laser cut fashion, Sponsored Clients

Client Spotlight: Sponsored Designer Alan_Oakes


BB: Where did you grow up?

AO: I was born and [semi] raised in Vail, Colorado. I was a highly competitive tennis player/athlete growing up, so I also lived at an elite academy in Texas to train. I traveled a lot for sports, so my upbringing was very scattered in terms of context. 


BB: What did your parents do?

AO: _My father owned/managed a contemporary retail store in Colorado which absolutely played a crucial role for both my future and my sister’s (she's now an interior designer)_we would both consistently faked sick to skip school just so we could go to work with my dad. Some of my earliest and most cherished memories are within the retail environment watching him mark up suits and interact with customers. My dad always encouraged creativity_he would let my sister and I merchandise the store, style the clothes in all dimension (on the mannequins, tables or walls), and get extremely experimental wrapping gifts for customers. I was about 6 years old giving advise to men on their wardrobe…they absolutely didn’t care, just listened to be polite_so I guess my juvenile ignorance was true bliss which lead to creative confidence and passion. 

AO: _My grandfather owned a textile distributing company, my father was in retail…so we always joke that I complete this family/industry triangle through my interest in design. It’s crucial to know all areas of the industry to consciously integrate into a design process_so I'm very lucky to have a family that has roots within all sectors. 

AO: _My mom has been with the American company Steelcase for 28 years in both domestic and international sales.  


BB: What is your educational background?

AO: _I hold an MFA in 'Fashion Design and Society' from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, and a BA in Architecture [minor in Art History] from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I also studied Sustainable Design and contemporary Architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark through the Danish Institute


BB:  From the fields of architecture, fashion, and literature, name one major person in each field that influenced you and tell how.

AO: _Jane Jacobs and her ‘Death and Life of Great American Cities’ has always been one of my favorite books. She has a different microscopic view on the world and it’s very logical, functional and highly inspiring to read. I don’t have major architects or fashion designers that influence me. Inspiration to me really isn’t aesthetic, so I’d never look to another designer to influence the physical conception of my work or process. There’s an amazing documentary on 'Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton' by french film artist Loic Prigent which profiles his design process and really exposes the culture and dynamic within both design teams and environments he ran. I really enjoy watching how he works and collaborates with people and I think that’s way more influential than the clothes he produces [however beautiful they may be]. 


BB:  How did superstition first enter into your designing garments?

AO: _[knock.on.wood] was initiated through an exploration of personal cognition in which I psychoanalyzed and subsequently surfaced the fundamental significance of my own rituals and superstitious beliefs. I have always been a practitioner of superstitious rituals which I'm certain came from my years as an athlete. Even after I quit years ago it’s quite interesting to see how these subconscious realities have completely directed my design ethos, research, process and subsequent attachment to the physical and spatial world.  


BB:  Your current line of clothing investigates dialogue between the personal garment as sacred object to retain value thus supporting sustainability... how will you maintain this going forward? and how does that influence your choices in manufacturing?

AO: _my thesis aims to catalyze a sustainable reformation of materialism and renovate the “valuable architecture” of object in which we fabricate our physical and cerebral identities. In terms of society at large, superstitions can be considered psychologically sustainable; they have existed [and will continue to exist] within all realms of spiritual or generic life. It’s more about dissecting the term “sustainability” which I feel is so misunderstood within modern context_ it starts at a much deeper, psychological state and the physical is a result of it. We all would love to conquer the manufacturing process and falsely assert the idea that we are “green” because of certain primitive practices…that, lets face it, only exist for market/PR value. The reality of the fashion system is deeply unstable due to the unhealthy, high-speed relationship between supply and demand [product and consumer]. There’s a real neglect for true, valued design within the creative process and life of a product. No matter where my future lies, I will always go forward with these philosophies and attempt to integrate this belief into anything I contemplate or design. 


BB:  How do you describe your style?

AO: _functional and introverted. I spend most of my time in studio, so I prefer to be comfortable in a t-shirt, basketball shorts, or casual trousers that can sustain my constant movement. When in public, I’m more of an observer and prefer to diffuse more into the general aesthetic_i’d never flaunt about in anything overtly experimental. i wish i could…but it’s just not me! I don't think style really has anything to do with visual representation…I think its the result of being true to your circumstances and self_pre-fabricated stylistic “identities” are highly transparent. Culture seems to think the man with more money has the greatest style. I would award the homeless man a stylistic award any day over the Wall-Streeter in Italy’s finest because his style is guided by necessity, not conformation. This sort of comparison seems to parallel in my work. 


BB:  What will you be doing in LA?

 AO:  was recruited a couple months ago to join a very small initiative and newly designed team at the American luxury label and knitwear specialist, St. John [HQ in Irvine, California]. Within the very small team I’m starting at the bottom of the totem pole, and could not be more excited! I have the worlds nicest/coolest boss that really has an interest in mentoring myself and another Parsons MFA [last year] graduate, Hannah Jenkinson. Working culture is of the highest importance to be, and I can say with confidence how excited I am to be well surrounded. 

AO: _In industry [knitwear in specific], the normal design R&D process is very scattered_ resulting in a very broad dialogue between in-house “creativity” and long distance resourcing/production. In a typical [woven fabric and tailoring] atelier, you have your hierarchy of design, pattern cutters, technicians, etc. It’s most lucrative when a company is able to have in-house design production because the creative and technical communication is just that…in-house. It’s atypical for a company to have an in-house “knitwear atelier” due to the sheer sizes of the industrial knitting machines and intense quantity of programmers and technicians-- however, this is exactly what St. John has_truly making their design process and innovative capabilities infinite. The design team works directly in unison with the programers and machines to develop knitted textiles_which leverages time efficiency, production costs and most importantly…tangible, authentic creative product of the highest quality. 


BB:  What’s in store for new work?

AO: _I will present my collection along side my 11 classmates within the MFA at Milk Studios ironically on my birthday in early September 2014. The day after, I’m back to LA to work. 

AO: _I’m really not interested in diving head-first into igniting my own label. I feel graduates too often leap out of University with the biggest and brightest hopes of design independence really with no realistic perspective. A close mentor and relative of the MFA at Parsons best describes, “when fashion students graduate, they face one of the most daunting hurdles of their lives." Neil Gilks, Director of Educational Initiatives for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), perfectly sums this up, “The challenges that fashion graduates face are the same the world over. They are studying in a densely populated field and vying for entry into an incredibly competitive industry. They may be brimming with creativity, but post university, this has to be translated into the complex world of business. As a designer, it is no longer enough to merely have a vision. A thorough understanding of technical, practical experience is a must, clarity of a brand identity to channel into marketing and PR strategies, and of course, a solid business model to take your designs to the right audience." As Gilks notes “A one-size-fits-all education serves no-one, the successful programs encourage a personal creative approach armed with the ‘must have’ technical skills.” With this sort of mentorship and consistent opinion from other leading industry professionals and friends such as Julie Gilhart and Sarah Broach, I can only say that I am patient to start my own label. My continuing education at St. John_technically, creatively and entrepreneurially is what’s most important to me now. It gives me time as well to really develop my design ethos and how eventually I want it to be understood, consumed and absorbed. 



BB: What digital fabrication grows, how do you see it affecting labs like FABBERZ?

AO: _digital fabrication has been slowly integrated into design industries via academic initiative. Back in my undergrad I had a comparative conversation with a professor concerning the bi-polar environments and resources readily abundant in a University creative studio today... [he studied architecture when they drafted technical drawings by hand, and sculpted models with now archaic tools]. In today’s design industry, leaders and design directors come from the same generation and ultimately find themselves disheveled and lost within the unlimited capabilities and what seems to be, labyrinth of modern technologies. As digital fabrication grows, small [and young] business like FABBERZ have the most incredible opportunity to grow along side young designers. As the knowledgeable generation graduates, young companies that offer such services will no doubt prosper. 


BB:  Do you see manufacturing partners like FABBERZ evolving in the future, to serve entrepreneurial designers such as yourself?

AO: _my collaboration with FABBERZ has been incredible, however it’s been more of a resourceful service than experimental dialogue. I foresee FABBERZ becoming more an Idea-Machine; an inclusive environment that is structured by several different perspectives and individuals from a multitude of diverse design industries. With the machines and means of digital fabrication at your fingertips, FABBERZ lab seems to be a wonderland for any creative. 


BB: Tell us the story of how you came to work with FABBERZ.

AO: _I came to FABBERZ upon personal research of digital fabrication services within New York City. Coming from an Architecture background_a laser cutting machine seemed more comfortable as opposed to a sewing machine!…so this natural osmosis between the two industries resulted due to my rebellion of the conventional “fashion” mechanisms—out of the 12 students on the MFA, I am the only one that does not come from a fashion design background. Upon acclimation into fashion design, I approached everything I did with an architectural intention, so without hesitation I naturally bought all the fuzzing and structural fabric aids in the garment district. I soon developed my own techniques in knitwear and embroidery that was directly aided by the production methods of FABBERZ and laser cutting technology. 


On Entrepreneurship/Business:

BB: From couture to mass manufacturing, where does success lie for you between the two?

AO: _from a consumption standpoint the two production methods are completely opposed_ couture garments are completely sustainable; collectors pieces never disposed of. mass manufactured garments designed to reflect current cultural interests; quickly rid of within months. i like the idea of a hybrid garment which involves both processes_which actually already exists in today’s market within the luxury ready-to-wear collections. I think success lies within a steadfast commitment to quality which is a timeless element. However, if the clothes can contain a further meaning detached from the physicality_ laced with sacred meaning, I feel the boundaries between user and garment are fused by sentiment. 

BB:  Who is the person that wears your clothes?

AO: _I think the women wearing my clothes is much like me_ introverted, stimulated by the quality and meaning/function behind the clothes…more of a connoisseur than compulsive consumer. I'm really inspired by Beatrix Ost and how she transcends her life through objects. She'd be my ultimate user. Arrietty, the main protagonist from ‘The Borrowers’ is a huge inspiration of mine; I love the creativity in how she views the world and re_appropriates objects around her to suit any function of dress or architecture. 

BB: Where do you see your work in 5 years?

AO: _To be honest I have no idea nor do I really think that far in advance. If I had a crystal ball I don't even know if i'd look inside_something about the unknown is very natural and exciting. Things evolve for reasons beyond our understanding…so why preconceive them too much? I hope to push these ideas forward into a commercial form with little compromise.