Tell us about your history in art and how it inspired you to become a designer.
The truth is that I really resisted being an artist. I had a preconceived notion that I should be a pro at something. I was always inclined to art, but for some masochistic reason I tortured myself into a job I imagined was more impressive than the creative path. How naive I was! Sitting at a table day after day made me feel like I was dying. I would go home and sew clothes. Making clothes was practical, and the best way to share my aesthetic – everyone has to dress, but you can not carry your paintings on their backs to express who you are. People were very receptive to the things I wore. It was so clear that I was being pushed towards design, and at one point, I gave up and committed myself completely to Bohemia. I also did not like the word “designer” – it seemed so such a trashy term, so I tried to be different. I wanted to do things, not just draw them, so I learned and persisted. I understood that I experienced the world in a physical way, with my hands, through the process and creation. One thing is clear – I did not choose this path, there just came a time that doing anything else seemed like a lie.
Usually I’m not looking for inspiration, I’d rather let the materials inform me. If I’m working with an old fabric, I try not to think too hard and do my best to highlight the beauty of the piece. My unconscious memory has a very strong role.
How do you define style?
It’s cliché, but for me, style is not really about what you’re wearing, but how comfortable it is on your own skin. I like to say about Bohemia’s woman: “No matter what you think, she’s having fun.” It’s all about trust. I always attract myself for people wearing boots and a T-shirt and messy hair and a smile that knows exactly who she is, than for a girl wearing expensive shoes and perfect nails and all that – forget it! This is not interesting and not original to me. At the end of the day, it’s not about polishing, it’s about essence.
I think people feel the emotions and stories that I put in pieces and connect with the human side of my work, the messy vitality of it all. I’ve never done a PR so I’m lucky that people who connect with my work really understand the story behind it and do not want to put in a more brilliant and professional packaging. I also think my job is fun, I do not take fashion seriously, it has to be cheerful. I think more and more people are feeling it.
We live in a time of ephemeral consumption; how do you implement sustainable alternatives in your day-to-day?
There are a few ways to do this. First of all, I do not use factories. Everything is produced in my studio with my assistants – there is no source in China or India, no production line. My hands touch each piece, and the hands write each label. It’s a much slower way of doing business, I produce far fewer pieces than other brands, but to me, it’s a better way to work. We do less and actually encourage our customers to buy less, and buy better and use forever. The time and care put into each piece means they will last longer – the idea is to use for all your adventures and give to your daughter one day.
“Thailand has a place in my heart. When I lived in Asia, I often traveled there. This lush jungle and pristine beach in Phuket, and Bangkok is one of my favorite cities because it seems foreign and welcoming at the same time. Morocco is also at the top of my list – the first time I went there, it was like visiting a memory, I felt strangely at home. The colors, the tiles, and carpets! The donkeys! Even the men in the souk called me ‘Fatima’. I decided that it should be part of one of my past lives that made me evoke such a strong sensory memory. If I can choose just one more then it has to be Tuscany. The best time I spent in Lucca, where the greatest question was “What’s for lunch?”
What is your favorite summer getaway?
I grew up on the beaches of Block Island which was quite rustic and pristine – almost half of the small island is protected by nature so there are no chain stores and many constructions are not allowed. It was only bare feet and bikes and great waves and cliffs. When I first went to the Hamptons, I was so shocked to see so many people there and how everyone dressed up in a chic way! That, for me, is not a vacation. Block Island has more population now, but it remains my favorite spot in the summer with so many memories of jumping in waves and living slowly and simply.
Who are your favorite artists these days?
There are many I admire – actually I started to produce clothes while I was looking for my MA in Art History, when I should be writing my dissertation in The Bohemians of Post-War Paris. I was studying these images of Giacometti and Kahlo and Breton and thinking how amazing their clothes were! Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, Juan Miro, Richard Avedon and Picasso are my favorites of the past. In the contemporary sphere, my great friend and collaborator, Antoinette Wysocki, is the best Expressionist painter, we exchange messages about what we are working on for feedbacks daily. Peter Beard’s work takes me to the moon. I am also a great admirer of the architect Thomas Heatherwick – he really sees the world in a different way, and his structures evoke childhood wonders in me.
Some of your favorite places in New York?
Bohemian – the coolest secret restaurant with the most divine Japanese food.
Balthazar – Where to go when you want to feel like a queen and eat the best steak tartare and pretend you are in Paris
Estela – The most delicious and welcoming dishes to share.
Wild Air – Amazing tapas.
Sel Rose – Best place for evening drinks in mild weather. You can almost pretend you are in Venice.
Kiki’s – My favorite octopus.
Union Market – When I’m not sewing, I’m cooking! This is my favorite market that has all the basics and special foods like ferns and lychees and the freshest fish. It is not too big or full of things, just perfectly curated.
Body Works at St. Marks – Lucy does the best Chinese massage. She does not speak English but has really healing and intuitive hands.
Yoga to the People (St. Marks) – Without mirrors, without pretension, a community of Yoga based on donations. That is my favorite Yoga place in the city.
Tabwa – The most amazing store with new and vintage fabrics, collected in India, Africa and beyond.