An inside look at the designer’s latest collection
emily adams bode
Emily Adams Bode loves a good story. That’s why each garment from her fashion label Bode has its own narrative quite literally woven into its fabric. The Atlanta-born designer launched her burgeoning menswear brand in 2016, gaining attention for her reconstructions of one-of-a-kind historical textiles and vintage fabrics to create workwear silhouettes. Inspired by childhood visits to antique flea markets, malls and New England fairs with her mom and aunts, Bode found a love of sourcing unique fabrics and patterns early on. “I was always intrigued by these oral histories that I was sourcing,” she says. “I would learn just from looking up a fabric and it’s become more and more important for me to preserve these histories and to implement them into my work.” While collections have a through-line in the preservation of craft and historical techniques in fashion, Bode uses new methods of technology, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, to continuously discover and transform rare materials that allow for the creation of these intimate and timeless pieces.
In her New York studio, 1920s French bed linens, grain sacks from the South and century-old quilts become one-of-a-kind antiquarian shirts, wool trousers, corduroy jackets and kimonos. It’s evident that Bode is using once forgotten textiles and her skilled team of artisans to create a poignant sense of nostalgia within her clothing. With that, she provides a striking counter balance to a predominantly streetwear-heavy menswear space. Her sensibilities, combined with her utilization of technology including the Galaxy Z Flip, allow the designer to communicate her singular vision with stakeholders. As an entrepreneur moving at breakneck pace, she can quickly share digital moodboards and communicate work orders through video calls with other members of her team and specialized factories around the world to keep age-old techniques, fabrics and stories alive.
Visiting Bode on set for a photoshoot for her Senior Corduroy collection shows off this distinctive mashup of old and new. HYPEBEAST joined the designer inside her recently-opened retail space where the hinged phone played a key role in the production. The Galaxy Z Flip’s flexibility fit seamlessly into Bode’s workflow, allowing her to position the device at multiple angles that play with perception and use the distinctive selfie features to see how certain fabrics work together. Here, she shares the inspiration behind the collection, the intricacies of her designs and how she uses the multi-tasking phone to turn her vision into a reality.
Originally when I entered fashion, I thought I was going to do children’s wear. I didn’t really think of myself as a menswear designer until I did a project in school. I had no interest [in designing womenswear] because it was too much like designing for myself and it’s more intriguing to me to design for someone outside of myself. And I had always been inspired by menswear — I always bought it and wore it. I was more prone to buy vintage workwear than women’s stuff.
Growing up in the South, I shopped a lot. We had a couple of antique malls and these big fairs that I would buy vintage and antiques with my mom and my aunts as a kid. One of them had a ton of American gym clothes from the 1950s and American sportswear. I would dress my boyfriends and I collected vintage clothes. Since I can remember, my closet’s been entirely vintage. That’s where that aesthetic came from.
The goal is that you could take a picture of our guy in the clothes and not necessarily be able to place him in any era. So our focus is on the preservation of craft and of historical techniques and the narratives around these techniques. For something like what we shot here today, the Senior Corduroy collection is an ongoing classic in different seasons using the same silhouette. I’m not sure what we’d call it.
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Yes! It’s become a staple of the brand. The narrative is around this really cool era: the late 1800s through the 1900s ending around 1960, 1970. At Purdue University, the seniors were drawing on their cords to commemorate their collegiate life and it could be quite intimate or it could be inside jokes or it could be my class schedule or the professors I had.
I had been collecting those for awhile. I have a couple pairs and I really wanted to find a way to allow people to be a part of this tradition again. So we started doing it made-to-order where clients would place an order for their jackets, trousers or shorts. I would interview them and some of the interviews were 30 minutes and some were two hours. It was really incredible and people wanted to illustrate feeling some of their childhood memories but they also wanted to illustrate a lot of idealistic, dream-states. For example, a car that I was obsessed with as a kid but I never actually owned. It’s the anecdotal memories that a lot of people wanted to illustrate — the little instances that would otherwise be lost or forgotten, like stamps on their grandfather’s passport or family photos. We have a couple of drawers that we employ who can do photorealistic drawings and it’s so wonderful.
Each collection is inspired by a personal narrative of someone who I have a close relationship to and their understanding of their relationship to objects. So their emotional relationship to objects is akin to either how I feel or there’s some sort of connectedness between myself and the person. This past collection was inspired by conversations with Benjamin Bloomstein, a collaborator of mine who is the co-founder of Green River Project. He has this really beautiful life story around education and his educational experience is so different than anyone else I know. So, I sourced certain textiles because there was a focus primarily on his childhood and these really historic ideas of reuse in the Shakers Community. It was about looking at historical techniques and fabrics that have a narrative of reuse and self-sufficiency.
We use technology to learn more about our fabrics as well as preserving and archiving each individual piece that we make. We have a retail store and two floors in a building so instead of passing around moodboards, we can communicate within our studio environment on the inspiration. The multitasking feature [on the device] really caters to our workflow on set because our Head of Drawing, Aayushi Khowala, was able to reference our email chain and her outside imagery at the same time.
For me it’s more about changing people’s preconceived notions of masculinity. A big part of the brand is that it’s menswear made from female centric ideas, so it’s menswear made from domestic textiles that often have a female hand in the making of — that’s usually embroideries or darning or quilting, even mending. And I think there’s an emotive response to our collections because our male customer hasn’t really had that in another brand before. Bode is so much about changing the consumer mindset about materials and the overall material culture.
So we’ve been working with a lot of factories to reproduce historical techniques utilizing layouts and stitching, for example. Oftentimes the processes for producing a lot of these historical type of textiles no longer exist or parts for them don’t exist, so it’s about how do we reinterpret the way that this was originally manufactured with new technology to produce a fabric that is comparable and has the same quality and feel as something that existed before.
Right! And being thoughtful through our design practice and process. When I first entered into the fashion industry, a lot of the ways that we were dyeing and printing, it just wasn’t very thoughtful. So now it’s looking to technology to help us make better thoughtful decisions.
We just opened the store in November. We had been looking for spaces and all of the spaces were long and skinny, like railroad style. My friend Todd walked by this space and he was like, I found this really weird space — it was a gallery at the time. It was like a white box and [the tenant] decided to move out and we gutted the whole place. The guys from Green River Project — Aaron [Aujla] and Ben [Bloomstein] — designed the entire store and imagined this for me. We actually had another friend of ours come in and, when he first saw the store, he was like, “there’s no way that the person or the people that did this are not really close to you because it’s not something that could just be built from moodboards or something.”
Head to Samsung’s website to learn more about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and how it’s allowing designers, like Emily Adams Bode, to be a creative force from sourcing sustainable fabrics to changing the tide in menswear fashion.