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MAKER Q+A – IRIS GARCIA

Iris Garcia is our pattern maker. She single-handedly created all of the patterns and samples for our current collection. She’s also Puerto Rican. Chicago born, New York raised. An avid coffee drinker. A UFC gym member. And incredibly passionate about both clothing and life. Iris has met me at 7am in the Garment District to hand me samples for our photoshoot (she lives an hour away in The Bronx). We’ve had fittings in the middle of blizzards. We’ve clinked wine glasses over lunch. We share vacation photos. And tips for living life with passion and purpose. To me, Iris Garcia is a wonder woman. And without her, there would be no Eenvoud. Sometimes, there are people that come into your life that you know were meant to be there. And for that reason, I am so happy to share a little more about Iris with the world in our first Maker Q+A.

You’re a pattern maker by trade. What exactly does that mean?

It has come to mean for me — after oh so many years — the whole package. It means everything that it takes to make a design into the best garment that I can. I consider all that this entails my work as a pattern maker. 

How did you get in to pattern making?

In truth? I simply loved getting dressed. For as far back as I can remember. Most occasions are ‘an occasion’ for me and I drag along anyone else that I can to dress up. Every doll that I ever had as kid was stripped of whatever she was wearing at the time of purchase and introduced to her new wardrobe. This lead to making garments from scratch. I was given a Necchi machine that had belonged to an old tailor. I believe I was 14 at the time. I have it still. My sisters and my sisters-in-law were my ‘guinea girls’. Then there were the wonderful Vogue, McCall’s and Simplicity patterns and the The High School of Fashion Industries, where I learned how to really make a pattern from scratch and to sew far more beautifully then I ever had before. Then there was FIT. But I must say that everything I needed to start me on this long career in pattern making — which I have many times hated, but never truly abandoned (as in all true love) — I learned in that old high school.

Was is the most difficult garment that you’ve ever had to create?

A pastel green dress with big true circles that had center button-like contraptions and bias ruffles sewn around them; that were inserted, NOT sewn on top of the dress. It took the designer I was working about two hours just to explain it, which is saying a lot, because you know that I am not slow on the uptake. That seriously caused me to question my cognitive capabilities. 

A Circle

What’s the most fun garment that you’ve worked on?    

I’d be lying if I didn’t say ‘The Circle Dress’! What a joy to wear!

Iris in The Circle Dress

Do you have any advice for aspiring or young designers?

Love what you have chosen to do. Love requires respect and devotion and is extremely sustainable. Be kind and patient with yourself during all of the real and imagined ‘OH MY GOD’s’ you will commit in your life’s pursuits. Learn, learn and keep learning in preparation for all of the vicissitudes and the sublime opportunities that life will graciously hand you. And now, to quote a dear friend, “remember, you have to have fun”.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A dress.

Finish this sentence. Simplicity is:

Comfort and grace.

Thank you, Iris, for everything that you do. And most of all for your joie de vivre. 

PARSONS

Parsons has a mystical aura surrounding it that instantly lends you coolness in conversation. But what’s it’s really like is a little different. It’s really hard. It’s very inspiring. There’s so much work. There’s no sleeping. Really, I stayed awake for 51 hours one time. You will leave a different person than when you started. Here are a few things that I learned along the way.

Designing a garment takes a lot of time.

From the initial drape, through the patternmaking process, making and fitting a muslin sample, pattern corrections and then to sewing the final garment— the whole process took roughly 100 hours per garment. Most clothes aren’t made this way anymore. Many are directly copied from already existing garments out there on the market.

Patternmaking is a complicated science.

Patternmaking truly is an art and a science. A master patternmaker can create a flat pattern that when cut and sewn molds perfectly around the human form; similar to an architect creating a blueprint for a building. Most patternmaking these days is out-sourced to other countries and is rushed by people with little training. For that reason, most garments out there (particularly from large retailers) don’t actually fit us all that well. My patternmaking professor at Parsons was a diamond in the rough and we’re lucky to have access to many others here in New York.

Designing is wasteful. 

Walk into the work rooms at Parsons and the floor is a multi-level patchwork of muslin, fabric, pattern paper and thread. Think many a slips on your butt. Having the janitor mistake your garment for one of the hundreds of scraps surrounding you (during finals. Gah!). Leather was having a moment in 2012 and the amount of discarded leather laying around on the floors always shocked me. Fortunately, there are methods to consciously design patterns that significantly minimize (or even eliminate) wasted fabric.

Wearing the same thing everyday makes you more creative.

So many of the students at Parsons were decked out in the current trends everyday; each trying to out-cool the other. But the students who really got down to business and created amazing work were typically wearing the same thing everyday. Yara Flinn of Nomia said it perfectly in this recent NY Mag article: “I just wear a uniform myself every day, because I don’t like thinking about what I’m going to wear, which is kind of ironic. If I don’t think about what I’m wearing, it’s easier for me to design”. Wearing the same thing everyday — that you feel good and like yourself in — frees up your energy for creativity.

Protect The Magic.

A majority of the people that I’ve come across in the fashion industry are stressed out. This industry, like Parsons, moves fast and to keep ahead in the game you have to constantly keep producing. But somewhere in that process, the pleasure is lost. What if we didn’t have to design so quickly; design so many pieces; design so many seasons? What if instead we slowed down and focused on creating well-made, wearable garments — garments that become parts of uniforms— and let the ourselves love the process?

“The keyword is simplicity, which is a means serving a greater purpose; clarity. Reference lines, simple shapes, simple marker strokes; all of these are supposed to help achieve clear structures, as long as we are aware of using them. You can take any licences, except the lack of awareness regarding your intentions.”

-Dan Nistor, a beloved professor