Sunday, March 14, 2010

Q&A: Studio Visit w/ Dana Lee, NYC.

On a recent Saturday, I paid Dana Lee a visit in her new studio at the enviable south end of Crosby st(nearby is Ted Muehling, Saturdays, Derek Lam, Quality Mending Co. and next door is Tyler Hays' BDDW showroom). She's been there a while, moving studios a few times within the same building. This particular move is up to the top floor, the benefit of which is the presence of the skylights in her new place. Its a big move, bigger space and in a way, represents the large strides she's taken with her collection for FW10. I've always been a fan of hers, first A-Z, and now her eponymous line. With FW10, she's gone for it. All made in North America, one thing about Dana I've always appreciated was her fabric choices and fit. She has a knack for elevating the basics. And as I've taken note of over the past few seasons, outerwear. With this collection, she's been working with Cory Gomberg (of Greige and most recently, Bureau) and the combined talent has resulted in her strongest collection yet. I'm always excited to see what she's up to so I spent some time, looked through the racks, tried a few things on, landed a "modeling gig" and got her to answer some questions. Below, Dana talks about finding inspiration in plates, how FW10 came together and what we might expect for Spring...

Q: What's the story behind the FW10 collection? Inspiration, narrative who are you designing for, etc.
A: The AW10 collection can be traced back to a few single favorite items that permanently reside in our studio: a rare vintage tie made from rustic pheasant feathers, an old pair of Canadian Stanfield’s natural wool long johns, a set of colored enameled plates rescued from the recently-closed Syracuse China Factory, and some fresh rag cotton mittens.
Our objective for this collection was to provide value and longevity for the conscientious shopper, and also offer some designer soul and fashion appeal: clothing that feels poignant for the moment, but can also be worn for seasons. I’m not hung up on imposing head-to-toe looks. Most discerning men end up wearing what works for them- this is a great skill. The AW10 collection offers different scenarios for different types: there are some black ensembles, some earthy/olive/ecru ensembles, and also some statement-making pop colors: Pumpkin and Peacock. Our objective was to represent this diversity in our look book, choosing real people with diverse professions, but who are all tied into a similar New York lifestyle: Jimmy Seitang (of the Psychic Ills), Colin Tunstall (Art Director and co-owner of Saturdays), Mathew Bushell (painter and artitst in the Yale Graduate program), Jauretsi (Multi-talented Filmmaker), and one of my favorite online curators.
(yours truly)
Q: You've recently moved into a new space. It's really great. How important is your work environment? In terms of being an extension or even genus of the design process.
A: Thanks- this new space feels like a dream. Not over-the-top, but special. It has a real New York feel, with lots of exposed pipes, white painted bricks, and natural light from a large vaulted skylight. Most importantly, the dogs love it- tails wagging, all the time J Having a good space is about as important as having the right people to live with: if you plan to spend a significant amount of time somewhere or with someone, the combination should feel right so that ideas and good times can flow naturally. This season, our workspace was definitely a genus for the design process: this winter was so cold. I stayed in all the time. Literally, the AW10 collection stemmed from 4 inanimate objects inside studio, lol. In terms of being an extension of the design process: my workspaces have often been live/work and filled with pieces of past, present and future, naturally that oddly accumulate over time. Every piece has a function, however: an antique filing cabinet perfect for organizing dozens of textile invoices, trinkets that create a color palette, or empty coffee cups because we are too tired or busy to clean them up! A workspace can definitely be an extension of the design process.
Q:Let's get into the collection itself. There are some real stand outs, the waxed canvas/wool parka, the N1 deck jacket, the suiting pieces...Do you have favorites? Pieces you feel especially satisfied with?
A:Yes, my favorite pieces are the Over-dyed Hopsack Workshirts in charcoal and peacock, the Alpaca-lined Deck Jacket, and the Sheep-Shearling Jean Jacket. I like other pieces more and more as they are worn by different people. Jared Flint, Monocle editor, tried on the Sheep-Shearling Duffel Coat last week and it looked amazing on him. This 100% Shearling-leather coat is our highest price-point style, but it’s truly a good value outerwear piece: warm, lightweight, classic, with a versatile length. We are also pleased with our chino fit: a style that will be carried over for spring, having been a success on several body-types and heights. Our chino is a slim-easy fit with a nice taper and medium rise, made from high quality 2% stretch cotton. The fabric has good rigid body, and breaks nicely at the ankle. I like these styles because they make a statement, yet are not over-stylized. These are practical fall/winter pieces that someone can wear for several seasons. These are pieces that I’d feel good selling to a store or to a friend.
Q: talk about the provenance of the fabrics you're using for F/W10:
A: My design colleague, Cory Gomberg, has introduced some amazing fabrics to the collection. He has a real talent for fabric and texture- elements I covet. We have combined our sources and our using combination of domestic fabrics (waxed cotton, raw denim, denim broadcloth, and cotton jersey), Japanese fabrics (wool-cotton shirting and tweeds), premium merino wool jersey from New Zealand, and European Sheep’s Shearling.
Q: And the manufacturing, everything is made in North America, yeah? Tell me about the parka. It's like the UN of the bunch, fabrics and manufacturing from a number of different sources.
A: Haha, Yes. It is a duo-tone Parka: the bottom half made from Japanese tweed, the top half made from US waxed cotton. The hood is trimmed with Foxtail. The insulated lining is a classic military onion quilt that we custom-developed in Canada. The in-set cuffs are made-to-spec tubular rib, knitted by the single remaining rib producer for the US Army. All the components are assembled in the USA to make one happy Jacket.
Origin aside, they are all great quality components that just look right.Which is why we choose them.
Q: Have you begun to think about the next collection? Any ideas as to the narrative/inspiration? What might we expect?

A: Palms and desert. Soft casual utilitarian… SS11 is well on it’s way J
Q: Anything I forgot? Parting words?
A: James, did you leave your watch at our studio?
(Dana, if it’s a vintage Rolex Milgauss, then yes, yes I did.)

(It's been a while since the last Dirty Dozen. It'll become a more regular feature in the coming months.)


Unknown said...

The question is, though: who is going to stock this stuff? Wh's stocking her spring stuff? It's hard to find!

jeremy said...

wow. great post. i sadly had never heard of dana lee until now. i can't wait to see some more of it in person.

Darian Hocking said...

Great interview. Dana Lee is a personal favorite of mine. I love her chunky sweaters from F/W 09.

james said...

totally agree. She showed them to me last year and you have to feel them to fully get how fucking rad they are. So beefy. She's got talent for miles.
ps. keep up the good work.

Darian Hocking said...

Thats exciting, I wish I could do! Maybe I will meet her, and bring some of those beauties into Calgary...
Thank you, I really appreciate the vote of confidence.