In our ongoing search for the underpinnings of the good life, we are continually looking for better ways of doing things, slowing our pace even, and carving out a better future. Some folks might say that the slow food movement is ahead of the curve in terms of identifying and implementing viable ways to help make these lifestyle dreams come true. Yet the independent designer label, Feral Childe, has been serving up a sustainable fashion feast for many a season now, and their ethically-made pieces have proven to be both aesthetically rich as well as stylistically grounding. Their latest Spring 2013 collection, The Searchers, is perhaps their best to date in terms of the smart and creative ways that they meld art, literature, custom textile printing, and timely historical/social narratives.
Very few contemporary design labels are able to fruitfully till and harvest their concepts into prints and fabrics that reveal graphic elements like dotted-line planting rows, ink drawn chicken wire, circularly shaped Victory Gardens, and loca(l)vore impressions alongside the probings of film makers like Terence Malick and writers John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, and Pearl S. Buck — to name a few. Rodarte likes to mix things up from time to time via a dreamy wheat print dress, but this is no Rodarte folks — this delves a whole lot deeper.
We also know how hard it is to make an honest go of it in fashion, but Feral Childe’s process really matches the dedication of farmers and grassroots gardeners who are acutely aware of our contemporary landscape and the changes inflicted during various stages of planting and human occupation. Each Feral Childe piece is intended to be trans-seasonal and layered in free-spirited combination — as if to illustrate that contemporary fashion can be as soulfully delectable as a meal concocted from the local farmer’s market or one’s own backyard plot.
Designer’s Moriah Carlson and Alice Wu are no strangers to the solid work ethic and painstaking details required to make their bi-coastal operation a success. The artistic duo met during their day jobs, post-grad school and have subsequently approached all of their collections with an awareness of what it means to bring in a good harvest or put on a good show. I believe that they are uniquely visionary on this front, and certainly have my respect in terms of their continued efforts to implement both creative integrity, innovative approaches to textile design, as well as demonstrating commitment to local, U.S. based production, specifically in NYC’s Garment District. Beyond this, they are personally diligent about to getting to know their retailers and client base, and in turn factor this feedback into future collections — much like the end-of-season crop that is tilled back into the soil.
“Our American landscape is so beautiful and in traveling to different parts of the country to visit our our retailers, you can really fall in love with the U.S. all over again. We are always reminded, though, how extremely difficult it is for farmers (or anyone who makes their livelihood from the land) to grow food successfully. Quite frankly, we are headed for another Dust Bowl if we don’t take care of our natural resources. And, of course, all of this is just one step in the supply chain of making clothes — knowing where the fibers in your clothes come from.”
Feral Childe’s The Searchers collection serves up a cornucopia of varied and wholesome ingredients like their signature custom-engraved tagua nut buttons (not plastic, writes Alice), printed facings, welt pockets, self-belt options for added versatility, and a range of sophisticated styles intended for mix-and-match styling and transcending the seasons. Spring 2013 fabrications include silk crepe, cotton/linen, khadi (hand-loomed cotton from India), organic cotton jersey, and Hempcel linen. All pieces are thoughtfully made in Midtown NYC.
“At Feral Childe, our prints are designed with the same conceptual rigor that we apply to our fine art practice. We have a set of criteria to make sure that our prints stand out from the rest. The image itself must be generated with hand-made elements (drawing, painting, or collage for instance) and digital manipulation must be used sparingly. We use the prints’ graphics to tell the unique story of each collection. “
I genuinely think that Feral Childe’s exclusive textiles continue to set them apart from the rest. This season’s six new designs are poetically named, “Starfield, Farm Elements, Cherries, Victory Garden, Paper Rock, and Sticks and Stones.” All are created as per the studio process described above but also serve as hands-on and iterative dialogue between the two designers themselves. The graphics are symbolic without being didactic, and this is an important distinction in assessing whether Feral Childe’s pieces might work for you. All of their collections transcend good intentions and thoughtfully-edited ingredients to create fashion options that are truly reflective of the times that we are living in. They are the thinking person and/or fashion lover’s choice but not in a way that glosses over or trivializes the stories that simply need to be told. They also read like the good literature that inspires them without ever being elitist. Slow fashion that can intelligently keep up is honestly what they are increasingly about, as well as being a wise investment in our own landscape and environmental legacy.
Writer and Sustainable Fashion Advocate/Consultant, Amy DuFault shared the following regarding her impressions as a long-time follower of Feral Childe:
“To me, one of the things that stands out about Feral Childe is the fact that their clothing is really fun to wear. As a former buyer for a conscious clothing boutique, it was hard to find a line that was even comparable to the overall design and functionality of each Feral Childe piece as well as the real joy the clothes brought to people who put them on. Dresses with sophisticated lines for day or night combined with the unique prints that both Alice and Moriah are known for become not just garments but wearable art that you want to take care of, treasure and take with you into the future.”
Feral Childe will have a studio sample sale this weekend (Sunday, May 19) at their studio in Brooklyn, NY. Other upcoming events include a trunkshow at Atelier 360 in Greenwich, CT on Friday, May 24 and a trunkshow and art installation (themed after this new collection) at Swords-Smith in Brooklyn on Friday May 31. Feel free to visit their Facebook page for event details.
All images courtesy of Moriah Carlson and Alice Wu / Feral Childe