It's been awhile hasn't it? Well you will happy to know that while I was absent from my blog responsibilities I was still productive. The proof: this interview with the very talented (and extremely sweet) Liza Rietz. Her work is available in her Etsy shop as well as her B&M, Liza Rietz in Portland. So havea cup of tea and read how Ms. Rietz went from studying anthropology and sociology to becoming a self taught sewing wunderkind.
1. When did you first take an interest in clothing design?
From the minute I realized that my Barbies were in serious need of some better outfits.
2. How many years did it take you to feel confident in your ability to make a garment from scratch? Confident is the key word - because i started selling my designs in boutiques within one year of teaching myself to sew. I would definitely say that my confidence builds with every collection.
3. What is the process you use for coming up with your collections?
This is a very organic process. Inspiration comes from all over, but I can definitely say my designs reflect my emotional creative side - if i am feeling a color, a texture , a shape, I try to capture that through sketching. Conceptually, the challenge is to stay focused on the cohesiveness of my collection and make sure all the designs work harmoniously together. Technically, the challenge is to make a garment that is sculptural and interesting without sacrificing the natural shapes of the body. From my sketches I draft flat patterns, and manipulate and tweak ideas through draping. Eventually, a garment appears! My hope is that it balances on being artistic and functional.
4. Your items have a retro look to them but are very modern in their construction. How do you fuse those two sensibilities and make it work?
This is the constant balance for my designs: taking a vintage look and modernizing it. For example, in my last collection I was super fascinated with the designs of Erte and designs from 1910 - 1920 - i love the drape and cowls in the long dresses and the influence of Japanese design - kimono sleeves especially. I tried to take elements of these very ornate and sculptural pieces and put them on a modern woman. So in a sense, I had to make these designs functional and wearable. This leads me to balance functional and flattering fit with the sculptural and artistic elements.
5. How do you decide on materials to use? Did you take textile courses in college or do you just go with your gut? I only studied sociology and anthropology in college, so gut it is. I am completely self taught with designing and sewing. Textiles heavily influence and steer my designs. Again, my designs must be wearable and functional so this leads me to comfortable and natural fabrics like cotton, linen, silk and wools. I rarely use prints because i feel that solid colors don't distract from the sculptural and textural aspects of my work.
6. Why did you decide to open a brick and mortar shop and how long did it take you to do so? I have been designing, constructing, promoting, and selling my designs since 2001. This is hard work. I consigned and wholesaled for years and got to a point where i either had to start out sourcing my labor and turn to mass production, or i needed to scale back and do it the old fashioned way - with in-house design and construction. I opened my store in 2007. I am incredibly passionate about my work and it scares me to death to think of someone else making my garments in an environment that i am not a part of. I want to have my hands in every part. And, I find it so rewarding when a woman walks into my store, we look at my sample designs, she picks one out, we choose a fabric, we take her measurements and then me and my assistants make the piece in-house. This is a rewarding process, and a process that is increasingly rare in our modern day mass produced society.
7. Are there any other creative disciplines you haven't done but would like to try?
The list is endless.
8. What new projects do you have planned for 2009?
Spring '09 collection, Fall '09 Collection.
9. Who or what inspires you?
10. In five years what would you like to be doing?
2014! I hope to be doing the same thing, with more assistants and in-house seamstresses to create a more productive pace. I hope to have two days off in a row! For REAL!
11. And this is something I always wonder when people design and create a clothing line-do you wear your own pieces?
If I am lucky, I keep a couple samples or rejects.
And just for fun:
12. Favorite colors?
gray, chartreuse, white (it is a color).
13. Last book you read?
"The Girl In the Flammable Skirt" - short stories by Aimee Bender
14. Your idea of the perfect day?
Sleep in. hot yoga. sushi.
15. Your favorite Etsy (or other DIY) seller.
My lovely friend and business partner Emily Ryan www.emilyryan.etsy.com
**all photos used with permission and are the property of Liza Rietz**