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Where is Starkweather Made?

It's a question that we ask ourselves about many things these days: Where does it come from? Who actually makes this? Where is it really made? 

The label inside of Starkweather's garments, reading "Made in Romania" speak the truth, but can't show you the whole picture. So we wanted to give you an inside look behind the scenes at our amazing manufacturer's facility in Bucharest.

In the garment manufacturing business since the 70s, and working with some of the great design houses across France, the UK and the rest of Europe, they have a tactile savoir-faire from the pre-digital era. 

The lovely head of Studio

The lovely head of Studio

One of the most painstaking points of the production process: matching plaid at the seams

One of the most painstaking points of the production process: matching plaid at the seams

And they've continuously adapted to the new technologies available to make efficient use of their resources and time, and to streamline the prototyping, sampling and production processes. 

A quick click through the gallery above and you'll see the digitization process plus the cutting optimization process. We aim to produce as little waste as possible!

And finally, some shots of the lovely seamstresses sewing away and pressing the garments to perfection. 

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Starkweather Style Recommendations

Starkweather is starting a new initiative to curate and suggest fashion items that accompany your selection from the Starkweather outerwear collection and in line with the Starkweather ethos. 

To launch this move, we've chosen to work with the Polyvore platform while developing our own in-site platform. 

We'd love to hear your feedback, suggestions and questions about which pieces to wear with what and how to style everything from your Startkweather crux to Starkweather liner. 

Here's our first flirtation in search of great summer shoes! 

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'Designer' and 'Entrepreneur' Have Become Synonymous but are still Divergent

While working on a writing project, on Starting Somewhere, the words ‘artist’ or ‘designer,’ and the word ‘entrepreneur’ kept popping into my writing interchangeably. It occurred to me that I should be addressing one or the other, as it might get confusing and certain thoughts might be misconstrued as exclusive to one or the other. I realized the dilemma: that I’m trying to reach both with the same message because both are functioning in much the same way these days, we just don’t recognize it yet in our rhetoric or in our communities. I know this because I actually consider myself a hybrid of these categories, and but have had a hell of a time coming to terms with that and communicating to people where I fit in this disjointed system.

Although their activities are very similar, just packaged differently, it still challenging for an artist or a designer to be seen as an entrepreneur. The worlds are entirely separate, although the values and experiences are often the same. For artists, as for entrepreneurs the goal is to connect with an audience to sell your product or service. The term ‘design’ is being used more often to describe business practices and in job titles as industries evolve. The relevance, therefore, of the artist in the business world is understood now not to be a purely aesthetic thing. Design is systems and programs and infrastructure and interface. Startups use design skills everyday, employing their creativity and their inner artist.

Because artists are always expected to make choices for the sake of their art rather than to make money, they do not fit our conventional idea of an entrepreneur, whose primary pursuit is commerce. But this line has been blurred now that artists run businesses of their own and have access to many of the same outlets as businesses through which to reach their community, some of whom might be other businesses looking to outsource artwork or design work. Artists have had to learn to become entrepreneurs to promote themselves and build a following. And so a conversation with an entrepreneur and another with an artist might have many parallels. The startup and the artist pass through the same phases of discovery, experimentation and diffusion.

When starting out after graduating from Parsons in 2009, it took me years to understand that the language I was speaking was not the language of a fashion designer, but rather a hybrid of a fashion designer and an entrepreneur. It meant me meeting the right people at the right time, having conversations that I never thought I would have, and stepping off of a path that had been laid out in front of me since my first taste of fashion industry at the age of 18. In doing so, I had to step away from what I knew and into an abyss, hoping to find my voice and my people.

Once you decide to be a designer there is only one path to take, whether you have your own design business or you have a job with another brand: you must keep up with the cycle of all of the other fashion businesses. When you are in a startup you are basically required to do something totally different than what already exists. There is a huge dichotomy here, and for anyone who is interested in change and progress, fashion as it exists is quite suffocating.

 There is a real opportunity here to start considering the business of fashion at all of its levels and in all of its shapes and sizes, and accepting entrepreneur as synonymous with designer.

There are bridges forming between the fashion world and the startup world, but they are all being built from the land of technology towards the land of fashion. The land of fashion has little moments celebrating the innovations of technology, but mostly through content creation and in various novel ways. They know how to create buzz, but they aren’t changing the world. Even an example like Burberry, celebrated for their embracing of all things digital, are only dressing up a business that remains tied to the cycle.

The innovation in these big companies has to be in communication and marketing, because they are too big and working too well to alter from the bottom up. The problem is not that heritage companies all function in the same way, but that all fashion businesses starting out head down the same path by default, without questioning it. that's just the way it's done. We celebrate unique aesthetics and content creation, but new business models cannot take off because they are rejected by the gatekeepers. Our innovation comes in marketing strategies and commercial channels, but not in business models. And where would we go to find a mentor to guide us through innovation? Likely to tech land, where a new idea can be flushed out and developed rather than scoffed at. 

When you are a startup in tech land, you have access to long list of incubators, accelerator programs, and mentors. New ideas are encouraged and plentiful, and are up for grabs to the one who does it best. As a designer our options are limited to competitions, show room sponsorships, and a select few programs, like the CFDA incubator in New York, where the focus on the business is a bit more long term. But these tend to focus on businesses that already have some traction, whereas for a startup you find support from, well, the moment you start up.

This is not a question of fairness, or of all designers deserving a shot. It is an argument that I’ll eventually (in another article) bridge into how fashion can be more sustainable as an industry if we learn a little something from the startup model. And this is speaking to both designers and industry decision makers: we need to start building the bridge back towards tech land. Young designers should consider business models that break from the rules of the gatekeepers, and industry decision makers should encourage this dialogue for future change.

Why are the most exciting things about Fashion the ones happening in underground movements like those of ethics, sustainability and tech?

There is a real opportunity here to start considering the business of fashion at all of its levels and in all of its shapes and sizes, and accepting entrepreneur as synonymous with designer. Conversations on Omni channel retail and Omni channel marketing, interest from big tech companies to collaborate with fashion brands, and organizations like Decoded Fashion are all breaking down the barriers that have restricted movement within the fashion industry for so long.

What I’ve learned is simply that in order to find a place in the no-mans-land that I linger in, somewhere on the fringes of fashion and the fringes of tech, the conversation must continue. Every new discovery leads to a new opportunity, a new idea, and a new door. This is the thrill of innovation and newness that has always inspired entrepreneurs, and has begun to cause fashion to loose its edge. Why are the most exciting things about Fashion the ones happening in underground movements like those of ethics, sustainability and tech? The beauty of the garments becomes, at a certain point, obscured by their detachment from reality.

It’s not just in regards to fashion; the future of all industries is going to be a hybrid way of thinking. To think like an entrepreneur and designer means being capable of imagining new platforms for communication and ways of exchanging and engaging with information, products, and our environments. It means to face problems in the market with a viable solution and become responsible for creating a new way. Not all of us need to be both, but we need to build our businesses and our industries in a way that cultivates this mergence of ideals. We, the individuals to drive that movement already exist and are taking our own steps in that direction. But our real achievement will be showing that it’s possible for us to remove the stigma of classification and adjust perceptions now engrained by adjusting the rhetoric.

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Wearable Tech: One, the other, or neither?

Image via  theConnectivist

Image via theConnectivist

The smart phone, now that they are owned by most of the world’s cell phone users, has begun to reveal it’s limitations as we grow accustomed to seeing more and more devices trying to attach themselves to us for a hands free, forever connected way of life. The smart phone developed in us the expectation of constant access to information, contacts, and media. But as technology allows for smaller and lighter design and services become streamlined, a hand held device seems inconvenient and detached from the fluidity of our motions during certain activities. This opens a door for some exciting possibilities of devices that become elegantly interwoven with our lives. Therein also lies the greatest hurdle.

 

Elegant technology does not always yield elegant design. We can accept the industrial nature of our cell phones, tablets and computers because they are products of industrial design. Apple, as an obvious example, is known to lead when it comes to beautiful encasements for their technology. But when we start to translate that approach to something that is intended to integrate seamlessly into the way we present ourselves, the industrial nature of the objects we are seeing seems suddenly hard and robotic, representative of the false predictions of design of the future that most designers, in fashion as well as industrial design, miscalculated.

 

Even collaborations with fashion designers have led to little improvement in the sector. I attribute this to a lack on understanding on both sides. The engineers don’t understand the aesthetics, and the designers don’t understand the technology. So how can they create a harmonious design? Take the USB bracelets for example. Not only are they aesthetically juvenile (perfect for high-schoolers or college students who tend to lose things), but the technology does not engage with the wearer or his/her surroundings. By not applying sophisticated design or forward thinking applications of wearable tech, it misses the mark from both directions.

 

But it’s not all on the tech companies anymore; now fashion designers are in on it, too. And think of Google Glass: check mark next to valuable capabilities, but its promotion in line with fashion week only made the suggestion of mainstreaming the cyborg design seem that much more ridiculous.

 

Regarding the collaboration between the Opening Ceremony duo and Intel, there is little reason to expect a great leap forward, except that the pair of designers have been known to be able to make ‘ugly’ = ‘cool’. My cynicism, it seems, is equal to that of the tech savvy, who seem to consider wearables too focused on wearability and less on their technological value. In the case of the USB bracelets I think we’d find ourselves arguing the same point from opposite sides. Wearables’ predicament: When you try to please everyone, sometimes you don’t please anyone.

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Pedestrian R&D

Having spent most of my life in major cities, I do a lot of walking. It is my preferred mode of transportation. I’m a pedestrian.

Recently in Paris, the weather has been lovely, unseasonably so. And it makes me think about how hard it can be to dress for these transitional days that can linger on before the official shift in season.

It is a red flag to pass the threshold from indoors to out and feel comfortable as you are. What it means, I’ve learned, is that in about 100 yards you will be uncomfortably warm, begin perspiration, and regret every decision you made while getting dressed and reimagining what you should have put on instead. And probably saying next time I’ll know better.

But it’s actually a science to understand how to really dress for the weather.

Since I don’t have a laboratory or my own research and development team toiling away after a solution (yet), there are low-tech solutions that I consider, always through trial and error. These are some of the things I've learned, and that always inform my designs: 

Think about fabric contentHaving one wind-blocking layer and the rest as breathable as possible, my favorite wind blockers being leather and felt. I also prefer sleeveless for the wind-breaking layer. It’s tempting to put on the wool jacket, but you’ll just work up a sweat only to open the front to let some heat out, which leaves the most vulnerable part of you exposed. If you think about it, we should actually wear our coats backwards to let the heat out the back and keep our chests protected. But the sleeveless option is probably more practical: let the heat from our core disperse to our extremities to keep us balanced.

Think about where you are layering . I find that mixing long sleeves and sleeveless are the best combination. Anything short sleeved is uncomfortable and counterproductive. You’re adding bulk in a place where it’s the most hindering to movement, and not adding any valuable protection.

By alternating sleeveless, long-sleeved, sleeveless, you might feel a slight chill on your arms before you start moving, but you’ll be thankful once your body heats up and it has a place let go of the excess, while your core stays warm.

Think about your coreBefore I’ll pull out my winter coat, I’ll pull out a crux. The piece that keeps the neck and core extra cozy, bridging the wardrobe that you skip back and forth between while the weather is decided whether to commit to winter or not. Because once you put on that winter coat, you’re committed to it. (Like the rain boots or a raincoat you wore because it deceptively rained in the morning only to clear up as you arrive at work)

But this is now. There are possible hi-tech solutions that could do incredible things to solve this and other sartorial problems.

Starting with fabric contentImagine garments of natural fibers that have the same technical qualities of the synthetic fibers we wear at the gym and in extreme environments. Just because it’s cold in the city doesn’t mean you have to dress like you’re in the mountains. Think of a cashmere coat that is both waterproof and breathable. A long-sleeved knit of natural fibers that wicks sweat. A super lightweight wool that keeps you cool when it’s warm (this last one already exists, called Cool Wool, and is used in the Spring collection).

In layeringImagine a system that has just the right density over precise parts of the body to maximize on the bodies internal regulatory system. Imagine a personalized body map that generates your customized layers with notes on how to combine them for a range of different temperature conditions. And these won’t be star trek uniforms; they’ll be the timeless, refined garments of a confident and mature consumer.

And finally, an accessory that takes its shape from a combination of aesthetics, ergonomics, and biology to show the potential for fashion to take new form in the future. We call it the crux.

These are the kinds of considerations that Fashion Designers will need to reflect on and act on in the years to come. This approach is on the fringes of the fashion industry as it currently operates. But it has a voice that’s coming up through the concept of sustainability and research and development in textile mills globally. Eliminate waste, and maximize effectiveness.

Always, fashion comes first; as without aesthetic credibility, the ideas can’t catch on. There are still many ways that technology isn’t ready to be applied in a commercially viable way, and many designers who don’t consider these issues a part of their job. Until these two can meet, the exploration of low and hi tech solutions for the here and now will help us to continue to ask the right questions and develop the answers over time.

And so, I’ll keep up my pedestrian experiments and offer solutions via Starkweather that will carry women through the seasons into the future.

 

starkweather_29.jpg

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Why Fashion of the Future will never be the Fashion of the Future

Every sci-fi costume designer has the challenge of imagining a world that has yet to become. Designers like Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne made careers of a futuristic vision well enough in line with the Mod era to be part of the zeitgeist. But, even now (many years into the future from 1960) those designs are classified more as relics of the past than visionary ideas of fashion yet to come. Over a decade past Space Odyssey: 2001 we are still dressing like the earthlings we are.

In fashion, just like in society, we tend to get ahead of ourselves. We work out the logistics of an intergalactic future while still working out the logistics of bringing roads, electricity, and running water to underdeveloped countries here on Earth.

As far as when things will change, we enter into the future every day. And we’ll get there one day at a time. Just as fashion has evolved through subtle changes year to year, so will evolve the fashions of the future. New technologies appear and aspire to be game changers. The introduction of the zipper was not the death of the button. As designers we appropriate available resources to our taste, and the demands of the time. We are always building on what we know to take a step forward. You cannot predict a creative evolution without the phases in between. Only in looking back can you witness the change. That bodes well for the future of fashion: that we will never actually have to wear what those Sci-Fi movies predict for us. For it to work in fashion, technology can’t look like technology.  

Take the example of Google Glass, straight from the futuristic spread of Vogue’s September Issue. It is the epitome of why a futuristic design will never actually represent the designs of the future. Too mechanical, too metallic, too industrial: until technology is at a point where it can be adapted to aesthetic demands, it will never break into the commercial sphere.

When we imagine wearable technology, it’s in the image of a cyborg. Chips and digits and wires. How do you market this to a customer of Ralph Lauren or Lanvin? It will be necessary for engineers to create their technologies in an unpackaged way. Leave it up to the designers to make it wearable. Let the technology be adaptable. Not like an iPhone can be dressed with a case, but where the form of the iPhone could be undefined. This is when fashion can meet the future. When fashion doesn’t have to bend to the constraints of the technology, but when the technology is flexible enough to bend to the aesthetic whim.

For designers, and engineers, that is the next and wonderfully exciting frontier.

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