I met Stella Ishii over a decade ago, as I was just beginning to define who I was as a designer. She was simultaneously likeable and intimidating—but intimidating only because of her impressive resume and effortless cool. She began her career in fashion not because she was fluent in design technique—but because she was fluent in English. Japanese-born Ishii heard of a job opening for a translator at a design house and eventually was hired to work for Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons. By the mid-90s, she was head of Staff USA—a branch of Staff International, the Italian parent company of fashion brands like Maison Margiela and Vivienne Westwood. Ishii and Staff USA were key to introducing these (and other) brands stateside.
Stella launched The News in 2001, a sales and press agency—slash—showroom and incubator located in a Soho loft. The News has helped nurture and grow designers and brands like Alexander Wang, The Row, and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Just about 3 years ago, she and her business partner Lasse Karlson launched 6397 (N-E-W-S on a telephone keypad), a denim-oriented line of clothing designed by Stella—a true denim aficionado. Stella has long depended on denim as her most reliable (almost iconic) wardrobe staple. 6397 captures the androgynous elegance that well made denim can offer.
We believe that beautiful and well-made garments should last—and that they take on a different life and character as they age. Stella feels very much the same way about denim. As she told Jean Stories, “The beauty of denim is in the wrinkles, and that it slouches, and that it bags and it doesn’t need to recover… Denim, I mean, it just ages so well. I guess because it was really meant for workwear. It’s sturdy and it changes and it brings on this character of the person who wears it. The first year you’re wearing it it’s one thing, and then the second year, it can take on a totally different character.”
Our collaboration with Stella and 6397 comes from the very heart of Alabama Chanin’s sustainable design and zero waste ideals. 6397 supplied us with overstock from production processes, samples, and test pieces—which we cut apart, incorporated with some of 6397’s knitwear and our own cotton jersey scraps, and stitched together to make throws. The finished throws are a nod toward upcyling and quilting traditions. Each throw is absolutely unique in color, in texture, and design. We allowed the denim fabric to inform our design decisions, to beautiful effect. Every piece is truly one-of-a-kind.