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Designer Q+A – Kristin Glenn

I first met Kristin four years ago via a very brief email exchange. She had just launched her then brand, Revolution Apparel, and I was about to begin studying at Parsons. Fast forward time and as fate would have it we ended up sharing a studio in Brooklyn this past summer. Kristin is one of those special kinds of people that truly lives their life from their heart and from their soul and I am grateful to now call her a friend.

About Kristin:

Kristin is the founder of Seamly.co, a responsibly made clothing line that focuses on versatility. For example, The Versalette is one garment that can be worn 30 over different ways and The Convertible Pantsuit (shown above) is a wide leg pant that transform into multiple styles. Kristin works only with fabrics that are surplus (excess fabrics from factories or designers ), are knitted in the USA, or are sustainably and responsibly made overseas. All of her garments are sewn in Denver, Colorado.

What does the name Seamly mean?

Seamly is a seamstress’ play on the word ‘seemly’ which is an adjective for “good taste.” I came up with it as I was starting the business, and thought it was fitting to have seams tied in with this idea of beauty – both in the clothes, and in the responsible making of the clothes.

Do you have an ideal customer or muse? Who is she?

The #seamlygal is, above all, thoughtful. I wrote this manifesto earlier this year, and I think it sums her up perfectly:

Seamly is for the woman who stands up for her beliefs. The woman who values honesty, vulnerability, and soul. Her possessions are few but cherished; her belongings are her stories. She craves adventure, whether it’s exploring a new neighborhood or a new continent.

Her spirit is curious, and kind. She is a maker — of art, of food, of a home, of a business. Movement is a meaningful part of her existence. Nature is, too. No matter where she is in life, she seeks alignment — between her beliefs, her actions, her purpose, her purchases.

She is an advocate for positive change. She appreciates realness. She gets it. And we couldn’t be more grateful to have her as part of our community.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process. How do you come up with a new design or collection?

Most of it comes from holes I notice in my own wardrobe, or lingering thoughts I’ve had about a piece of clothing over the years. It’s hard to pinpoint! Next year, I’ll be heading a bit of a new direction — more durable, long-lasting pieces that are a little higher priced, too. I’ve been noticing a desire for clothes that take all of my needs into consideration — fit, style, fabric, function — so that’s what we’ll be digging into!

What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

I don’t think that truly “sustainable” fashion really exists. Everything created has at least SOME negative impact on the environment. Sustainability is more aspirational, to me — it’s striving to lessen the impacts our clothes have on people and planet, and constantly evolving based on what’s available.

Seamly.co is all about versatility and living with less. How do those two concepts translate into your own life?

A few years ago, I did Project333‘s three-month challenge, and that was the beginning of my small wardrobe transition. I wear mostly black and hardly ever buy things new. My closet is definitely still a work in progress, but I’m always trying to pare and combine!

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

Well, I’d obviously be in a warm locale, so a black shift dress with short sleeves would likely be it!

Complete this sentence. Simplicity is:

A state of mind.

Kristin is currently raising money on Kickstarter to produce her new utility jacket, which converts into 4 different styles from 1. Check it out here.

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