In the fall of 2010, there were two new arrivals in the Substance shop, me, and the line Feral Childe. A rapturous post by (recently published!) Cate illustrates our excitement with the then-new line. It wasn’t a passing fancy: Christina still rocks the Gamma Shift every so often, and in the fall of 2011, I wrote about our deepening admiration for the eco-chic line. This spring brought their bright and innovative spring collection, The Aquaknots, to our storefront — and to me it brought the great pleasure of interviewing the talented ladies behind Feral Childe.
Many thanks to Alice Wu and Moriah Carlson for their inspiring words and gorgeous creations!
What three words would you use to describe Feral Childe?
Printastic! Optimistic! Futurific!
What garments do you find yourself favoring, both in your collections and in your own wardrobes? What elements or details set these pieces apart from the rest? Care to divulge what your all-time favorite pieces are?
Moriah: Our Shoal Shift in black Cupro is going to win for year-round wardrobe staple because you can layer it with a slim tee like our Radio or Rabbits Tee, but go sleeveless for summer. I like to wear Tidal Dress with our Finlandia Jean and will see how far I get into the summer months before it just gets too hot! The Cupro is a mill-end fabric and has a bit of a fishnet-like texture to it, which is in keeping with our Spring 2012 Collection’s undersea theme. The vertical seaming detail has a lengthening effect, and wraps into a cap sleeve. You have to really look at it to figure out how it’s put together. Another go-to piece is the Feral Childe Admiral’s Jacket — we do a version of a blazer every season. Admiral’s Jacket comes in an Italian glazed linen or Hempcel (a blend of Hemp and Tencel). The Jacket is unstructured with smart, tailored details that keep it slim looking. Great for travel, chilly nights or a super AC’d office.
Alice: I like to mix things up, so when I’m not in head-to-toe Feral Childe I love to see how many outfits I can build around my latest find. I got these amazing navy blue Japanese bloomers. In the fall/winter months, I wore them with our Radio Tee or Rabbits Tee tucked in, topped with our Berlioz Blazer and a neckerchief. Plus knee highs and ankle boots. It’s my Little Lord Fauntleroy look. We worked hard to perfect the fit of our Blazer — it’s waist-defining, always a different shaping detail on the lapel, and a great lining fabric or seam binding with our print. The construction and finishings are the toughest design decisions to make but these are the details people wind up loving. And we always want to make the buttons fun — for the past several seasons, we’ve been using tagua buttons etched with our drawings — you might get a rabbit, a face or harp on your jacket; you never know! Anyway, this spring, I’m obsessed with the nerdy sailorette look: I tuck in our Shrimper Tee into the same bloomers. Goes great with our Spring 2010 Pocket Cardigan. Socks again, plus some clog-style loafers.
One of my all-time favorite pieces is a sample from our Fall 2007 Collection “Canadian Alphabet.” We made a men’s version of our denim houndstooth-printed Moto Jacket. It’s lined in fleece, has a stand-up collar with resin log-shaped beads we made. The jacket is slouchy and oversized, and goes with everything. I also really get a kick out of making outfits combining pieces from all different collections we’ve done over the years.
I’ve read in various sources that your careers are based in a studio art background. Do you feel that this influence is what sets you apart from other designers? How does it affect your day-to-day process, as well as your long term goals?
Our design process has always been influenced by our art background. While we’re meeting more and more individual fashion designers who come from fine arts as well, we haven’t met many design duos in which both partners have the art background as we do. We collaborate on every design decision, which in itself is a challenge we find intellectually exciting. All the artistic disciplines we started out doing individually — drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, performance, photography, and so on — have taken on important roles in Feral Childe, from the textile designs to the shapes and garment construction details we are known for, to the branding and marketing materials that help get the product out into the world.
From the start, we shared similar aesthetic interests and the philosophy of exploiting the possibilities of whatever materials happen to be available. In the artist’s studio, we were always improvising. As designers, we want to take something and make it better (i.e., what would make for an interesting jacket?). A large part of our design conversations involve editing, paring down something to its most essential elements. We make all of these decisions as a team. The Feral Childe look has everything to do with creating a particular voice that is ever-evolving, ever-changing.
Here at Substance, sustainability and thoughtful production are as important to us as beautiful design. We know this is a priority for you as well — can you tell us about the most effective or exciting measures you have taken to make ethical garments?
Community-building has been key. Without our network of suppliers, contractors, designer colleagues, and the retailers who support us, it would be impossible to source more sustainable fabrics, find reputable service providers to work with and reach our customers so we can keep doing what we do! Our relationships have saved us in a pinch when fabric has run out or a factory has closed, enabled us to travel the world and reach new audiences, and given us so many opportunities that we couldn’t have even imagined when we started out. Using sustainable fabrics, paying fair wages, producing locally, and avoiding waste are all important aspects of ethical production, but we also believe taking an active role in sharing resources to support those around us can be one of the most effective ways to make more ethical garments.
What icon, past, present, real or fictional, would you most like to dress in your creations?
Toughie. So many women, so little time. Maybe we’d start with Madame de Pompadour. Patti Smith. Alice B. Toklas.
In a subsequent email, Alice asked me to add Jo March to that fantastic list. Having read Little Women over a dozen times since I first picked it up at the age of 9, that will probably go down in history as my all-time favorite postscript. Thanks again, ladies — we can’t wait to see what you create next fall!