Feral Childe – Interview

Feral Childe is a collaborative womenswear line by designers Alice Wu of Oakland, California and Moriah Carlson of Brooklyn, New York.  The design team works bi-coastal, with the actual manufacturing of the garments done in NYC.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Feral Childe recently and would love to share a little of that conversation with our readers.  Following the interview is a sneak peek at Feral Childe’s spring 2011 Tarquinia Collection.

* First, let me thank you both, Alice and Moriah, for taking the time to talk with us today.

FC: Thank you for getting in touch with Feral Childe!

* I understand that the two of you met at Wellesley College. When did you realize your artistic talent would lead you into the world of design and fashion ?

FC: We didn’t start out planning to be fashion designers. We were both always interested in making our own clothes, but we really were trained as artists. We both did printmaking, and Moriah made paintings and collages; Alice was doing sculpure, video and performance. After college graduation, we became each other’s artist support network. In our conversations we discovered that we shared many of the same ideas about color and silhouette, and it seemed natural to try some collaborative projects. We made some drawings and prints together, put them on fabric, and created first some sculptural objects and then clothing. These were first shown in galleries in both exhibitions and performances, and then people started to ask where they could buy the clothes. Around that time someone struck up a conversation with Alice on the subway about the outfit she was wearing and said that her friend was opening a store and we should get in touch. We had no plans for a line at that time so we just made up a name for our collaboration, IT’S AN EXCITING TIME TO BE ME, and showed the store owner a group of clothes we had made and stuck in some quickie labels with our new name. The store was Patch 155 on Rivington Street, before the Lower East Side had any other boutiques. From there it snowballed and here we are today as FERAL CHILDE.

*  Working bi-coastal can have drawbacks, do the two of you keep similar hours and work habits  ?

FC: We start each collection together with a marathon creative session where we draw, discuss, hang out and try to make the most of our limited time together. We make sure to eat and drink well, listen to good music, hike and do yoga and other fun things that are important for inspiration. In this design development stage we work on the textile prints together, choose our fabrics and colors, and make preliminary design sketches. We might do some draping and we also spend time critiquing the last collection we made. When we return to our respective coasts, we divvy up the tasks to prepare for samplemaking. We order our sample yardage, prepare the textile artwork for the printer, and start refining the sketches and working on first samples. It is definitely a challenge being on opposite coasts but it has trained us to be better communicators. Actually, Moriah is an early bird, and Alice is an night owl so with the 3-hour time difference we are practically a 24-hour operation!
We check in with each other by phone and email throughout the day. Moriah takes care of production and Alice does sales and marketing, but our roles and tasks sometimes overlap and we are always consulting one another. We also do videochats and send plenty of photos and scans back and forth, and we’ll mail each other fabric swatches and samples as well throughout the process. There are always difficult design decisions to make especially with trims and finishings, and it is important for us to make these decisions together.

*  Your collections are beautiful, I don’t think I could pick a favorite, I love them all. Each collection has a definite inspiration, what is Tarquinia’s ?

FC: We hope to tell a story with each collection. For Spring 2011 Tarquinia, we looked to the ruins of ancient civilizations. Tarquinia is the name of an old Roman city known for its Etruscan frescoes and mosaics. We created watercolor collages for new digitally printed silks depicting divers, revelers, and artisans. The fabrics are lasercut, looped and pleated into a wearable catalog of amphora, fish, birds and plant life in earthy and vibrant colors.

*  The spring 2011 Turbine Trouser from the Tarquinia collect is to die for, and the sleeveless field dress – that collar – Oh Ladies Please ! ! (laugh)  To say I love it is an understatement. Everything is of sustainable materials correct, and all aspects are done domestically right ?

FC: We try to use the most sustainable materials we can find. This means organic cotton, Tencel, and hemp blends; we also use silks for many of our prints since digital printing isn’t water intensive and is more efficient with the dyes than traditional fabric printing. Another option is to use vintage deadstock or surplus fabrics leftover from other manufacturers. Sometimes we’ll use these fabrics as is, but we have also given them new life by overdyeing or overprinting.  All of our clothes are cut and sewn in New York City in small, family-owned factories. Many of our suppliers and contractors are in the historic Garment Center where in a five-block radius you can get everything done from pleating to pressing.

*  Even your buttons are handmade ?

FC: In past collections the buttons were cast resin. We hand-carved the original design and then cast them in molds. Each button had to be sanded and polished individually! In the last couple of collections we began to use tagua nut (also known as vegetable ivory) buttons. It’s a gorgeous and much more environmentally-friendly alternative to the plastic. The designs are still drawn out by hand but now a laser etches the design into the buttons.

*  I would like to thank you both on a personal level for making eco designs affordable.

FC: Thank you, we believe that fashion is for everyone!

*  Thank you both again for spending some time with me and providing a look into Feral Childe.  Oh, by the way, we really love the name !

FC: Thank you for reaching out to Feral Childe!

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Feral Childe can be reached via the web at www.feralchilde.com

or on Twitter @feralchilde

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