It is always totally energizing to discover new talent during New York Fashion Week (NYFW), in part because many young designers today are opting out of traditional runway shows in order to present their collections in more contextual settings. For this reason, knitwear designer, Amanda Henderson‘s presentation was one of my favorites. Perhaps it was the February blizzard that touched down on the night of her event at Cliqk Design Showroom or the glittery sparkle in her tabletop installations, but either way, there was definite textural magic permeating this fashion week dreamer’s debut.
The twenty-four year old Henderson and Fashion Institute of Technology graduate has done her homework in terms of locally sourced fibers ala the Hudson Valley Sheep & Wool Company as well as selecting intern/ work opportunities with names like 3.1 Phillip Lim, Zac Posen, Organic by John Patrick, Kate Spade, and Elizabeth & James. All of this diligence and time spent within the cogs of the fashion industry have not soured the designer’s rather wholesome and utopian vision of fashion as a model for how to create and reach for the good life.
“Through knitwear design, I can meditate on my deepest memories, things I have learned, stories told, books read, photographs, music and movies I’ve seen. I can then connect these thoughts to natural imagery, and draw upon dormant human instincts from a time when we lived in nature rather than apart from it.” This synthesis of moments in timeline, sensations, and even ad-hoc combinations of life events seemed evident in the one-of-a-kind creations that Henderson adorned her models with during NYFW.
Henderson’s mixed media knitwear reminded me of some of my most interesting bookmaking classes, as scanning the surface of her textural pieces and the way they create dialogue with her still-life arrangements, specifically the journals open on tabletops in the studios, took fashion narratives one step further than we are generally accustomed to.
The beading work that Henderson is experimenting with still seems fresh and almost novice-like in a primal way — but this is a good thing when one looks at the whole picture of why a knitwear creation by the designer might be so collectible and covetable. Unlike the legions of knitwear designers currently coming out of fashion design schools, Amanda Henderson seems to be searching for something much deeper in the way that she aims to meld process, materials, and even her dreams of working collaboratively with people she adores and respects.
Here are a few ideas and sentiments that she shared after her early February fashion week presentation:
GL: How you feel that doing a NYFW presentation helped your knitwear label and creative vision to evolve?
AH: During this A/W 2013 fashion week, I presented my work publicly and formally for the first time since I began building the collection two years ago. Before the presentation, I had a body of work, directed only by my instincts and things that inspire me. It was my release from the work day, yet still an unfinished idea. In order to present, I had to really fine-tune the message I was trying to make. Who am I and what is it I’m trying to say to everyone? How will I move forward, and what is the end goal of all this? All my thoughts became focused on answering these questions.
My close friends and I have dreamed of working together since we graduated college and putting this presentation together was the first project where we all worked together collaboratively. Two of my close friends who are graphic designers helped in putting together the look books, show invites, business cards, and my website. My best friend and fellow designer also helped me to better organize my work and provided me with the tools to promote my new collection. My family also came together to give me feedback and advice along the way and helped set everything up during fashion week. In summary, my vision was allowed, with this support, to evolve into something very real.
GL: What were some of the pressures, goals, outcomes to date from this process?
AH: I have always had the end goal of creating my own business, so I began to think deeply about how to sustain my work in a positive way. Given that my product, my business, and my creative dreams are all one and the same, figuring out the business side of things became a great pressure. Since I am an artist at heart, I can also be quite sensitive about my work.
I wanted to put all of these elements together so I could build a name for myself and also develop relationships with like-minded people. In the end, the process of building all this up, (reaching out to other creative and friends), is/was just as important as the materials involved and the end result. I am very interested in recording growth over time and uncovering the hidden opportunities that lie within projects like this.
GL: What sorts of initiatives or dreams do you have for the future? How do you personally view knitwear to be an artistic vehicle for your vision?
AH: My immediate goal is to continue collaborating with other creative people and building my client base — that is, to work slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully. I would like to build relationships with people who share ideals and a common aesthetic, while also exploring custom sample pieces and collaborations on projects. I would also like to build new relationships with boutiques — designing small sweater groups or accessories sold exclusively at select retailers while also exploring possibilities for selling through local markets and via the Internet. Five years from now I would like to be able to sustain continued focus in the development of natural patterns and build upon existing techniques and skills.
After ten years or so, I hope that I might move my operation upstate and have a few animals and a studio on my own land. I would like to sustain a life growing my own food, raising sheep and other animals, and continue to pursue my craft while gaining an in-depth understanding of plant-life and animal hair (husbandry) in conjunction with the art of garment/textile design. I will always create with my hands and work with animals. This is what I have always liked, and is the key to my own human development.
In conclusion, Henderson’s claim that she is one person from one place, who thinks a lot about what it would be like to be another person, in a different place, landscape — basically sums up why her fashion agenda has such staying power for the future. She is not designing for the market or the retailer per se, but for the individual who has certain ideas about a life well-lived. Her debut collection is a celebration of what one person can sustainably craft and why we should feel even more connected to efforts like this. They make fashion initiatives seem real and approachable, as we can actually see ourselves in this context — with dimension that is definitely alluring and personally engaging.
Amanda Henderson’s one-of-a-kind pieces are currently available for special order at amandahendersonknits.com. Prices range from $400 to $1,000 (US dollars).
Amanda will also present her collection during New York Market Week on Monday, February 25th at the Hilton Garden Inn at 121 West 28th Street in Chelsea. More details are available at email@example.com.