I HAVE AN OBSESSION WITH INTIMATES in classic delicate styles that are also functional and sustainable, which are hard to find. I was lucky to stumble upon Misa Miyagawa's beautiful designs earlier this summer and was just as fortunate enough to get to meet up with her and talk about her design and aesthetic-- a mix of simple cuts and wonderful natural dyes. It matched up perfectly with my own aesthetic, so of course I had to style some pieces for her from her Spring/Resort 15 collection while I was out in Palm Springs earlier this week. Read on about Misa's design process and mission statement for the Los Angeles-based Botanica Workshop. Online shop coming soon!
Photos (of me) by Abagail Reid.
1. How did you get your start in design? Has intimates always been what you've wanted to do?
My love of art and design has been a major part of my life since childhood. I was always mystified by the contradictory aspects of fashion- telling an instant dreamlike story through clothes and images, the viewer/end customer never knowing/questioning the technicalities of pattern cutting, or intricacies of sewing techniques, material sourcing, labor practices. I felt stifled by these aspects, and at the same time found it difficult to define my own style. I had been struggling for years in school (Parsons in NYC where I graduated from and also Central St Martins in London) and as a working designer. A few years ago, I became fascinated with organic and biodynamic growing practices for vegetables and herbs, as well as the local distribution systems for agricultural crops. My lifestyle choices began to revolve around this fascination, as well as sustainability and recycled products. It was very hard for me to find underwear that fit my aesthetic- sustainable or not- and so much underwear is mass-produced overseas. I never had an urge to start my own line until I spent half a week's pay on expensive lingerie that I didn’t even really like. My own technical training is in women's ready to wear apparel. I had never designed underwear before but the thought was fascinating, and the ideas started pouring in. Thankfully, I began to work with skilled sample makers soon after that, and the first Botanica Workshop was launched for Spring 2015.
2. What are your sources of inspiration? Other designers? Nature?
Art and nature are my two favorite sources of inspiration-- second only to strong, creative women! Our Fall collection was inspired by the social commentary and eye of Linder Sterling, and we are working on a super limited edition tote bag collaboration with Kris Chau. I have lived in the city my entire life and find the human interpretation of nature fascinating- the obsession with Latin names and botanical drawings, for example. I do have a minor obsession with vegetables and fruits that carried over to my curiosity about natural dyeing and also about the food world (especially the slow food movement which is similar to "slow fashion"). I'm really drawn to color and texture, as well as the idea of fashion as an experience.
3. What is the mission statement for Botanica Workshop?
Botanica Workshop creates the essential foundation layers for the conscious woman's everyday wardrobe. Fresh, clean lines are highlighted by natural color palettes and elegant textures. Our mission is to produce well-sourced, well-crafted pieces that will be enjoyed for many seasons with care. Each piece is hand cut and sewn to order, thus we plan our domestic production about 6 months in advance of each delivery. Currently we work with a small (and phenomenal!) list of retailers in the US, and hope to sell directly to customers in the near future.
4. Describe your design and production process.
We have an edited selection of core styles in two fabrications, organic cotton jersey and stretch silk georgette. Any new styles or fabrics (always natural fibers, sometimes reclaimed or recycled) that are introduced are meant to complement these pieces. It varies season to season, sometimes I start with a silhouette and draft a pattern on paper, or sometimes I will find the perfect fabric and impulsively buy the roll to experiment with. I love sketching but recently it has been easier for me to design by draping and pattern-making. Usually by that point I will have lots of references for mood and color, and we will do lab dips to get ready for dyeing if it's necessary. Samples are developed over many weeks as the details are sorted out- finishing techniques, trims, binding, washing. When our orders are finalized and we begin production, it's a similar system but on a larger scale, and simultaneously we develop samples for the following season.
5. Describe a day off.
Cooking is so therapeutic for me. My ideal day off would be going to the farmer's market in the morning with lots of ideas to play with in the kitchen, experimenting a bit and hoping for a delicious outcome that I can enjoy throughout the week. Days off are rare for me as I try to balance my work schedule, so I really enjoy the precious and uncluttered time I have to myself. 5. Fall essentials? (Fashion or otherwise) This Fall I'm working toward living more of a balanced life, as I just mentioned. I'm hoping to focus more on my well being, and I will be traveling for a portion of it. I'm looking for a new notebook to take with me (let me know if you have recommendations!). Most of my own wardrobe is vintage. My favorite cold weather pieces include a timeless hand tailored (reversible!) Max Mara cashmere coat and a pair of flat, suede, over the knee Karl Lagerfeld boots with padded scallop detail at the thigh- they sound crazy but I promise it's in a good way. And of course, it's going to be persimmon season, which is always a highlight!
6. What's next for your line?
Next month I'll be traveling to Paris as a finalist for The Future of Fashion, a competition sponsored by Not Just A Label and Who's Next. Thirty designers will be showing Spring '16 collections to buyers and the judges at the fair, which takes place at Porte de Versailles from Sept 4-7. I'm the only American in the womenswear category which makes me excited and also nervous (my French language skills are abysmal). I'll also be showing the Spring '16 collection to buyers at Market 194 in New York from Sept 17-19. It's a cool pop up showroom formed by a group of designers that share a similar aesthetic and price point. Our Fall collection will be in stores soon and I am looking forward to working with all of our wonderful new retailers. My goal is to streamline the production process so that I have more time to focus on product development, and eventually I hope to open our own online shop as well. Looking forward to it!