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Inside Steven Alan

Studio Visit: Micaela Greg

  • Our Hayes Valley staff recently had the opportunity to visit Micaela Greg knitwear designers (and sisters) Marie and Karen in their San Francisco studio.

    As sisters, what’s your working dynamic like?
    Unfiltered and hilarious at times! Not only are we just 15 months apart, but we went to the same college, worked only desks apart designing for Levi’s, have husbands that have been best friends since grade school, and now have babies five months apart in age. I know it sounds like the pilot for a really bad sitcom! Although we have obvious similar interests and almost always agree when it comes to a concept or vision, we are extremely different in personality. We have never discussed what roles we play, or who will do what – it’s weirdly unspoken. Not to say we don’t disagree, because there are arguments. At the end of the day we just push each other. We actually love to make mistakes together, or “inspiring accidents.” It’s when we’re backed into a corner and have to think our way out together that the magic happens.

    Where does your name come from?
    “Micaela Greg” is like saying “so and so” in our family. We think our grandmother started it. She would use the name if she couldn’t remember a person’s real name or, for instance, if we did something wrong when we were little and denied it, she would surmise, “Who did it then? Micaela Greg?”

    You credit your grandparents with piquing your interest in design and garment construction at a young age. What kinds of things did they make, and what are some things you remember making as a kid?
    Our grandmother was a master dressmaker who trained in a couture school in Milan. She could make a wedding dress out of a pattern cut out of the Sunday paper. She was a genius at math and could calculate the yardage needed to one tiny leftover scrap. Our grandfather was a shoemaker but really saw himself as an amateur inventor. He worked on the perfect toothpick dispenser for pretty much our whole childhood. When we were little we made everything from potholders to our own hand sewn dolls. Then we would work in our grandfather’s workshop. We even constructed our own swing set out of braided clothesline and a wood plank. We have been using this memory recently, as inspiration for making jewelry.

    Your designs feature an interesting interplay of pattern, texture, and silhouette. When conceptualizing, which element comes first?
    At first, we work on pattern and silhouettes separately but simultaneously. We experiment a lot with graphic patterns, texture, and stitches on the knitting machine. We send those to the knitter to make a round of swatches. During the swatch development phase, we work on draping and drafting our silhouettes. Then we bring everything together, marrying swatches with the bodies. We just do a lot of crossing our fingers after that.

    You draw, design, and draft all of your knits. Where do you find the inspiration for your patterns?
    It’s usually a conversation that starts like, “I saw this” or “I took a picture of . . .”. We both draw a lot and we love museums and collecting imagery that we can translate into knitwear. We also both have graphic design backgrounds, which helps when we’re drawing and designing the patterns.

    What are some of the challenges of producing knitwear in America?
    The biggest challenge was finding factories that will produce with smallish minimums domestically. It’s like hunting down the Loch Ness Monster these days. We pay a higher price than if we were to produce overseas, but for us it’s worth it to have more control over the end product as well as in some small way revive a dying domestic textiles industry.

    You’ve both adopted San Francisco as your home. What are some of your favorite things to do in the city? Is there anything you miss about your hometown of Detroit?
    We actually love to escape the city. We love that we can drive a half an hour and be in the woods. We love taking trips to Big Sur or heading out to the Russia River. When we hang out in the city it’s usually a lot of brainstorming sessions at a small Italian restaurant that’s close to our studio in North Beach called Caffe BaoNecci. Everything tastes like our grandma’s, even the wine from a jug. As far as Detroit, we miss our family the most. We do miss the amount of space you can have there and a great underground music/art scene that bubbles up from an industrial city that no longer thrives.

    What projects are you working on next?
    We are neck deep in Fall ’13 at the moment, which is of course our favorite season for knits! We are also working on some jewelry and trying out some collaborations with other textile based designers. We are doing some experimenting with another local brand, Job & Boss, who do beautiful natural indigo dying, which is something we have always wanted to experiment with.

    Many thanks to Marie and Karen for giving us a glimpse into their studio! You can find their knits at our Hayes Valley, Fillmore, Venice, Chelsea, and Brooklyn stores as well as in our web shop.

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 at 5:16 pm and is filed under In Stock. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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