind because it satisfies something the retailer needed, but I’ve learned that’s not the way to do it. If you wouldn’t wear it, if you don’t stand behind it, it doesn’t matter if it sells well or not because ultimately it’s not going to communicate your brand properly, and it’s going to detract from your brand’s strengths. So I decided I’m only going to make things I want to wear, and if that works, great, and if it doesn’t work for a retailer, unfortunately that’s it.

I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s a learning process. Right now, we’re in the process of learning what it’s like to listen to ourselves 100% and follow my gut and the gut of my team, and see what happens.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OVER TIME ABOUT PRICE POINTS? It’s still kind of a mystery to me. It’s harder now because there’s always a cheaper alternative to what you’re doing, and that can be challenging, because people are always looking for something more affordable, but at the end of the day you have to stand by your quality and your manufacturing, and if it’s more expensive than someone else, and someone else is able to do it cheaper, there’s really nothing you an do to control that. We just try to stand behind our work and how much it costs.

It does get to me some times when people complain the product is too expensive. That’s always hard, because you want everyone to be able to afford your stuff, especially people who love it, but at the same time we don’t want to compromise quality.

I posted a picture of a ring on Instagram yesterday, and somebody commented, “I loved this, until I saw that it was $2,400,” and it was a piece of fine jewelry. I didn’t want to respond or say anything, there’s nothing to do. That person doesn’t understand how much something like that costs and that’s the end of it.

I love how democratic it is to work in sterling or brass, because of how many people you can reach with it. But I also love creating one-of-a-kind things with some of the best materials in the world, and that, unfortunately, is not so democratic and affordable.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH COPYCATS? DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST ONE? Yeah. I remember the first time. It hurt so much. It was some random brand in Europe. It was a girl with a blog who also made jewelry, and she knocked off the talon cuff, which was our best seller at the time. I was so upset, and I tried to reach out and contact her and ask her to stop. Apparently that’s a big no-no — you don’t contact them. But I thought if I could explain how important it was to my business and to my livelihood that maybe she would stop. But she didn’t. And then there were a lot of copies after, and ultimately what you realize is you just have to keep doing what you do. If you get tired of a piece, you move on from it, if you love a piece and you’re not ready to move on from it and it gets copied, you still make it as well as you can, and nobody can really take that integrity from you. If a high street retailer copies you, [their product] isn’t going to have that integrity or that craftsmanship, and a customer who cares about that isn’t going to buy it from them, they’re going to buy it from you. A customer who doesn’t care about that is probably going to go to the high street retailer anyway, and they weren’t your customer in the first place.

WHAT’S YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS CELEBRITY FANS OF THE BRAND AND INFLUENCERS? It’s always very, very flattering when anyone you admire wears your product, but I never want to make [celebrities] too much of what we’re about. We’re more about every girl. We’re excited about girls from every walk of life doing cool, awesome stuff and trying to change the world. And whomever they are — a celebrity or your neighbor who works at Greenpeace — for me, it’s about righteous women who are doing awesome stuff. I want to support them and I want them to support me back. If those women are celebrities, that’s awesome, but I wouldn’t share that more than someone else I look up to who is maybe in another field.

By Nicola Fumo

All photography by Chloé Horseman

Shop Pamela Love >

Woman We Love: Hannah Anderson

We discovered Hannah Anderson, the way most of our girl crushes occur, through a winding Instagram rabbit hole. After scrolling through her feed of colorful snaps, endless OOTDs and professional-quality selfies, we knew it was true love. Her style had us hooked. But then, we discovered her voice. Hannah is actually an amazing singer who also knows her way around the guitar and piano. Her dreamy sound and powerful lyrics will have you enchanted within seconds. And don’t be surprised when all sorts of feels come rushing in because that’s just what Hannah’s music has the power to do. Here, we chat with her about style, creative expression and being an artist in LA. If you’re not already on the ‘gram stealing style inspo from Hannah while blasting her Soundcloud, then you most definitely will be after this.

Listen to Hannah Anderson as you read along.

https://soundcloud.com/hannahanderson

SO WE’RE KIND OF OBSESSED WITH YOUR STYLE. HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD A LOVE FOR FASHION? Too kind. Thank you! I have always loved to express myself through my clothing. I remember when I was really little I would cry if my mom tried to dress me. I’ve always had a very clear vision of what I want on my body.

IT CLEARLY COMES SO NATURALLY TO YOU. IS STYLE SOMETHING YOU USE AS A TOOL TO EXPRESS YOURSELF? OR JUST A FUN PART OF YOUR DAY? Getting dressed really is an event in and of itself. It’s both a tool of expression and a fun part of the day. It’s how you present yourself to the world and it’s how you feel about yourself.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? Constant shape-shifter and fabulous tomboy.

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO OUTFIT? High-waisted trousers, a t-shirt and sneakers.

LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR REAL SUPERPOWER: YOUR VOICE. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CREATING MUSIC? I’ve always loved singing and I had my first “performance” when I was nine at my older sister’s Quinceanera (15th birthday party). I started writing my own music at 16. Music is my most powerful form of expression and my most personal and sacred form of expression. I’ve had a really hard time sharing my music because I’ve honestly been terrified to. I am also very excited to see the music I’m working on now as a complete project!

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES? Honestly, my list of musical influences is impossible to write down because it’s endless. A few things that inspire me are people that are kind and true. I like to surround myself with people who are undeniably themselves because that requires honesty in myself. Love and tragedy, the most extremes in life, that’s what I’m really inspired by.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST? I love being an artist because as an artist you feel everything very deeply. I’m already someone with very extreme emotions and so it’s nice to be able to have an outlet, whether that be through music, what I wear, a painting, etc. I love being able to translate my emotions to something physical and through that have the ability to directly affect people.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST IN LOS ANGELES? HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED THERE? I won’t say being an artist in LA is my favorite. It’s cool because there’s a lot of people doing what you’re doing, but then that’s also a negative because it feels more like a sport and everyone is competing. Being able to find/know yourself and find a good flow with solid people is key. I’m originally from Houston, Texas and just moved here to LA about year ago. There’s still a lot I’m adjusting to! I really am starting to enjoy being here more everyday!

YOUR TOP THREE SONGS ON REPEAT RIGHT NOW? Last Dance by Rhye, Still Feel Like Your Man by John Mayer, Mistress by Nicholas Jaar.

TELL US SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU. I’m one of the most introverted-extroverts ever. I LOVE being around people but almost 90 percent of the time I would rather be home, by myself, or with those I love. I’m also a very good cook. If I wasn’t pursuing music I would probably want to be a chef!

Shop Hannah’s Puma kicks here >

Follow @hannahandersonn

hannahanderson.net

In Conversation With Designer Suzanne Rae

Brooklyn-based designer Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s pieces are full of delicate dualities. These aren’t loud contrasts or showy displays of diverse influence; they’re quiet but knowing quirks in fabric, silhouette, and historical reference that unfold the longer one’s eyes scan a piece.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the designer herself is similarly nonlinear in both the designing of her collections and her path to fashion-as-profession. Pelaez delivers an idiosyncratic biography, with stints in ballet and economics preceding an education at Parsons and the debut of her collection in 2010. New York City’s Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Portland’s Stand Up Comedy were some of Pelaez’s earliest stockists — not bad boutiques to have on your side — a list that’s rapidly grown longer since the label’s launch of footwear. We spoke with Pelaez about how she went from promising child ballerina to in-demand designer, the commodification of feminism, and how shoes have changed her business.

Shop Suzanne Rae >

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IN RESEARCHING YOUR BACKGROUND AND YOUR PROCESS I FOUND SO MANY AVENUES THAT I WANTED TO START THIS CONVERSATION FROM. LET’S JUST START FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BRAND, WHICH IS ACTUALLY KIND OF A SECOND LIFE FOR YOU, BECAUSE YOUR FIRST LOVE WAS AS A BALLET DANCER, YES? Well, sort of. I mean, it was my first passion, my first love. My parents are professionals, and the life of a ballet dancer wasn’t exactly supported, if you will. I wanted to be homeschooled so that I could dance professionally in high school — it’s like gymnastics, there’s a peak, and I didn’t want to miss that.

I didn’t want to go to college, but my parents really wanted me to have a proper education. So I never really pursued [ballet] professionally, although I studied very seriously for a very long time. I did my undergrad at Bryn Mawr, and I continued to dance to a little bit; I was a dance minor.

WHAT WAS YOUR MAJOR? My major was actually economics, with dance and art history minors.

OH, WOW. HOW DID YOU WIND UP BEING INTERESTED IN… Designing?

NO, ECONOMICS! Oh, economics. Yeah, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In retrospect, I would have loved to just have been an art history major, but also, when I went to college, didn’t know that that was a thing. I didn’t have that kind of upbringing. [With my parents] it was like, “Oh, you could be a doctor or a lawyer.” Those were like the two things.

Suzanne_Rae_chloe_photo_06-pngWHERE DID YOU GROW UP? I grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. My parents collect art, but it was never encouraged. They put me in ballet when I was younger for my posture, so I would be “poised as a young girl” growing up, and it just so happened that I fell in love with it, and had a natural ability that was able to be nurtured.

SO: THE BRAND. IT’S BEEN AROUND FOR SIX YEARS NOW, YEAR? Our first collection was spring 2011.

YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY SO CLOSE TO IT, IT PROBABLY IS HARD TO FEEL IT, BUT IT SEEMS TO ME – ON THE OUTSIDE – THAT THE BRAND HAS REALLY HIT ITS STRIDE. I’M SEEING YOUR NAME EVERYWHERE. Oh, really? [Laughs]

YEAH! DO YOU FEEL, RIGHT NOW, THAT PEOPLE ARE KIND OF CLICKING WITH THE BRAND, OR THAT YOU’RE KIND OF CLICKING WITH THE CONSUMER? Yes, it does. A little bit. But as you said, I am so close to it that it’s hard to tell.

THE ONE METRIC THAT WE HAVE IN THIS SCENARIO WOULD BE AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF STORES CARRYING IT, OR THE SIZE OF THEIR ORDERS. IS THAT THE REALITY? You know, it’s hard to say. We’ve had certain stockists that picked us up way back when. Stand Up Comedy and Maryam Nassir [Zadeh] were two of our first stores, and we still sell to them.

When I started designing, I didn’t really understand sales, or market, or any of the business side. Even though I had studied economics, my economics was more third-world development and international trade theory. It wasn’t at all finance, or entrepreneurship, or business, or anything like that.

We launched shoes not so long ago, we’ve just shown our second collection of shoes. I feel like that’s helped put us on the map of other people.

THAT’S REALLY INTERESTING. KIND OF LIKE A GATEWAY, AN ENTRANCE TO THE BRAND, AND THEN PEOPLE GET TO KNOW THE OTHER CATEGORIES? Yeah, you know, it’s funny. When we started the shoes, we met a lot of other stores that I had no idea even knew who we were. I send a MailChimp out to make appointments for market, and I never know who’s actually going to make an appointment or not. When some of these stores came, they were like, “Oh, we’ve been such fans of your line. It’s just relatively expensive.” If you’re going to spend, like, $700 on a piece of clothing and people aren’t really that familiar with the name, that’s a big risk for a store.

I feel like with the shoes — I feel like shoes are so popular right now.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE MOST “FASHION GIRL” THING IN THE WORLD, BUT IT DOES, RIGHT NOW, THAT SHOES ARE HAVING A MOMENT. They are! And we don’t really do PR, but since we launched the shoes, WWD, and W Magazine — who I’ve never had a relationship with — and Vogue [have covered the brand]. I feel like we’re constantly sending samples out, I can’t even keep up with it, it’s so insane. I really think that this recent growth spurt is because of the shoes.

 

Montreal’s Homeshake On R&B Influences, Songwriting and Anxiety

Peter Sagar makes ambient R&B that’s so chilled, it’s hard to believe it comes from someone who experiences any sort of anxiety. Indeed, it’s rattling to uproot one’s life and move away from the comforts of home — Edmonton-born musician Sagar is currently based in Montreal, and spent a number of years in between as the touring guitarist for Mac DeMarco. Thankfully, though, for anyone who’s listened to his music, the deft songwriter has been channeling the nervous energy into his art. Recording under the name Homeshake, Sagar released two full-length albums (2014’s In The Shower and 2015’s Midnight Snack) to widespread acclaim for their bedroom vibes and slinky production. Now, on his newest effort, Fresh Air, Sagar has found himself more settled and soothed than ever, delivering a honeyed collection of songs that are relatable, poetic, and, of course, incredibly easy on the ears.

Listen To Homeshake As You Read Along >

YOU’VE CITED SADE AND PRINCE AS INSPIRATION. DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST ARTIST THAT REALLY GOT YOU HOOKED ONTO R&B? It would actually probably be Sade. My dad had this mixtape that had “Hang On To Your Love” on it and it would play all the time when we were driving around. I don’t know why, that song just sort of stuck in my head. And I really didn’t like most of the songs on the mixtape I don’t think, and I remember thinking that I was surprised that I liked it because, I don’t know, I was probably listening to Limp Bizkit or something at the time. And it was just so good and undeniable.

SHE HAS THIS AMAZING, INTOXICATING VOICE. Yeah. I mean, I don’t know what it was exactly, but now I’m pretty convinced that she has invented love. And we all have to thank her every day.

YOU’VE OFTEN SAID THAT FRESH AIR FEELS LIKE PART OF A TRILOGY. WHAT STORY ARE YOU TELLING AND WHAT IS THIS PARTICULAR CHAPTER ABOUT? Everything I write is fairly introspective, so [it was] just the third part in that story since I moved away from home. I don’t know. I spend a lot of time on the road and then I stop doing that and then I have a lot of anxiety and stuff. But, for Fresh Air, I guess feel like I found more balance or something. It’s all a little calmer and clearer.

WHAT KIND OF HEADSPACE ARE YOU GENERALLY IN WHEN WRITING AND COMPOSING? Work. I feel fully driven to work really hard, actually. I would post myself up in my recording space at home and try to write at least one song everyday for weeks, maybe a couple months. And I was just trying to get enough songs that I could cut ones that I wouldn’t be pleased with later — because usually I just make an amount of songs and then record them and then later I’m like, ‘nah, that shouldn’t have been there.’ And I guess I still feel that way — there’s no really avoiding that. It’s kind of the only time I really feel like working. The only work I really like. I get pretty serious about it.

SETTING ASIDE TIME TO WRITE OUT YOUR FEELINGS AND ANXIETIES CAN REALLY BE THERAPEUTIC. DID YOU FIND THAT HELPED YOU, IN YOUR PROCESS? Yeah, that certainly takes your mind off whatever — well, it helped me take my mind off whatever trivial thing I was worried about. I don’t know, dumb shit like that. [It was] calming and a good escape, and then after you start working and I found myself more of a functioning person. You know — you got a problem, write it out. You can feel it out into the song and then feel better.

YOUR BIO DESCRIBES FRESH AIR AS BEING CREATED TO CLEAR YOUR LISTENER’S MIND OF NEGATIVITY. I think I wrote that after I made the album. I wasn’t considering it at all. [laughs] They just ask for little blurbs and stuff on your record. My music is not so thought of in advance. I find, for each album, I’ll make it and I’ll be surprised afterwards at an overarching theme that I did without really thinking about it. And, for this one, the same thing happened at the end of the album, but then also it fit into an arc, in my mind, with the other ones. And that’s sort of where it fit in — going from the most anxious to the least anxious. The most stressed out and worried about everything to not really worried at all and feeling pretty nice. It’d be really nice to help other people with their problems. It’s the best thing I can hope for.

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IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR ALBUM THAT DOES THAT FOR YOU? All of them, probably. That’s why I listen to music. I can’t have it not on. I get really nervous when there’s silence in the room or something, whether I’m alone or with people. It’s probably a pretty bad habit, actually. When I was a little kid, I couldn’t fall asleep unless there was music on. I can’t remember how I stopped doing that, I don’t do that anymore. I feel like the first album that did that to me was probably Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis, when I was, like, 14. I listened to it every night for at least a year. It calmed me down.

DANCE IS ALSO A CREATIVE OUTLET THAT CAN CLEAR YOUR HEAD. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO USE DANCERS WEN-HAO CHANG AND HAN NING IN YOUR MUSIC VIDEO FOR “EVERY SINGLE THING” AND HOW DO THEY ILLUSTRATE THE SONG’S NARRATIVE? They did such a good job, it’s crazy how good it is. I feel so lucky to have a video that good, I was really blown away when I watched it. But, yeah, they really captured the mood with the tension between the two of them. Good actors, as well as dancers. And the dog is so cute. I sent her [Han Ning] some t-shirts and a record and stuff, and she wanted a t-shirt just for the dog, so hopefully the [size] small will fit the tiny dog.

WILL YOU WORK TOGETHER AGAIN? Yeah, sure. They’re so great. I always had the idea that I would love to have dancers onstage, but that’s a whole other thing. Salina, my partner, she really wanted to do that, but she didn’t know who else to dance with.

YOU COULD HAVE BOTH DANCERS AND THE DOG — EVERYBODY ONSTAGE TOGETHER. Oh, yeah. [laughs] I’d love to get that dog onstage.

homeshake.bandcamp.com

By Yasmine Shemesh

This interview has been edited and condensed.  

In Conversation With Kowtow Founder Gosia Piatek

Ask any devotee of New Zealand’s Kowtow, a contemporary line of sustainable and ethical womenswear, the secret sauce is the fabric. Descriptions like “buttery” or “so soft” almost do it justice. Weather it’s a basic t-shirt from their line of closet staples, Building Block, or a pair of crisp culottes with a directional cut, as soon as you get your hands on one thing from their collection we swear you’ll be able to recognize the rest just by touching it. “She was like wow, that’s such lovely fabric,” founder and designer Gosia Piatek recalls of one fan’s reaction. “It’s so nice when you hear that because it is. You don’t realize that when you go into chain stores, their fabric doesn’t feel like our fabric. It’s cotton, and ours is cotton, but it has this lovely feel to it.” How you treat fabric, she says, breaking it down in pesticides or formaldehyde dyes or keeping things au natural, makes a difference. “It’s just a softer material.”

The kicker? They only use one type of fabric: 100% fair trade, ethical organic cotton. So not only is Kowtow committed to using sustainable fabrics and creating them ethically through their own production chain, but the line’s foundation and identity is literally defined by their values. Using one type of fabric puts certain limitations on the type of clothes you can design. But that hasn’t stopped them from building a thriving, global business. Creating apparel from seed to garment, while paying fair wages and increasing visibility on the imbalance of living standards around the world, means working at least a season ahead of other labels and going without traditional trend forecasting. But their original POV has only helped them build a mass cult following. (If you haven’t watched their video that details that process, we highly recommend it. Find it here.) They now have over two hundred retailers worldwide in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, a number of which include our own community of boutiques. So of course you don’t need another reason to fall in love with this New Zealand line, but we’re excited to give you one: their founder.

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Gosia Piatek working in the studio.

It’s a gray, windy day in Wellington when we wave at each other on either side of a Google hangout, but Gosia is immediately light and bright with her warm eyes and off-white linen blazer from Copenhagen and Kowtow separates. “I never find time to go shopping, apart from when I travel for work,” she says of her every day uniform. “Pants and t-shirts, quite boyish, relaxed, easy, a pair of sneakers. I don’t really dress up.” Today she reflects on a milestone: Kowtow’s 10 year anniversary.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PERSPECTIVE. DOES NEW ZEALAND HAVE AN INFLUENCE? We do play around with traditional design a bit like America. We take traditional fashion from Europe and give it our own take on it. We make loose, minimal, kind of a Japanese vibe to it. I think Wellington, well, we’re kind of at the edge of the world here. It’s not like every person on the street is super fashionable. I think here it’s a little bit more underground and people have less money so you do see some cool street style. We don’t have the big designer stores like Gucci, Prada, all of the big designers, so people do put their own take on how to put outfits together which is quite inspiring. A little bit fresher, maybe like some of the smaller periphery towns in America. I feel like there’s a parallel. Maybe because we’ve both been settled by the English in the last century.

 

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR DISTINCT VOICE IN MINIMALIST FASHION? We only work with cotton so we have quite a limited palette of textures. So we won’t have some of the things that other designers have with synthetic fabrics. Like a specific lace or a pleat in a fabric, but we can’t do that so straight away you can’t play with textures so much so you play with proportions and paneling.

It’s nice to sell a product that you know is going to last. And that it’s made with love and that we put so much care into every single garment our design and we do it from an original point of view we have our own thing a story we think about the girl that’s going to wear it. We don’t copy other people. I think that’s what has led to the success of the brand.

The other thing is that natural fabrics aren’t the norm any more so organic cotton is already makes for a unique product. So there really is something quite special about it. And with cotton we’re quite trans-seasonal. We have a store in Iceland that just loves it, can’t get enough of it. And we’re the opposite season from them. We don’t need to offer a boiled wool coat, we don’t need to offer everything to everyone that’s what I’ve realized. We do our own thing and it’s working.

 

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SEED TO GARMENT PRODUCTION. We work quite far in advance because we have an ethical production chain. We can’t push our employees to do crazy hours, which is another reason why we continually stay original because we can’t forecast what’s going to happen that far ahead, we just do what we love. Sometimes we’re like, oh, wow that’s actually on trend. (laughs)

We have to work so far in advance. We work a season ahead of most other designers. Because we have to source the cotton from the crops, from the farmers. The farms grow it and we secure the yarn from them and then we get the fabric made, so we don’t work with fabric merchants, so they’re all exclusive to us. So we design the weave, the color, the texture, the feeling, it’s all unique to our brand.

SEEMS LIKE A PRETTY WELL OILED MACHINE. We’re quite planned out. We’re quite methodical people as well as design driven. I feel like you can do both and that’s why I started the brand. You have these places where it’s acceptable to do 12 hours or you’re not working hard enough and it’s just like, there’s always going to be work to do. Sometimes it’s hard, but I just think people feel like if they’re falling behind they’ll work on a Saturday every three months and it isn’t that big of a deal. I think if people love their job they’ll do it and we don’t micromanage them to do it or make it feel like a chore. We have a really cool team, a really cool team. They’re so engaged. I feel like I’ve got an easy job, that’s my feeling anyways.

 

DID YOU HAVE A DRIVE TO DO THIS AT AN EARLY AGE? In terms of sustainability I think that began in my childhood. My parents weren’t eco warriors but they lived quite simple. Growing up with that mentality, that inspired something. My parents used to take me out every weekend. New Zealand is really, really beautiful so it was really exciting. We’d go on bush walks or by the sea. I think I just fell in love with nature. I knew I would just love to do something that means something one day in my life, that has an effect, I think, on the right foot forward. We need to look after the planet. It’s not going to survive unless we do something, that’s how I felt. Maybe that’s a bit naive, I don’t know. But I still think that.

Fashion wasn’t the original way I wanted to go down this path. I just found it as an outlet for all the things that meant something to me, that stood for something. Ten years ago it was pretty new to the market, pretty heavy. It wasn’t fresh or cosmopolitan but I think we made it look like that. People just loved it, they didn’t even know about all of that stuff. They would be intrigued with what ethical means, but I think people are more educated now. I think with younger people now it’s cool to know about all that stuff. Where, you know, I wasn’t cool, that’s for sure. (laughs) You wouldn’t talk about sustainability, you would go and get drunk. Now it’s a different mindset. And we’re quite a young crew, they’re pretty awesome, but they’re young and they’re so interested in the details. This is the next generation. It’s great.

Shop Kowtow right here on Garmentory.

Keep the Kiwi vibes going and get to know our community of NZ designers and boutique owners here.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Alaina Moore Of Tennis On New Music, Feminism And Fashion

It’s barely 10 a.m. and Alaina Moore, one half of the husband-wife pop duo Tennis, has spent the morning curled up in her pajamas talking to journalists. Female journalists, specifically, which has made it a great day so far, she says, speaking from her home recording studio in Denver. The occasion? Tennis’ fourth LP, Conditionally Yours. The new album — sonically illustrated by lush vocals and glittering, retro-inspired production — was partly composed at sea, much like how Alaina and her partner, Patrick Riley, conceived their 2011 debut, Cape Dory. This time, they voyaged from San Diego into the Sea of Cortez and it was a journey that had Alaina contemplating her feminism. How does it pair with her marriage? With being a female artist, amongst pressures and labels?

“I want to decide for myself how I want to be in the world,” Alaina affirms.

WHAT PROMPTED THE NEED TO CREATE AT SEA AGAIN? We hadn’t been sailing since that first trip that brought Cape Dory to life and we felt like we had really immersed ourselves into our careers — trying to figure out where Tennis could go and how solid and real and sustainable we could make it as a project together. And after about six years, we just started to feel a little bit of burn out and we needed to clear our heads and look at everything we’d been doing in more of a third person perspective. Because we just started to feel so mired in it, if we asked ourselves, ‘what do we want from this, where do we see ourselves in a year?,’ we couldn’t even answer those questions. We thought, ‘okay, it’s been a really long time’ and we both missed it immensely, so we decided to do another sailing trip that was even bigger and more ambitious than what we’d ever done before.

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Photo by Kelia Anne. Lead photo above by Luca Venter.

HOW DID YOU WRITE? We were only able to write for about two weeks out of the whole period of time — out of about five months of sailing — because sailing was so demanding. The environment is really extreme. It’s known for crazy weather. When we finally had 10 days of peace where we could sit down and write on our boat, we finished half of the record almost immediately and I think it was because we had that distance and perspective and we felt all alone in the world, so we didn’t feel any pressure to please anyone with our writing. I felt like we were writing for the sake of itself, just so that it could exist.

IT’S AMAZING HOW PUTTING YOURSELF IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT CAN IMPACT YOUR PERSPECTIVE. It was just very grounding and it helped remind me what was important to me.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOMENT FROM THE TRIP? It’s so hard to choose. I mean, the feeling of triumph when you enter a port for the first time after three days at sea. We sailed into Cabo San Lucas and I had never been before, so it was my first time seeing those beautiful, natural land formations at the point of Cabo — those arches where everyone goes for their Spring Break photos. I saw that for the first time, covered in salt and soaking wet from three days of really rough sailing with my husband on our 30-foot boat.

It just felt like the most bold, tiny form of discovery.

THE ALBUM’S NARRATIVE EXPLORES YOUR RELATION TO THE WORLD, FEMININITY AND GENDER ROLES. HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOURSELF, BOTH AS A WOMAN AND AN ARTIST? I’m not sure if it’s correct to compartmentalize it, but it’s easier for me to think of it when I parse it out. I think of my relationship with Patrick as a wife, in a monogamous relationship, and then I think about my relationship with an audience as a songwriter and then in another iteration as a performer, one who’s visible and kind of perceived as the frontperson of a band. I notice the ways in which I feel shaped by expectations from the world and a lot of those are governed by stereotypes or archetypes and just conventional assumptions about gender roles, and, in my eagerness to please the world, my audience — that’s partly my personality type, but I think it’s something a lot of women can relate to — I noticed that I almost felt like I was wearing myself down in an effort to become all the things that people needed from me.

On the performative side, for example, I want to be technically proficient and a good musician, but then the criticism — and it’s not these things are unfair, they could be totally true  — that maybe the show is dull because I’m focused on my musicianship. I’m not making eye contact. I’m not engaging directly enough. I’m not smiling enough. I don’t look like I’m having fun.

I’m not trying to be the next Madonna or anything. I just want to be a band that plays the music live for people who enjoy the music.

I’m asking myself where the limits of my devotion [are] to my audience, to my husband, to the way that the world wants me to be as a woman, and establishing some boundaries for myself where I can assert my own humanity against some of these things.

HUMAN BEINGS DON’T JUST FIT INTO SINGULAR DEFINITIONS. You know, even my relationship to fashion — I love clothing, I love makeup. As a person in the arts, I love aesthetics and making something banal a little more beautiful. I’m all for that, but even that’s something I have to continually think about. Resisting the urge to buy clothing all the time because every time I’m photographed I need to be wearing a new outfit that’s better than the last one. Or, in my desire to present the best version of myself on stage, am I inadvertently contributing to every other girl’s daily insecurity of not being good enough in the world? And I think about that all the time, even when I’m just using Instagram. Not like I have some impossible form of beauty, I’m a very plain person, but I just care about that I don’t want to be one more person putting that out in the world.

DO YOU CONSIDER DRESSING TO BE A FORM OF EMPOWERMENT? Yes, absolutely. I know I’m wearing the best outfit if I feel just the most like myself and I feel powerful — and that’s how I want to feel onstage, which is why I almost always wear pants. I have two sisters and we talk about this all the time, that we love to wear pants because I just feel power. I can run or kick and, we joke, I can always escape. I can always run away. Fashion plays an important role in my life, but I don’t want it to dictate my life.

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THE ‘70S ARE A BIG SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR TENNIS, MUSICALLY AND AESTHETICALLY ON CONDITIONALLY YOURS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT ERA THAT YOU AND PATRICK ARE DRAWN TO? Our original desire to write music as Tennis came from listening to girl groups and that Wall of Sound, Phil Spector production from the ‘60s. And in the intervening years as we’ve continued to write and your taste just naturally moves on to the next thing, we joke that maybe we’re just moving forward in time.

And then I also just discovered a lot of female songwriters and I found women who composed primarily on the piano, rooted in the early ’70s that really inspired me, like Carole King and Laura Nyro. I feel like that’s another reason why we landed aesthetically where we’re at right now.

THOSE ARE ALSO VERY POWERFUL WOMEN. Another interesting thing that I noticed, that in the ‘60s, obviously Carole King was ghostwriting for some people and there were other female writers, but most music was written by men. And when Patrick and I first started writing, he wrote most of the music. And then as our careers progress, I write more and I contribute more equally to our songwriting. So, I feel like it was kind of natural that I move forward in time to an era where women emerged as their own writers — the person behind themselves was themselves, not a man writing for them.

By Yasmine Shemesh

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Pre-Order ‘Yours Conditionally’ Out March 10

 

Meet New Wave Blogger Reese Blustein aka Double3xposure

Reese Blustein aka Double3xposure has resurrected style blogging from the dead, and brought it back to life with a whole new purpose. Starting her account might have been just a fun sister venture at first, but it quickly took a turn to the Hollywood Boulevard of Instagram. Now with 83k followers and counting, she has thousands of girls living vicariously through her styling, and so they should be. Reese does things differently and that’s why we love her. She educates her followers on emerging designers and lesser-known labels (Holla), she wears whatever the f**k she wants because that’s what makes her feel good, and she rocks that effortlessly cool, natural beauty making us want to replicate every look she conquers. We were lucky enough to catch up with Reese and chat about her Instagram, style and how to take that perfect fashion photo. Spoiler: it’s easier than you think.

Shop Reese’s Picks >

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TELL US ABOUT YOU. My Name is Reese Blutstein. I am 20 years old. I am from Atlanta Georgia and have lived here my whole life. I am a student at Georgia State University and I am also a style blogger.

HOW DID DOUBLE3XPOSURE START? It started in 2015. My twin sister and I were talking about how we wanted to start a fashion blog together. Soon after my sister Molly went away to college so I just decided to start an Instagram account on my own where I posted pictures of my outfit in the mirror in my room everyday. We came up with the name Double3xposure because we are twins and a double exposure is two photographs on top of each other that turn out to be one photograph and we thought it kind of resembled being a twin.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE MOMENT YOU REALIZED YOUR LOVE FOR FASHION? My mom told me this story of when I was in elementary school and my friends and I each got $30 for something we did and the other girls wanted to buy toys like normal kids and I went to Neiman’s and bought gold Chanel nail polish. My mom said she asked me if I was sure that I wanted to spend all my money on one small bottle of nail polish and I sure did! haha

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YOU’RE SUCH A BIG SUPPORTER OF INDIE BOUTIQUES AND EMERGING DESIGNERS (JUST LIKE US!). WHEN DID THAT START FOR YOU AND HOW? I would say it started once small brands created Instagram’s. I would find small brands on Instagram and start following them and from their page it would lead me to more small brands that I liked and then I ended up finding so many small brands that I loved. I also love supporting small brands because it’s so much more personal. It is usually a small team and they know everything about the pieces they are selling. I like knowing where the things I buy come from. And personally I usually like the clothes, shoes, and bags better that are designed by smaller brands because not as many people will have them and they’re not trying to design on a huge scale like say Topshop so they can incorporate more detail.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT THOSE DESIGNERS/LABELS? I love their attention to detail and the uniqueness of their designs. I love getting things in the mail from small companies/designers because their packaging is always so thought out and beautifully put together. I also love knowing that I am supporting a few people directly instead of a huge company.

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HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? Hmm, I feel like I always say this but it is so true I can’t pin point my style. My personal style is forever evolving. Some days I dress more masculine and some days I dress more feminine. Some weeks I am obsessed with wearing green and some weeks I love wearing red. It really just depends on how I am feeling that day, week, month, or year. So I would say my personal style is never constant and I don’t feel like their is anything that I always wear that people would think of as “my style” because it is always changing.

YOUR GO-TO OUTFITS? High waisted jeans, a black turtle neck, and my black byFAR boots or some knit pants, a plain white t-shirt, some nude slides, and a coat or jacket. Pants are usually my go to. I also love adding in colorful pants. 

FAVORITE DESIGNERS RIGHT NOW? Thats tough.. Rachel Comey is wonderful. LOQ has been one of my favorites for a long time. Sandy Liang, Simon Miller, Collina Strada, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Mari Giudicelli. I have a lot so it’s hard to pick just a few!

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DO YOU HAVE ANY STYLE MUSES? Yes! Marta Cygna from lifeofboheme, Courtney Trop from alwaysjudging, Maria Bernad, Alyssa Coscarelli from alyssainthecity, and Lucitisima.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TRICKS OR RULES YOU LIVE BY WHEN SHOPPING? Eat before you go (so you don’t get hangry), buy what you know you will wear in months from now not just what is “trending” unless of course whatever is trending is adorable haha, and if you don’t absolutely love it when you try it on I bet you will barely wear it. I also always make sure that if I am buying something that I can style it at least five different ways because I don’t have all the money in the world so re-wearing and re-creating items is key for me when I am shopping.

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WHERE ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP? ANY HIDDEN GEMS IN ATLANTA YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH US? I mostly love vintage shopping. Highland row antiques is amazing, Antique Factory in Chamblee is super cool, and this shop isn’t vintage but Little Barn Apothecary in west provision is so cute and has the best skin products and candles.

ANY WORDS OF WISDOM AKA SECRETS TO TAKING A GOOD FASHION PHOTO? Yes! Constantly move. Don’t hold one pose because it will look unnatural but if you just keep moving then your natural movements will be picked up on the camera and then bam! you have a perfectly posed photo!

Reese picked out her fave things on the site right now. You’re going to want to check them out here.

Photographer: Jennifer Grimm

In Conversation with Emily Sugihara, founder and CEO of Baggu

In 2007 Emily Sugihara, a recent Parsons grad, started a business with her mom, Joan. They began with a simple Ripstop nylon tote based on the constuction of a plastic grocery bag. Ten years later, Emily and her team have moved BAGGU from Brooklyn to San Francisco, grown the company to 40 people across two coasts, collaborated with heavyweights such as Outdoor Voices and J. Crew, and expanded the line to include canvas and leather totes, purses, travel bags and accessories. Known for their clean designs, pop colors and cheeky prints, the bags have garnered a cult following and we’ve been obsessed since day one. We recently caught up with Emily over the phone to talk about all things BAGGU, style and being a new mom.

Shop our exclusive BAGGU sale >

BAGGU founder Emily Sugihara with her son, Ko.
BAGGU founder Emily Sugihara with her son, Ko.

 

GARMENTORY: So I wanted to start off just by finding out a little bit more about your day to day. Can you tell me where you are right now and what you’re doing?

EMILY: Yeah, I am in our office in San Francisco in the Dog Patch. I’m working on our target sales for the second half of 2017.

G: Oh cool, spreadsheets?

E: Yeah, I spend a lot of time doing spreadsheets. I really enjoy them. Not sarcastic, this is like one of my favorite parts of my job.

G: Do you mind if I ask you what you’re wearing?

E: Yeah, it’s like absolutely freezing in San Francisco today. Let me look up what the temperature actually is. I lived in New York for almost 10 years and then moved here a few years ago so my ideas about weather are very confused.

G: I bet. It doesn’t take long to kind of acclimatize back to the west coast, though.

E: Oh yeah, totally. Yeah I grew up in San Diego so after leaving San Diego, pretty much everywhere is like a step down in weather…. That’s funny. It’s a low of 41 today and everyone here is losing their shit about how cold it is.

G: Isn’t it usually pretty much the same all year there?

E: Yeah, it’s usually like 60s in the winter so 40s is like…

G: Nobody has clothes for that.

E: We have a high of 54 today. Yeah, well I do because I lived in New York before this, but a lot of people don’t. So, I have shearling clog boots and vintage Levi’s. A size large baggy sweater from Steven Alan and a Lauren Manoogian crazy coat thing.

G: That sounds cozy. Are those boots No. 6 by any chance?

E: They are.

G: The best. So warm.

E: Yeah. I could probably also wear this outfit in much colder weather and still be comfortable, haha.

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G: Is that a daily kind of outfit for you or do you switch it up?

E: I actually think I have more variety in my wardrobe this year than before. Sometimes I go through real uniform phases but I’ve been switching it up a little bit more. I wear Kamm pants a lot. I’m very into the Ilana Kohn denim wide-leg jumpsuits. I have a really good pair of vintage white overalls from The General Store that I’ve been wearing a lot. This summer I was very into culottes but now my ankles are too cold.

G: I hope it gets a little bit warmer. That’s supposed to be a benefit of living in California.

E: Yeah, you’re going to print something about someone in California complaining about it being in the 50s and having to wear shearling boots and the rest of the country’s going to laugh, haha.

G: So I’ve seen pictures of your offices over there and they look so rad. Must be a nice space to work in. (Editor’s note – Click over here to see said space.)

E: Yeah, it’s really pleasant. We have a really great view of downtown. We can see just the tip of both bridges.

G: Oh cool. How many people do you have in that office with you now?

E: I’m counting…. 12.

G: And still in Brooklyn, too?

E: Yeah, in Brooklyn, there’s also three retail stores. I think there are about, with everybody, it’s about 40 people.

G: So tell me about being a CEO. To go from a small startup to a much larger operation, what are you loving about that?

E: The cool thing about getting bigger everyone can kind of specialize more. When we started, it was just my mom and I and then my friend Ellen [van der Laan] who’s our Creative Director, was doing freelance work basically. I was doing kind of the whole business operations side of things. It was like I had everybody’s job. Then, as we grew it was like, oh okay, one other person can help. They can take the half of my job that I feel like I’m worst at and I can hire someone for a skill set that will be good at that.

Then everybody’s job kind of splits and splits and then you end up with a bigger team and these really specialized jobs where you can have production people that are just amazing at doing production. Sales people that are really good at sales. Product designers who are just doing product design, that’s their thing. It’s been cool because you get a higher quality of work out of more focused expertise. I mean, it was a much simpler machine in the early days, haha.

G: It was just one tote, right?

E: Yeah, it was just the standard Baggu in eight colors. Eight skus, one style.

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G: What was it about that first tote that made you guys stand out?

E: We were the only people… there weren’t very many reusable bags at all at that time. This was like 2007 so everyone’s interest and pop culture was just picking up environmental awareness. We were the only company doing something that was both aesthetic and functional and affordable. You could either get not cool reusable bags that were cheap but kind of junky or you could get, like Hermés had a reusable bag, or there were some cool foreign companies making them. But even those were like $30 or $40, which if you need to buy five of them that’s kind of a big investment. I really wanted to do something that was great looking and really affordable.

G: You kind of hit a sweet spot.

E: Yeah. That’s always been part of what we try to bring to our customer. We’re not trying to be the least expensive, but we’re trying to provide you with the best value for your dollar.

G: It sounds like you’ve had that ethos with every product that you launch as well, getting into all the different types of bags, and even leather now.

E: Our leather’s nice. Every year it gets nicer as we get even better at doing it. With leather, it’s just like you pick up both more materials and more expertise. Also, you learn from mistakes.

G: Any stories to share about that?

E: In the beginning we were using these really nude leathers, which are so beautiful but they get dirty really easily. It’s not a bag that will last very long or look good for very long with a normal person carrying it, unless you’re like crazy fussy. They just stain too easily, so we found what we think is a good compromise between hand feel and durability. Now when we do light colored leather, it has a coating on it. You can get it wet and it won’t stain.

G: Tell me about your design process.

E: In the early years it was just like you have and idea and make it and there was no schedule, which was lovely. I felt really strongly that our product line grew in tandem with our customer base. We weren’t in a hurry to release a million products. It’s kind of like you’re doing something and you have an idea of oh, I think I could make this better. Or oh, I want to make this version of this thing we’re making. Once we had a design that we felt really good about, we put it into production. I think now everything’s much more organized. We work in season, sort of. We’re a bigger design team and we’re doing more newness in the line every season. Refreshing prints more often, introducing new body styles.

G: Who do you think about when you think about your customer?

E: That’s something that we talk about a lot. Overall, I think we’re always designing for ourselves. I think you can design the best stuff for yourself because you really deeply understand what it is that you want. We’ve always been a team that is within 34 to 20-something. We’re all on the younger side but not nearly as young as we were when we started. We want to design for ourselves and then we also felt like, how would our moms interpret this product? I think that’s a good check on: is this some weird trend thing that we think is cool and we’re going to be over really fast or is this a good, simple basic thing that’s going to feel relevant for a long time? That’s the kind of thing we’re actually trying to make.

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G: You started the company originally with your mom. Do you get her feedback still?

E: She stepped out of any active involvement about five years ago. She still definitely emails me with ideas. I still love making things with her. I’m not sure she ever expected this to turn into the kind of level of business that it did. In the beginning, when everything was kind of crazy and all hands on deck and whatever, it was the two of us packing boxes late at night. As things got more like there are offices and business hours and you check your email every day, I think that was just like not what she wanted.

G: Was it something that you hoped that it was going to turn into?

E: I think I hoped it was going to turn into that. I don’t know, I was embarrassed to say that out loud because it seemed so outlandish. The idea of actually having a team and an office just seemed like bat crazy.

G: Was there a moment where that clicked for you?

E: No, in a way it’s happened quickly, but it’s also happened really slowly. We’re about to have our 10 year anniversary next year. We’ve been incrementally growing for many, many years. I think the company grows in tandem with me and the core leadership team here, learning how to manage a bigger project. If someone was like – “Here’s a bunch of money. Double the size of the company” – next year, we wouldn’t do it. You have to figure out how all of these pieces fit together in a way that’s efficient and works for everybody. That just takes time.

G: You’ve done some really amazing collaborations.

E: I think collaborations are a fun way for us to try out different design aesthetics and introduce ourselves to a new customer base. The first one we did was No. 6, way back in the day. They actually cold emailed us and I didn’t know who they were. I was like, “What is this?” Ellen was like, “Oh my god. That’s really cool. I can’t believe you don’t know what that is. Make this happen.” They’ve become really good friends. They wanted to do shopping bags in some of their prints. We worked with them to pick a good lineup of prints, which Ellen, she does all of our prints, kind jujjed for them.

G: Do you have any more coming down the pipe?

E: We did a collaboration with lululemon lab that just launched, that are reflective BAGGUs. They wanted us to do the standard BAGGU out of a reflective material. We’ve been working on it for a long time. It took us a while to source the right material. They’re so cool. It looks like just a regular grey bag from up close and then from far away it’s reflective. They photograph amazing.

G: Are you doing anything for your 10-year anniversary?

E: We have all kinds of special stuff going on throughout the year. We did a really crazy 10-year edition of our standard BAGGU. There will be some parties, there will be some events.

G: That’s exciting. That’s such a milestone.

E: Makes me feel old.

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G: I feel like it’s just that time of life, too, where a lot happens.

E: Yeah, no it’s crazy. I have a 16-month old baby, Ko. He’s very much the organizing principal of my life right now.

G: That’s so fun. Lots of change! And with the recent move back to the west coast, truly bi-coastal.

E: I mean, we’re definitely all over. I think our strongest holds are definitely in urban, coastal areas. The blue states buy more reusable bags than the red states, we find. We have a pretty good international business, too. Japan is a really big market for us. Korea, Australia, Hong Kong. That has been a component for us since really early on.

G: Which market is your favorite to visit?

E: I’m very partial to Japan. We lived there when I was a little kid and I have some family there. (Editor’s note – Fun fact: BAGGU is Japanese for bag.) My husband also loves Japan. Although, we haven’t been since the baby was born, but we used to go every year. I feel like we missed our window of non-opinionated baby who’s easy to travel with. Now he has a lot of thoughts about a lot of things he would like to be doing. He’s a busy guy.

G: The toddler tyrant. That’s fun.

E: Yeah, he’s a benevolent dictator. He’s good to us.

Shop BAGGU >

Garmentory x Arithmetic: Inside The Design Collab

Margherita Porra, the founder of Arithmetic, a Vancouver-based branding, packaging and design agency, was the first person we thought of when looking for a collaborator for Garmentory packaging. With over 15 years of experience in designing for retail-focused product producers, specifically in health, food and fashion, Margherita has an innate talent in cultural trend clairvoyance that simply cannot be ignored. And it hasn’t. She has received numerous design awards such as the Design Exchange Emerging Graphic Designer of the Year, the AACE Design Award, the American Package Design Award, the GDUSA American Health + Wellness Design Award, and the list goes on and on. We also love her team: Rob, Ellen and Liz. The bonus? She also happens to have some serious style of her own. Here, we chat with Margherita about the inspiration behind our packaging, how style and design aesthetic relate, and everything in between.

Psst… you can download a little Garmentory for your iPhone or tablet too! Click here for your very own wallpaper designed by Arithmetic.

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TELL OUR READERS ALL ABOUT YOU. Hi, I’m Margherita Porra. I live in Vancouver with my husband and our fur babe, Pasley. We’re just a few minutes from the ocean and Granville Island which also happens to be where our studio, arithmetic is located. Granville Island is a historic Canadian site that was converted to a cultural destination with a charming public market. It’s distinctly influenced by its’ industrial and marine past and decorated with one-of-a-kind shops and culinary delights. Working and living so close to the ocean is incredibly grounding for me as a creative and having so many makers and creators surround me is a constant source of inspiration and motivation.

I’m the Creative Director at arithmetic and we’re a multi-disciplinary design practice. At the core of what we do, we create soulful brand experiences. We listen deeply, live life fully and pair that with our creativity to help visualize our clients’ dreams. We are living in a time where there is a celebration of the maker and a reconnection to quality and craft. We are so lucky that we get to meet so many creative and passionate entrepreneurs that trust us to tell their stories through our creative ideas. We are most known for our branding and packaging design work, though once we build a brand, our talents extend to retail experience design, textile design, industrial design for products, photographic art direction, copywriting and online experience.

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WHEN DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER YOUR LOVE FOR GRAPHIC DESIGN? From a young age, I was always creating art. I painted and drew a lot but I was most obsessed with collaging. If there was scrap fabric, glue, pastels and paper lying around it was sure to end up in some sort of abstract expression that would be promintately displayed on the fridge. Despite creative expression being a part of my every day life growing up, I really resisted the idea of a creative profession. It wasn’t until I was in high school and I simultaneously discovered photography, the darkroom, creative writing and creating editorial spreads that I things started to shift. Seems my early love for collaging translated into a love for mixing tools and mediums. Graphic design was the perfect path.

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HOW DID ARITHMETIC GET STARTED? Straight out of design school, I landed a job as a graphic designer for a fashion company. It wasn’t what I had planned to do but I felt compelled by it. I was the only graphic designer amongst six fashion designers. There were a lot of ideas and not enough people to act on them. I was hungry and full of energy and said yes to every opportunity and worked really long hours. I went from designing textile graphics and catalogues to art directing photo shoots and designing shoes within a very short span of time. I started to realize I was just as interested in “how” a business functioned as much as I was interested in designing objects that functioned. A combination of work exhaustion, a desire to inspire change greater than my hired role and young naive defiance was the catalyst to my quitting and starting a freelance business on zero savings. I let my heart and independence lead me to starting the business. There is something so great about young confidence. I look back in awe of my younger self.

When I started out (over a decade ago), I wanted a design practice that was multi-disciplinary. All of the other agencies in the city were solely print or web focused or specialized in industrial design and nobody was considering graphics for fashion. I didn’t care about boundaries within the design world so I started a t-shirt line and screen-printed graphics in my living room, created the woven labels and hangtags and sold them at local stores. I designed window displays for fashion boutiques and begged local food companies to let me redesign their packaging. I was scrappy, curious and motivated to constantly evolve as a creative. The company grew organically from there and the studio found it’s home on Granville Island. We’ve been there ever since!

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WHERE DOES THE NAME COME FROM? When I was transitioning from freelancer to an agency, I found myself considering systems and methods for the creative process. The questions that kept coming up for me, was, “what makes something ‘beautiful’ or ‘aesthetically pleasing’”? How can we evaluate beauty? Does a formula for aesthetic contentment exist? What makes some design compositions feel harmonious while others feel so wrong or incomplete? Over the centuries, philosophers have explored the link between art and mathematics. From The golden section, to the rule of thirds to grids, it’s clear there is an underlying equation that creates a foundation for aesthetic beauty.

The next part, was synchronistic. One rainy Saturday I was out on an inspiration day with some dear friends. We had been mulling over objects and books in an antique shop when I came across and old 1960’s text book: ‘Making Arithmetic Meaningful’. The book was full of black graphic shapes from squares and circles to triangles, each page making a different graphic pattern and equation. It was beautiful and it was the perfect metaphor for the formula in which I had build our processes on – creatively and analytically adding our clients’ personal stories to our industry knowledge and our imaginative ideas — all to create a visual rhythm.

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WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE OUR PACKAGING? When I was designing the new packaging, I was really excited by how Garmentory unifies art and industry, which is very much in line with one of the larger goals of the Bauhuas movement. The artists in the Bauhaus movement were exploring geometric forms and stripping away unnecessary decoration as they explored new technology, allowing the capabilities and restrictions to inspire their creative output. They also focused on typography having a highly important function. Considering the parallels between the Bauhaus and Garmentory being comprised of many creative designers, we developed a set of themes that would influence the aesthetics of the project; Type as Image, Geometric Pattern Play, a Return to the Grid and a Tone of Voice as shown through the cheeky copywriting.

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DOES YOUR DESIGN AESTHETIC TRANSLATE INTO YOUR CLOSET? In some ways, very much so — in other ways, not at all.

In my design work, I’m very attracted to materiality and tactility and a high quality of both of these aspects when in harmony. That same level of curiosity and adoration for materiality definitely extends to my wardrobe. I have a very large collection of silk pieces and especially raw silk— I love the way it hangs and how one fiber can be smooth or textural. I also love mixing textures like pairing a sweater with silk flowing pants and suede shoes.

One thing most people comment on my personal style is how void it is of graphics, I’ve had people comment that they expected me to dress more colorfully or more graphically, simply because I’m creative. That was definitely true when I was in my first few years of design. Though, the more I expressed my creative thoughts or questions through my tangible work, the more I craved a clean and pure palette in the other areas of my life from my personal style to the interior spaces I spend the most time in. I have found that having white walls and a simpler palette surrounding me provides me with a clear mind free of influence when I’m creating. In other words, I wear a lot of black and white and neutrals but my designs are can often be quite colorful.

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HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? Lately, I would describe it as monochromatic. I always get dressed from the shoes up. I’m obsessed with shoes. Obsessed. I also let my mood and schedule determine my daily style. If I’m feeling tired, I will wear black flats, black jeans, black silk t-shirt blouse and a black cardigan – comfy and practical. I’ll do that exact set up in different colours, Monday—all black, Tuesday—all grey, Wednesday—nudes. Ha! If I’m feeling excited and energetic, I will dress up to match my mood, which usually means a jumpsuit (my other obsession). If I have a heap of work to do on the computer, I will wear something non fussy like a button down with my sleeves rolled up past my elbows. Wearing a white button down always gives me a little boost of confidence to tackle what is ahead of me. Clothes, just like my environment, really play a part in my mind set so I am very aware of how my style choices influence my mood and productivity in a positive way.

My husband would describe me as dressing like a boy in a cult. Ha ha!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO OUTFIT? My Rachel Comey Mars Mule in natural or Martiniano glove flats, white denim culottes, off-white silk t-shirt blouse and my felted kimono jacket.

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BEST STYLE ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? My dad immigrated from Sardinia, Italy when he was only 20. He brought with him, three perfectly tailored wool suits and two pairs of the most beautiful leather dress shoes. Each piece was so impeccably tailored and incredibly made with the finest materials. He wasn’t wealthy by any means but he was taught to save and buy quality over quantity and to take care of those pieces. He really instilled in me the importance in investing in quality, well-made pieces that you can envision wearing this year, next year and five years from now, like a jacket, boots or purse. If your wardrobe is built on these pieces, you won’t feel the need to binge shop cheaper items every year, you simply have to add a few pieces each season for fun. Plus, it makes getting dressed so much easier.

My Nona on the other hand, spent all of her money on clothing, Chanel cosmetics and Vogue magazines so all she ate was burnt toast and black coffee (my dad often paid for her rent). Truthfully, I’ve been known to toggle between my Dad’s advice and my Nona’s eccentricities. While my dad was best dressed at the big events my Nona looked amazing every day. Moderation is key.

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For more with Margherita visit arithmeticcreative.com.

Don’t forget to snag Garmentory wallpaper for every device in your life!

Photos by Andrew Querner

The New Rules For Party Attire With Sissy Sainte-Marie

She’s back. Los Angeles-based stylist Sissy Sainte-Marie, aka our fashion guru, is here to give us the latest rules and regulations for party attire just in time for the holidays. We’ve gone to Sissy in the past for coat etiquette and denim do’s and don’ts, and now we need her more than ever to master this season’s fancy feels. From breaking glitter norms to feeling confident and comfortable, Sissy reveals the ultimate party attire attack plan. Trust us, after reading this you’ll feel ready for every holiday party that comes your way.

Above: Calder Blake Ono jacket (worn backwards); Luz Ortiz drop earrings.

HAS FASHION’S APPROACH TO PARTY ATTIRE CHANGED RECENTLY? IF SO, HOW? I don’t know about the rest of the fashion but I’m prepared to rethink party attire and I encourage women to approach it in a way that feels right for them. Anyone else’s inbox clogged with newsletters telling them to wear bodycon sequin micro mini dresses and glitter stilettos to a holiday party? Can we please redefine what it means to be a smokeshow?

HOW SHOULD WE THINK ABOUT PARTY ATTIRE THIS YEAR? I think we can find party attire that is dignified and comfortable and still able to turn heads. The holiday season is freezing cold, we are feasting, drinking, celebrating, conversing. Let’s have the self respect to be toasty, steady on our feet, and prepared to accommodate a full belly.

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Calder Blake Ono jacket (worn backwards); LD Tuttle Torch boots; Luz Ortiz drop earrings.

ANY STYLING TIPS FOR MAKING PARTY ATTIRE FEEL LESS FUSSY AND MORE MODERN? Less fuss does not have to equal apathy. Retire the old notion of scoring cool points for showing up overly casual to prove you’re not trying too hard. Please consider that you might need to try harder. Consider that it may be rude not to. As Tom Ford says: “Dressing well is a form of good manners.” You could wear jeans to the holiday party, but honestly why would you want to? Especially if this is your one chance a year to get dressed up. For your 2016 holiday party, don’t play small. Embrace looking fan-fucking-tastic and go put on a dress. You can wear jeans the other 364 nights of the year. If you’re not a dress person, wearing a tunic over cropped pants is a chill and considerate option.

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Town Clothes Ruth coat, Wallace pant and Nona dress; Leigh Miller cuff and drop earrings; LoQ green suede shoes.

OKAY, TIME TO LAY DOWN SOME STYLE RULES. DO TELL.

  1. Redefine the smokeshow.
  2. Start by feeling really good on the inside and then let your beauty radiate from within.
  3. Make it all about accessories – sometimes a simple black ensemble and terrific earrings are all you need.
  4. Work a festive color.
  5. Don’t go casual. Try harder.
  6. Loosen up.
  7. Reveal and conceal. Thoughtfully chose a garment that reveals only your favorite zones – clavicles, back, leg or face – and leave the rest to the imagination. Think open back and high neck, side slit and maxi length, strapless A-line tops and flared pants, full coverage and fabrics that drape sensuously.

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Pari Desai Column dress; Leigh Miller drop earrings and cuff bracelet; LoQ Almansa heels.

WHAT ARE THE NEW PARTY ATTIRE ESSENTIALS?

  1. High-collar long-sleeve diaphanous dresses that hit just below the knee.
  2. Over-the-knee boots (paired with the dress mentioned above, not a micro mini).
  3. Column dresses.
  4. Statement earrings. Bonus points for a matching cuff and/or ring.
  5. Chokers.
  6. Statement heels, preferably painless.
  7. Tunic and pants combos.

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Nikki Chasin satin top; Town Clothes Wallace pant; LoQ Lorente heels; Luz Ortiz choker.

 

Photographer: Eddie Chacon

Model and Stylist: Sissy Sainte-Marie

Location: The Standard