At the studio, we love to support emerging designers. Amid the commercialism and monotony that seem to be dominating the New York fashion scene, there are some exciting and innovative brands that are forging their own paths and inspiring us. When we stumble across one of them, we jump right on it. That’s why we were thrilled to have the opportunity to cover some of the nominees for the CFDA’s Emerging Designer of the Year award, Foundrae and Bode (who took home the honor at last night’s awards ceremony!). Both brands, and their respective founders, have a distinct voice and a unique point of view. In anticipation of the awards ceremony, we caught up with both of them to talk about inspiration and the industry right now.
What is your first memory of style or fashion?
Playing in my mother’s jewelry box and her jewelry drawers, and trying everything on. And also, in the back of her closet and she had this section that she didn’t really wear, that was for special occasions. She had these long maxi dresses from the early 70s with really bold prints on them… I’d say those two memories….
Can you tell us a bit about your career trajectory and how you got into jewelry?
I’ve always defined my personal style with my jewelry and it was always what I thought of first when I got dressed. First I was a CEO. I co-founded a company in fashion when I was twenty-three and I was a CEO for twenty years. But I needed a creative outlet, and so often I would buy vintage jewelry and repurpose it for myself. That really started the ball rolling in a more serious way and I got more and more interested in it.
So you’ve always been a jewelry a collector?
Yes, yes, yes.
How do you think your brand speaks to today’s modern woman? What do you think modern women today want to wear, and where do you fit in that?
Our customer can really create her own piece that memorializes the experiences and values that have built her life, and that fill her heart. With each medallion she adds, it’s not just about commemorating, but it’s also about pulling her forward and inspiring the next chapter.
What are the core principles that you founded the brand on when you first started?
Everything for me is about providing tools of self-expression and self-discovery. Every single piece of jewelry that we make is a real opportunity for a customer to reflect on what’s important in their life, and whether their living it.
Do you feel like the brand reflects your own personal style? How much of it is you pouring your own style into it?
A hundred percent! It is so much me. I’ve always admired real personal style—style that’s a reflection of the individual, rather than style that’s more of a trend. I like it when someone’s personal style stands the test of time, so that’s really important to me for our pieces. I feel like our pieces beckon people to ask the wearer: what does this mean and why are you wearing it? I feel like that then leads to deeper connections between people—I think that’s so important. And I personally really like the idea that it’s not special occasion jewelry; I like jewelry that I can wear twenty-four hours a day–that becomes part of me. That’s very much our ethos.
I love that. So, as one of the emerging designer nominees for the CFDA you of represent the future of the industry and where it’s going. What are you excited about in the fashion industry right now? What are you looking forward to and what makes you excited to be a part of this group of emerging designers?
Right now, there’s this idea, a feeling in fashion–you know, I would even say a movement, that’s really about exulting the individual traits that make a person different and highlighting those differences. But, then at the same time, there’s still context of how important our community is and our families, and the idea that we can’t do anything alone. So, it’s really both of those ideas.
What is your first memory of fashion or style?
My first memory of fashion affecting my life was, when I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to wear anything but our jumpers, our little vest-dresses. We’d be on the playground and it was freezing cold! I remember we petitioned to be able to wear the boys’ uniforms in the winter–we must’ve been in the first grade. It’s so crazy that it had been going on forever like that, no winter options, no trousers allowed. But, then we were able to wear the boy shorts.
How did you get into design and can you tell us a bit about your career trajectory?
I went to Parsons for menswear design. Throughout high school I was always taking extracurricular classes, but it was more art-based, less design focused. At Parsons I did the dual-degree program, so I got a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in menswear. Throughout college I had been interning, so I was interning both in design and also simultaneously working in retail. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to launch my own company–I was recruited by a lot of larger design companies, but I decided to just do freelance until I launched Bode. But I’ve done everything from prop styling, to buying, to freelance designing…
You’re a menswear brand, but I feel like your clothes are beloved by women as well. What do you think that speaks to in terms of what both modern men and women are interested in wearing right now?
We are primarily a menswear brand but, of course, women buy our clothes. Some of our accounts buy it as well, both men’s and women’s.
I think people are reacting to the sentiment, the sentimentality behind the garment and the history of the textile or technique that we explain and portray in our clothes. A lot of the clothes are made from domestic textiles, antique textiles from in and around the home (made for the homes), so there’s an innate feeling of comfort in the clothing–both when you physically put it on and visually because it evokes a childhood nostalgia.
What are the core principles that your brand was founded on?
The idea of female-centric traditions of making, both fabric and clothing, but made for men. I’ve always felt that storytelling is really important in history and preserving historical techniques. Not only do we try to utilize historic factories in and around New York, but we also work very closely with our Indian manufacturers. You know, just trying to revitalize these otherwise forgotten methods of making…embroidery techniques, etc…and bringing them into a contemporary consumer culture.
Right. That’s amazing. Does your brand reflect your own personal style and what are your biggest influences?
Yeah for sure, but I have always been drawn to designing for another person. So, I’m less interested in designing for myself. It’s always been something where I’ve made clothes for myself, but it wasn’t necessarily a design process for me. Making clothes for the other person is always more intriguing. And my influences are always the people that I have grown up with or who I have worked with throughout college. Some of my friends, who I’ve known since I was little, I still collaborate with on projects here in New York.
As one of the emerging designer nominees for the CFDA Awards, your brand represents the future of the fashion industry. What makes you excited about being a part of this group and what are you most excited about in the industry right now?
I think I’m most excited that everyone is eager to change consumer culture. If you look at a lot of the nominees, the way they interact with shopping or designing for consumers is really interesting. Also, we’re all very much affected by image-based design, so you know some nominees focus more on the image-making process than the clothing itself.
And it’s just great being able to see a lot of people with their businesses around the same age or they’re around the same age, attacking this general idea–it’s really interesting.