The 10 Best New Garments by 10 Local Fashion Designers
Photo by Mika Loudon
Clive jacket by Miriam Reynolds, Clear Coated Rainwear, www.miriamreynolds.com
What it is: A retro-futuristic see-through raincoat, with floating snaps and seams finished with licorice-black trim, by last year's Stranger fashion-show superstar Miriam Reynolds. (In case you weren't there, her runway models went naked beneath the revealing outerwear: "I had to think long and hard about that. I called my grandmother to warn her.") In developing her casual-astronaut aesthetic, Miriam finds she is "accidentally inspired by Courrèges all the time"—a '60s designer known for crisp geometric silhouettes paired with mod accessories. Vinyl can't easily be folded, heat-pressed, or stretched. It'll just tear, melt, or buckle, respectively, so Miriam has to always be "thinking in clear" as she works. She constructed her earliest garments with shower curtains, but in subsequent bulk orders the material arrived troublingly "powdered, and smelling like chemicals," so she switched to storm-window film, and reinforces plackets and cuffs with a heftier version, used for boat-cushion slips.
Worth noting: The hood detaches, allowing the wearer a portability convenience for "protecting his perm."
Photo by Katie Dalzell
Mignon leotard by Katie Dalzell, www.katiedalzell.com
What it is: An art leotard inspired by taxidermy, animal cages, and messy love stories. It's named after the opera: Mignon is a dancing gypsy, and to free her from enslavement, a man buys her for himself. What happens next depends on the version. Either they hook up and move to a castle together or he rejects her, and she dies in his arms—but it's the same difference, somehow. To make this garment, Katie sculpted wire forms into shoulder pads and stitched a grid of pin tucks to the fabric, coarsening the floral print. A knit body means the overall fit is actually pretty comfortable, and the python-leather corset thong has a cotton lining, to promote everyday wear.
Worth noting: Katie is an experienced lingerie designer, and her commercial projects are dainty and elegant and pleasantly customary. On her own time, she made a sculptural bra entirely of metal, with dungeon-style breast cages and clumps of roses centered on like pasties. It's the perfect look for a music-box ballerina in a haunted room in a dilapidated mansion.
Photo by Sibyl Haynes
Elizabeth sweater by Sibyl Haynes, Knifty, www.sibylhaynes.com
What it is: A lattice-laced, drop-stitched concoction of hand-knit worsted wool and Juliet sleeves in panels, suggesting ribbons. As styled, the look recalls the time when you were a kid, and you were really into princesses and bright colors, and you were imagining what you'd wear once you got all grown up and pretty. Sibyl pulls inspiration from Renaissance and medieval periods' fashion happenings, though she doesn't use everything, which is just as well. (In the era's rawest times, bloodletting was trendy because it paled complexions; and codpieces doubled as pockets, smearing one's junk in coins.) Sybil's fun details and light-handedness make her garments rad: A knit hat has dangling ear guards, like ancient battle helmets, a top's shoulder stitching resembles armor, and a cardigan's two-tone puff-and-slash sleeves look like those worn by Snow White.
Worth noting: Sibyl's upcoming projects include a pair of jeans knit in bulky yarn—with all the pockets, belt loops, and gold topstitching, and maybe a zigzag metallic crochet to represent a front zipper.
Photo by Jordan Christianson
Spatterdashes spat set by Jordan Christianson, Jonquil & Mr. Black, www.jonquilandblack.com
What it is: Buckle-stirrup, lace-up, punch-trimmed spats made of spackled leather or a wheat-tone suede—all distressed and gorgeously crumbling. ("That's how the cow's cellulite reacts in the tanning process," Jordan says of the texture.) Spats were most popular a hundred years ago, in many styles. The low-slung tuxedo varieties were fanciest, with white linen and pearl buttons—while the knee-length military versions had heavy canvas and sturdy hardware to sexily cup the legs. Today's soldiers wear puffy nylon gaiters, secured by elastic. They function just as well, though each one looks like a "hacked-off windbreaker sleeve with a rubber band."
Worth noting: Jordan meticulously outfitted his Ballard work studio with daguerreotypes, stuffed ravens, antique furniture, and loads of old-timey images: hooded figures in the winter woods, mounted elk racks patterning a wall, and a Santa Claus mobile somebody's grandmother made—a dangling arrangement of red lips, disembodied eyes, and a beard of dirty white fur. "It's so gross and I love it. I'm never taking it down," says Jordan.
Photo by Webster Crowell
Solaris bra by Lenna Petersen, Öberg Innerwear, www.oberginnerwear.com
What it is: A tie-dye silk and stretch-mesh underwire long-line bra, vaguely inspired by Tarkovsky's 1972 sci-fi film of the same name. The former can be paired with matching high-waist panties to "make a full outfit," says Lenna. The latter is a swirling promenade of solemn replicants, dead scientists, secret space stations, and wonderful bits of dialogue: "Whenever we show pity, we empty our souls." Lenna also creates custom undergarments, in every size and style. Burlesque performers bring special challenges, she says—they usually have large breasts and want technical structures that'll properly dramatize them, such as bullet or overwire bras. (In these, the band largely carries the support and the cups float rigidly against the body—enabling the dancer to flash her side boobs whenever she snakes her torso.)
Worth noting: Commercial bras tend to have exaggerated cups, heavily padded into spherical domes "like babies' heads," even though the actual breasts they contain have "a height, a shape, a gravity, an apex," says Lenna. Correspondingly, popular breast implants are also "perfectly round" and "without differentiation in shape or slope," writes Alex Kuczynski in Beauty Junkies. Natural-looking tear-shaped implants do exist, but hardly anyone buys them. Customers' weirdly full upper breasts have become, according to Kuczynski, the "obvious indication that they have received breast implants, which are a badge of honor... and they find the cartoonish quality strangely appealing."
Photo by Kathryn Schuessler
Hand-made leather suitcase by Kate Connors, Cattle Press Leather, www.cattlepressleather.com
What it is: A hand-stitched cowhide suitcase, secured with antique horse-tack buckles and hand-stained from a homemade dye of rotting walnuts. To build her designs, Kate follows traditional North American leather-craft techniques. Another of her handbags is trimmed with an intricate calf-lace braid she replicated from an image in an anthropology book. Kate comes straight from New York City, though she lived in a teepee in Colorado for a few years, and today she resides in a gigantic, charmingly rundown tugboat docked in Ballard. Inside it resembles a trading post, with old wood and flannel blankets. A full deer pelt occupies her bedroom wall. She tanned it herself using blended deer brain: "It was gross at first but you get used to it."
Worth noting: Kate's background is in restoration, and she's worked in many museums with many materials: from wood, metal, and ceramic to rhinoceros skull, megalodon tooth, and freeze-dried bat, long extinct. "Its head had fallen off. I had to glue it back on."
Photo by Kelly O
Untitled poncho by Mark Mitchell, It's Mark Mitchell, www.itsmarkmitchell.com
What it is: An urban-witchwear luxury poncho made of leather and stretch wool from Mark Mitchell, an alumnus of last year's Stranger fashion-show. His was the ferociously enormous red dress that everyone loved the shit out of.
Worth noting: Mark's been researching burial garments lately. Sometimes it's just a basic wrapping, like a white shroud, he says, though funeral-supply stores online sell ritzier items. The women's selections look like prom-dress nighties, with high necks and long skirts playing off lace trim and filmy pastels. They open fully at the back, like hospital gowns, so they can be easily maneuvered onto the corpse. Mark prefers the "full-body sea burials, of course," though for an upcoming show at Lundgren Monuments, he's building an urn sculpture of silk-gauze ruffles. The ruffles are dip dyed and oven baked, then thickly gathered and clumped together to look like "rooster feathers, or underwater anemone." He wants to wear something similar to his own funeral: "I picture it being like a body bag, but more fitted. It'd be quite fabulous. It's fun to fantasize about."
Photo by Jeff at Monologue Photography
Seamed socks by Kim Strang, Im Strang, www.imstrang.com
What it is: Hand-loomed, knee-length, cotton socks with "just enough sheerness to get the fishnet across," peek-a-boo windows, and antique buttons. Why not pair them with kneeling and retro wear, for a Bananarama-meets-tawdry-George-Washington, catches-up-on-filing look? Designer Kim Strang sells the socks in Pike Place market. She studied under Seattle's esteemed knitwear magician Helen Sharp for a time.
Worth noting: Kim draws inspiration from the 1920s, a swirling promenade of hotsy-totsies with bound breasts and shocking bare knees. It's hard to understand how knees were such a big deal, but hemlines had shot suddenly up, and women thrilled in presenting this body part to the world. To draw even more attention, legwear became elaborate, with vivid colors, cutouts, and trinket adornments: tinkling bells and cameo brooches. Bubbling up from stockings' tops, knees were stark pink. (Flappers rouged them.)
Photo by Whitman Dewey Smith
Offset shirt by Scott Moy, email@example.com
What it is: A technical study in twisty geometry by Scott Moy, who's been sewing forever and enjoys "labor-intense, detailed projects" in his free time. He says, "I was thinking about center front and center back, and just how important they are," so he shifted these traditional pattern-making guides a couple of inches and observed the resulting pileup of obstacles. (Side seams can no longer adjust fit, for instance. And sleeves must be set in, unlike the standard construction.) Scott's other designs mix "traditional with absurd," such as a men's classic button-down with a splotchy ink-stain print artfully marring the bottom of the breast pocket. There's also a belt with many dangling shirttails affixed at the back, giving the illusion that the wearer is layered in clothing.
Worth Noting: Scott cites Junya Watanabe for Commes des Garçons as an influence, a designer known for his misshapen silhouettes and bizarre materials. In The New Yorker, Patricia Marx describes a Watanabe bodice "made from what looks like orange duct tape that has been hurriedly wielded by, say, an eBay seller or a lunatic."
Photo by Kelly O
By Nora Carria and Gabriel Chrisman, www.gabrielchrisman.weebly.com
What it is: A perfect duplicate of the silver lambskin DeLorean jacket presented to a team of journalists at an April '81 press launch. Maybe nine of these garments ever existed in the world, says archivist Gabriel Chrisman. After he encountered an original at a traveling DeLorean car show, he hired patternmaker Nora Carria to build one for his personal use. "It's basically a Members Only jacket," she says of its zip-front placket, in-seam pockets, elastic waistband, and stand collar.
Gabriel's DeLorean itself makes a great accessory. It's all "sharp edges and square bits," and behind the folding driver's seat rests a mini key-lock safe for hiding valuables. In its prime: a brick or two of uncut cocaine, probably. And some Orange Julius coupons.
Worth Noting: For another project, Nora made a cape from dismembered stuffed animals that once belonged to a client's son. After he grew up and moved away, his mother cut off the animals' tails and mailed them to him in a box, but she couldn't bring herself to throw the bodies out. Heads stack the cape's neckline and surround the wearer's face, reproducing a detailed scene Nora envisioned. It occurs in a still room, completely "filled with stuffed animals, so you're surrounded by them, and they're all staring out" and suddenly "you see this one human head among all the animal heads."
This story has been updated since its original publication.