Have a Seat: SA chats with Bodkin
Bodkin, designed by thirty two year old Eviana Hartman, is helping to shape our notions of “eco” fashion. Though still a small niche (one that includes Organic by John Patrick and Edun), these designers focus on fashion and style; the environmental impact is an integral aspect, rather than the exclusive purpose. These clothes no longer have the crunchy, droopy, beige/grey look formerly associated with all things “green”, any more than the proponents are preachy and fear-inducing. “The design and quality has to be amazing. People are only going to buy something if they love the way it looks,” explains Eviana. Over the course of a conversation with Eviana, it becomes clear that sustainability is as important as severe silhouettes or elegant sleeve lengths. Hand-loomed silk, sensuous wool crepes, natural indigo dyes, sexy-skinny ski fabrics, and sporty recycled plastic mesh add up to a strong look.
“I am not pushing the collection as eco or as fashion. I am just trying to make interesting clothes that happen to have an ethical foundation,” says Eviana. Spring 2009 is Bodkin’s first commercial collection, though she and former design partner Samantha Pleet were awarded the first Ecco Domani Sustainable Design Award for 2009 based on samples they submitted. We sat down with Eviana (the sole Bodkin employee at the moment) in her airy, communal Williamsburg loft studio to discuss the line.
EB: Do you use the word “green” to describe your line and philosophy?
EH: No! “Eco” and “green” are overused, and have lost what value they previously held; they are marketing concepts now. I suppose I would say “sustainably-focused” is the most accurate way to describe what I am trying to do. It is not perfect, and everything has some sort of environmental impact, but I am very conscientious about using organic fabrics, recycled materials, and new fabrics and new manufacturers that are low impact.
EB: Was there something in particular that sparked your interest in environmental issues?
EH: I took a class in college taught by William McDonough, who wrote “Cradle to Cradle.” It was about trying to improve everything we do. He was practical and inclusive in his approach.
EB: How do you start the design process?
EH: I start with reality. I like casual, practical, and soft clothes that fit into my life. Clothes for living in Brooklyn. But they need to be stylish too, and looking polished is a big part of that. I always think about what I want to wear in the morning, what my wardrobe is missing, and I try to incorporate that into my pieces. I leave the outrageous muses to others!
EB: How do you describe the line?
EH: Scandinavian, minimal, clean. But practical too. I design from a woman’s point of view, and design for myself and my friends.
EB: You had a successful writing career, with stints at Vogue, Teen Vogue, and as an eco-columnist for The Washington Post. What made you want to design clothes?
EH: My very first job was at Vogue. But I just did not want to be at a magazine any longer. I wanted to be “doing” instead of reporting. I was ready for something new. Besides, publishing and media is not exactly lucrative at the moment; there are just not as many pages to fill or as much compensation as before, so it was not a good long-term strategy. I have had an interest in sustainability for a long time, equal to my interest in fashion and clothes, and I kept noticing there were no lines addressing how I want to dress. It just made sense for me to create a few pieces, and I kept adding to it.
EB: Which brings me to my next question: Do you think the recession is helping environmentally friendly clothing sales? It sounds strange, but if people are going to buy less, they might want something they feel good about – or at least feel cool about!
EH: Well, stores do not have big budgets now. Buyers are very conservative with units, and it is very hard as a “young designer” to break into certain stores. But I do like that my choices are narrowed by the fact I only buy certain fabrics; I only work with certain manufacturers. It helps narrow down what I can design.
EB: What collections inspire you? Who do you want to sit next to on the sales floor?
EH: APC, Acne, Isabel Marant, and Mociun. That is the vibe and context I aim for. Their clothes play a big role in my wardrobe; I wear them every day and I don’t get sick of them.
EB: What is the story behind the name Bodkin? Isn’t that a sharp instrument used on cloth?
EH: It was going to be the name of my band! It sounded silly, strong, funny, and for some reason reminded me of Brooklyn… I also remember it from Hamlet, where it referred to a sword. Unfortunately, the band is still nameless though…This entry was posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 5:37 pm and is filed under Have a Seat. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.