Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meet the Designers: Feral Childe

We are so excited for our upcoming trunk show!!  One of our fave brands, Feral Childe, is going to be here this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  We chatted with Moriah and Alice (the two creative gals behind the line) to see how they do what they do.
So, your design duo works "together", but you live on opposite coasts!  How does that work?
We make all of our creative decisions together, since Feral Childe is about being a creative collaboration. We're together when we start the new collections. We start every collection with a marathon session of designing the season's prints and sketching out new ideas. Last year, we actually started sketching for the Spring 2012 collection when we were visiting artists in Qatar! We spend about a week together, then return to our respective coasts. We divvy up the tasks and start preparing the prints and designs for sampling, then we come together again when we're ready for another round of designing and editing. In the meantime we communicate by phone, email, and iChat, and it's fun to send each other packets of fabric swatches and drawings.  With trunk shows, trade shows and other events scheduled throughout the year we've never had to go for more than a couple of months without seeing each other face to face. We've been doing the bi-coastal collaboration for about five years now and have developed a real rhythm and efficiency.
Both of you come from fine art backgrounds- what made you want to transition into clothing design?
Making clothes for ourselves started out as just another aspect of our creative practice.  We each had busy lives and a small budget for clothing and it was hard to find things we wanted to wear that would also transition from our day jobs to biking to the art studio to going to evening events. No time for wardrobe changes! So we learned to make clothes for ourselves, and sometimes we would get together to make some really wild things and talk about the projects we wanted to do. Soon we were invited to show these pieces in art galleries in performances and installations, and people wanted to buy the clothes. We had started out making everything as a one-of-a-kind, or we should say, two-of-a-kinds since there are two of us. Eventually there was enough demand that  clothing design was keeping us so busy that we wanted to make a commitment to our collaboration as Feral Childe.  We feel that fashion is an important means of communicating the self, and when we witnessed how happy and confident our clothes made our customers, we wanted to continue to make clothes and become better designers.  Although we are focused on clothing design, as Feral Childe, we have plenty of opportunities to indulge in different artistic media from drawing the prints to creating props for our photoshoots, and working with resin to sculpt crazy accessories, to name a few examples.
You create beautifully interesting prints; where do you draw inspiration for your textiles?
Thank you, we're glad you like our prints. All of our prints are generated with marks made by hand, or collaged elements. As we start the design process for each collection, we discuss the mood of what we'd like to be wearing, and work on creating prints to help us articulate just what we mean. Any digital processing is used just to prepare the artwork for the printers. It's really important to us that our images come from actual materials in the Feral Childe studio.  Bits and pieces leftover from past projects always find their way into our textile designs; we have an inspiration archive built from our years of friendship so bringing up a past conversation often sparks a new idea; we often look for ways to experiment with art processes to create accidental images.  Sometimes we only know how we want to make the print, and have no preconceived ideas about how it should look. In other instances, we try different methods to find the right way to depict a very specific motif. As much as possible, we try to physically work on each print together -- working together but on different sections of the same sheet of paper, combining our individually-drawn elements, filling in or erasing marks that the other person has made, and so on. The collaborative process itself keeps evolving and we find it intellectually exciting, especially when working two-dimensionally.

Sustainability seems like it is a big part of your design mission- why is it so important to you and what makes your pieces sustainable?
We want to grow Feral Childe as an ethical business, to be as kind to people and the environment as much as we can.  From the start of our art practice, it was important to make the most of the materials at hand, and avoid waste. So the fabrics and findings we used in our first pieces were remnants and mill-ends purchased downtown. We'd buy armloads of things that nobody else wanted, and we'd transform them by cutting things up, painting over existing prints, drawing on leather and vinyl with Sharpie pens, and the like.

When we shifted from making everything ourselves to having garments produced by a local contractor, we continued to source for mill-ends as well as reliable, continuous sources of fabrics. As we learned about production and the fabrics available on the market, we also learned how much damage the garment industry, especially the production of new clothing, causes to both people and the environment. We could not, in good conscience, choose certain fabrics knowing their human and environmental impact. So we looked for ethically-produced, more sustainable fabric options such as Tencel, organic cotton, hemp blends, recycled fibers, and again, mill-ends. Everything is sewn in New York City. It was important to support our local economy by working with local suppliers and contractors as much as possible, and to be a part of our community by sharing resources with our designer colleagues. We have very personal relationships with everyone we work with, including our retailers -- Arcadia has been supporting Feral Childe from nearly the very start of our wholesale collections! We want to make clothing that our customers will wear for many seasons to come, not disposable clothing. We talk more about our Sustainability principles on our website as well.  Everything in our studio is designed with sustainability in mind from the start, and must fulfill at least two of the criteria we have set for Feral Childe.

If you weren't designing, what else would you be doing?
Researching and writing the biography of an unsung American hero, volunteer work, painting and sculpture, decorating cakes, enjoying a sandwich.

Do you listen to music as you work?  What's your current favorite song/ album?
Depends on the mood: the soft murmur of NPR can be very relaxing, or the Goldberg Variations on repeat. Tuneyards on heavy rotation. Lately, can't get "Santa Fe" by Beirut out of my head, maybe because we've been there together.

We're psyched for warmer weather and brighter days in Philadelphia.  What do you love to do in CA and NY during the summer?

NY:  Biking across the Manhattan Bridge, people watching at Prospect Park, raising succulents, walking in the city on a breezy night.
CA: Hiking with friends and dog, backyard cookouts, gardening, driving along the coast, camping, drinking lots of iced coffee.

Thanks Moriah and Alice!!

See everyone at the trunk show!

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