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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.

MIKAELA BRADBURY

We first met Mikaela Bradbury briefly at a coffee shop in the West Village nearly two years ago, and she has since very happily and serendipitously popped back into our world.

About Mikaela:

Mikaela is a South African-born New Yorker and the designer and founder of a fashion line called ARJUNA.AG. Mikaela first discovered the power of silver when her mother, an 11 year cancer survivor, used silver to treat radiation burns while going through treatment. Arjuna incorporates silver-plated fabric into it’s minimalistic and versatile designs, offering garments that are designed to be worn over, under and between your everyday wardrobe. Arjuna is holistic protection for the modern day warrior.

Mikaela’s newest collection combines sustainably farmed organic bamboo with silver for a soft, yet strong aesthetic that really resonates with us. Check it out here.

Hey Mikaela. What does the name ARJUNA.AG mean?

Arjuna means white, bright or silver in Sanksrit. It is also the name of the main warrior prince in the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text that teaches about karma yoga or “sacred action.” AG is the chemical symbol for silver.

The notion of ‘sacred action’ is very important to the mission of the company… More broadly, it is about how to live a spiritual life through action. But specifically, it speaks about the paradox of acting with an inner intention and purpose, yet remaining detached from the outward manifestation and results. This tension resonated with me as someone who is deeply influenced by Buddhist and Eastern philosophy, which teaches detachment and selflessness — and yet still feels the need to engage the world, make a positive difference, succeed as an entrepreneur, etc.

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

Style-wise, one of my muses is Tilda Swinton (I’ve always been a fan of a turtleneck…). I find that she embodies a kind of otherness and interiority that is very attractive and also key to the brand. She has also been involved in a number of environmental initiatives that I care about.

In general, my ideal customer is someone is who making a positive change in the world. Someone who is highly engaged — with their hands, and feet, and voices and bodies — in fighting the battles that need to be fought right now — environmental, social, or economic — but recognizes the importance of self-care and retreat in staying strong and grounded. So, entrepreneurs, activists, explorers, filmmakers… I feel very honored that a lot of my founding customers are these people and that my clothing supports them in their work.

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

I did not study design formally so I lack a traditional framework or structure for designing things. For example, I only just discovered the concept of making mood boards, and I never do any kind of trend research. Leading up to the design process, I tend to get repeated signals from conversations or experiences around me that something needs to get made: a topic will keep coming up, or my eye will keep returning to a certain material or object or cut — and eventually it just culminates into a clear vision of what needs to get created. Once this sets in, the actual creative process requires that I step back from my day-to-day computer work surrounding other parts of the company and go into a kind of unconscious creative zone where my hands take over.

What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

For me, sustainable fashion means valuing things. It means valuing the labor, energy and resources that goes into what we buy. From that true sense of value, I think a lot of sustainable practices follow naturally… you buy less, you buy things that harm the planet and people less, and you use what you have for longer and with greater care.

Your brand is all about inner peace, beauty and strength. How do you stay balanced whilst working as a designer in New York City?

My mornings are really really precious to me. Having a hour or so in the morning that is completely quiet, offline and undisrupted is very important. I usually will meditate or take a bath, then do some personal writing with recordings of teachers that are important to me in the background. I’ve been listening to this one series of dharma talks by this zen master on repeat since January… it really helps sets the tone for the day. When I stop doing this and just jump right into my emails or day, it catches up with me and I start to feel like I am losing the inspiration and integrity behind what I am doing.

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

Well, right now, I practically live in a black turtleneck, with either black leggings or these vintage Pleats Please trousers, and Arjuna underwear and hand guards. Its kind of cliche, but its what I feel the most comfortable in and what works for my lifestyle. If I lived outside of New York though, like in the country, I would probably want to live in a super soft, worn out pink tee shirt dress…

Finish this sentence. Simplicity is:

Space.

TARA ST JAMES

As clothing designers, we’re fascinated by what other creative people are doing around us. So we decided to ask some questions. Welcome to our first Designer Q+A, a space where we’ll be featuring other makers from Brooklyn and beyond.

Since our initial conception in 2013, Tara St James of Study has been a sort of acting mentor / big sister to us and we’re so honored to have her as our first interviewee.

About Tara:

Tara is the founder and creative director of Study – an ethical contemporary womenswear label based in Brooklyn, NY. They make seasonless clothing locally and ethically without subscribing to the traditional fashion calendar. Tara is also the production coordinator and a research fellow at Pratt Institute’s new endeavor, The Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator – a space that provides designers with the resources they need to transform their ideas into successful businesses.

What does the name Study mean?

The name was born of a desire I had to really examine my production process and focus on a different technique every season. That began with zero waste patternmaking, then progressed to weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, pleating, etc… Now that I’m no longer producing seasonal collections I still focus on different techniques but I spread that focus over several months rather than each edition. I knew very young that I wanted to design clothes and work in fashion. I studied menswear in college because I liked the rigid structure of tailoring. I still apply a lot of those principles to my womenswear designs. Another underlying principle I learned from studying menswear – though it was not mentioned outright – was a disregard for trendy items, with a focus on craftsmanship, fit and longevity of wear. I started my career working in the denim industry, then worked for larger fast fashion brands in Montreal and New York. I left my last job designing a high street brand called Covet and started Study. I started Study at a time in my career when I was very frustrated with fast fashion and mass production. With Study, we wanted to not just source sustainable materials but also produce them locally. There is a bit of a disconnect between sourcing sustainable materials and then producing garments in a large factory in China. I had a lot of experience sourcing sustainable materials through previous roles, however, producing the clothing locally was something completely new for me, very different, but a really enjoyable experience. I love being so hands on. We have also looked at our business model and want to provide an alternative to fast fashion and the traditional fashion calendar. We have moved away from seasonal collections, which never made sense to me. We now provide monthly editions and develop a few new pieces for the months ahead. This has been a great change for me and the stores love it as they are getting new stock in that is relevant to the time of year and can really build a collection.

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

I don’t really. I like putting my work out into the world and seeing who is drawn to it and why as I find those people very varied and that’s fascinating to me.

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

I always start by choosing my fabrics and then I let the fabrics dictate what they want to become. Of course I often have silhouettes in mind, for example I know if I want to make a jumpsuit or a coat, but usually the silhouette is in the back of my mind and the fabric comes first. That’s one of the reasons I really like knitwear, because it allows me to create my own fabrics.

What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

This is the definition I find to be the most accurate: “Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won’t deplete resources or harm natural cycles” (Rosenbaum, 1993)

I have a checklist of sustainability tenets, and on my blog. If I can check off at least 3 items from the list with each garment, then I will consider it sustainable and therefore eligible to be branded Study. But checklist aside, I don’t believe another human, animal or the environment should have to suffer for fashion. It’s as simple as that. A majority of my production is done in New York City’s garment center. I use only organic or sustainable textiles (organic cotton, hemp, recycled poly, linen and peace silk). I also work with fair trade and co-op based factories in Peru and India who pay fair wages and work to sustain traditional weaving and knitting techniques while providing income for indigenous populations. Fashion is art in my opinion. But to some cultures clothing is just a means of protection from the elements. There is such a huge gap between how first and third world nations view clothing and design. Ethical fashion has the ability to bridge that gap by providing developing nations with a market for their traditional craft techniques and a sustainable business opportunity.

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

This jumpsuit.

Complete this sentence. Simplicity is:

Not having to choose one value over another. Also, unfortunately, not my reality.