One half of the dynamic ethical fashion label, Feral Childe’s Alice Wu, chats with EcoSalon for an inside discussion on their work as made in New York City designers.
Designing all their prints by hand, the bi-coastal team, Moriah Carlson, in Brooklyn, and Alice Wu, in Oakland, are never short of eye-catching designs, easy feminine silhouettes and intelligent ethical values. We sat down with Alice Wu of Feral Childe to talk about their carefully sourced fabrics, ethical production and why having a keen eye for practicality matters for sustainability.
Juliette Donatelli: Feral Childe is best known for its prints and fabrics. Where are the prints made and is there a story behind them?
Alice Wu: Some of the prints are done right in Los Angeles. We use a sample dye house in Marin so we work with our dye guy to create the sample palette for the season. We have our printer print one color and do different dye lots. The same fabric comes out different ways so you get a nice tonal range.
This one is actually printed in Korea. So our silks come from either Korea or India. It depends on what fabric our suppliers have on offer. Everyone has different specialties and fiber qualities. We used a silk linen which was really nice. And for a really vibrant silk, this is digitally printed on a silk cotton.
So we make the image and then we try to find the right fabric partner to do it. Then you have to wrestle with the fabric to make it into the garment. But we try to make it fun altogether.
JD: And all the clothes are made in NYC?
AW: Yes, all the clothes are made either in midtown sewing facilities or we also have started working work sewing contractors in Sunset Park.
JD: When you have a buyer, or the general public come in and see the collection or see the clothing in a store, and then find out they are made in NYC, is that a selling point?
AW: It is. I think people like it. I think it is really wonderful to know the person who made your clothes, to say hello, and thank you for cutting my fabric and putting it together. It adds a very personal touch to something you are going to be wearing for a long time. That is something that is very important to Moriah and me–to try to work with people we can interface with. Even my fabric supplier from India I have met. The first time we worked together was over email, but about a year later he came to New York on business and we met up. It was really wonderful to put a face to all the email correspondences.
JD: How important is it to you to think about where and what fabrics you are using?
AW: For us it is very important to consider materials and where they come from at all steps of the design process. It is choosing materials that have meaning.
In the beginning, whether that meant discovering Garment District castoffs or remnant fabrics, we like to have a story to go along with the fabrics we find. Even though we aren’t necessarily working with remnant fabrics right now–we are creating our own–it is still important for us to have personal connections with the fabric suppliers that we are in contact with each season and to know as much as we can about where the fabrics are coming from, whether they are durable, and are they easy to care for.
It is less important that it is specifically organic — but we try to use organic whenever possible just because it is better for everybody. But for example, even though this is not organic cotton, [this fabric] is woven in Japan working with a small mill that has restored all this vintage production equipment. So you could say it is more of an artisan fabric or made by people who really care.
For instance, take [a product] blend of modal, cotton and polyester. There was a time where I thought, ‘I am never going to make anything with polyester again, I am only going to use natural fibers.’ But if there is a little bit of poly blended with natural fibers it sometimes helps to make the garment withstand more wear and tear. You can throw it in the washing machine, or we have customers that are vegan but want to look nice. So there are lots of things to consider. But we certainly want to make things to treasure.
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images: photographed by Jonathan Hökklo for the brand