They make fashion; they curate a magazine called “Zina Cava;” Maggie Gyllenhaal models for them; they are, in my opinion, the coolest duo to come along in the fashion industry in years.
They host dinner parties instead of fashion shows and give away posters like the one below celebrating their 8 years in business. It’s the kind of party you hope you’ll get an invitation to…
They have a blog that inspires; they are beautiful spirits. Is there anything that Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai can’t do (and do well)?
They are Council of Fashion Designers of America members–like me–and designers I admire.
In 2008 they were runners-up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, have an impressive fashion resume, and a slew of collaborations under their (very pretty) belts. Last week I found patterns for three of their dresses at Vogue Designer Patterns.
This is how it happened:
I was having a conversation with a friend (and colleague) about DIY and fashion and the void I see between the two. As we spoke, I was perusing the internet and came across the Vogue Designer Patterns. Honestly, I had forgotten that Vogue Patterns has done designer collaborations for decades and was surprised to find the very modern Vena Cava among the current offerings.
In the process of writing our books over the last years, I have visualized a place that fashion as business, art, and, yes, Craft – in the capital “C” sense of the word–can intersect with DIY and “home-craft.” It hasn’t been easy. There has been a gap in the conversation: the growing DIY world works on one side and the fashion world on the other side; only occasionally do the two meet in the middle. I keep asking myself, “Where is this intersection?” Where does Alabama Chanin, “The Collection,” meet Alabama Chanin, “The DIY?”
Did you know that when Christian Dior launched the New Look, he didn’t actually produce the clothing that he sold to stores like Bergdorf Goodman? He licensed patterns to Bergdorf Goodman, who took the New Look patterns, sourced fabric, and manufactured the garments locally in New York City. Hence, when you find a beautiful vintage garment, the label will read both “Bergdorf Goodman” and “Christian Dior’s New Look.” This is really sustainable fashion at its best: global design coupled with local manufacturing.
At the same time, those New Look patterns–and ones like them– were available through pattern companies like Vogue Patterns, making modern, fashionable styles accessible to every woman who had the courage to sew them. Add to this an innovative “home-loan” program initiated by the Singer Sewing Machine Company– in which a family could purchase a “home sewing machine” on a payment plan (more on this soon)–and high-fashion made its way to every corner of America. DIY culture before it was called DIY.
All of these things were running through my mind, while pursuing the Vogue Designer Patterns that day on the phone with my friend. While we spoke, my eye was drawn to the Vena Cava patterns at the bottom of the page. I decided that a perfect place for DIY and FASHION to meet would be over a Vena Cava Vogue Pattern. Before our conversation ended, I had added the pattern for the dress below to my cart and checked out. (Some of the designer patterns are on sale right now for $4.99.)
So, when the pattern arrived in the studio, we made our own versions of the Vena Cava design above, using Alabama Chanin hand-sewing techniques.
Then, last week in New York City, I had a chance to sit down with Lisa, show her our dresses, and talk about the intersection of fashion, craft, and life. Come back next Thursday for more of that conversation, along with instructions for making two Alabama Chanin versions of the Vena Cava dress.
Today, starting with Vena Cava, we launch an ongoing series of DIY Thursdays. That’s right, every Thursday here: Fashion + Craft + DIY.
Below is a sneak peek at one of our hand-sewn Vena Cava + Alabama Chanin DIY Dresses (photographed on Vena Cava’s Lisa Mayock by our friend Peter Stanglmayr):
Come back next week for the DIY instructions and join our conversation in the comments below…