Atelier Doré/Trunk Archive
Emily Adams Bode is an artist. Sure, clothes may be her medium, but to call her a fashion designer would be to undervalue the craftsmanship that goes into her pieces. Bode, the brand, is born from Bode, the woman, and her love of fabrics with a story. She’ll make jackets out of old milk-bottle caps or cigarette-burned bed quilts—anything that was produced to be discarded but, for whatever reason, stuck around.
“I grew up antiquing in and around the South and in New England, where my parents are from,” says Bode. “We sewed and made collages regularly; I thought that was normal.”
While the fashion world is saturated with clothes not meant to last longer than a season, Bode’s work is intended as more than an impulse purchase. The fabrics she uses—antique quilts, old lace tablecloths, vintage saris—are far from the synthetics of fast fashion, and people are noticing. Her designs won her runner-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2018 and, in 2019, the CFDA Award for Emerging Designer of the Year.
A lot of brands, clothing and beyond, fall back on the term “storytelling” as something that makes them different. The clothes tell a story. The collection has a narrative. But Bode doesn’t need these marketing grabs for attention; by nature of her creative process, the story is built in. Usually she begins with a concept, finding a character somewhere in her life— like her uncle’s mother, or Homer, her longtime quilt dealer, who’s a former botanist—and understanding his or her personal history. Sometimes she already has fabric stocked that she knows will fit the theme. Other times—her favorite way of working—she has the theme in place, then goes out to source fabric to fit it.
“What I love most is taking the collection and going out to find stuff that works with it temporally, tonally, or seasonally. I want people to understand that their cultures are made up of all these different cultures,” she says. “I want to educate about the history of textiles and history of crafting.” She has various ways of sourcing the fabrics, often through thrifting or through the army of quilt and antique-textile dealers she’s amassed across the world.
The actual fashion design comes after—generally a simple, boxy fit of a shirt or pants. Bode doesn’t do much draping, the way her colleagues might. She’s not much concerned with the mainstream way of doing things.
Bode has the same approach toward sustainability, which she also dismisses as a marketing ploy. She might not preach it, but it’s intrinsic to her way of working. Upcycling fabrics, after all, is more sustainable than making something new.
“We’re thinking about [sustainability] all the time because we are creating clothing from non-antique fabrics as well as the antique ones,” Bode says. “Construction of the new stuff is where you find issues with sustainability.”
Those issues can occur at any point in the manufacturing process. Her solution: work with people you trust. Bode has put years into establishing relationships with textile experts, mills, and fabric vendors, all of whom meet the standard of sustainability to which she holds her brand.
But scaling sustainably is notoriously difficult. Preserving the integrity of the fabrics, the intricate methods of repair (like quilting and patchwork), and the connection to the end garment often devolves as a company grows. Bode isn’t worried about it a bit.
“There’s so much [opportunity] out there for historical and antique textiles,” she says. “Not just to use it itself but to work from it. We can learn mending and embroidery techniques from them.”
Bode also plans to maintain a fully functioning e-commerce site to provide a home for all her goods, as well as for historical context about the sourcing of the fabrics. Maybe one day she’ll hire an archivist to really dig into and present the history of the fabrics. Maybe the brand will get its own storefront, providing the in-person experience Bode herself craves when it comes to seeing, feeling, and experiencing new clothes. Wherever the brand goes, whatever her space turns into, she’ll deal with it as it comes. She’s never been afraid of giving old things new life.
This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2019 Big Black Book
Source : Esquire