Mass production has long meant mass-indifference, as we’re generally left to fit generic, commutable objects into the fine contours of our lives. But we run the opposite direction, and so are always happy to find headstrong, do-it-your-own-way types blazing a better path where few to none have existed before. Allston-based fashion designer, Emily Sawich, is such type of creator.
Having picked up sewing at age five, a skill taught to her by the exceptionally experienced females in her family, Sawich’s fashion designs began with a search for clothing and garments that could be inheritable – that is to say that a spendy top will last more than just a few months. But despite the abundance of (mostly indifferent, mass-produced) garments on the market, nothing quite seemed to hit the mark. So, Sawich set out to make her own.
She began by sourcing what she saw as the best fabrics anywhere. After finding a cache of gems, mostly old, wildly patterned scarves, at flea and vintage markets and elsewhere, she set her eyes on construction, focusing meticulously on even the smallest of details. She undoubtedly prides herself on her production processes and all the little things that go into each item.
Sawich draws a lot of inspiration from nature, our environments, and our memories. Her designs are about simplicity, subtle details and femininity. Her pieces lean towards looser silhouettes, or what may seem like solid shapes, but along with that, she designs revealing moments like open back triangles, or slits that activate through movement. Sawich appreciates the traditional craft of making quality garments. It is rare to find traditional construction techniques, but Sawich challenges herself to cultivate these techniques of hand-sewn details and finite stitches in her own garments. Most importantly, her pieces reflect a valued attention to details and quality in the craft.
It depends. I have a lot of ideas in my head, so a lot of back stock ideas that I sometimes work from. I use a lot of vintage scarves. This is just one silk scarf and I added the pleats, the gores. This is an example of the material really speaking to me because when I found the fabric I could see how the pattern would fall on the body. That’s one thing that really interests me; trying to align patterns and to create balance inside of a print. I like really overwhelming prints but I like to do them in a simple way, or a way that works.
It’s artwork on fabric. It’s a lot more interesting for me to work with. It’s more challenging, you know, you have to work with the artwork and make a piece of art with the already existing artwork. I’m also a Libra so that’s probably why I’m fond of balancing and centering things.
What are some styles you’ve explored extensively?
I’ve been seriously interested in exploring inheritance and creating garments that spoke to the ideas of family inheritance and memory. For instance, I made what I call, ‘The Skeleton Dress,’ which was based off the human anatomy, or another dress that was inspired by a vintage birdcage.
All the pieces kind of revolved around themes, characters, memories, and family traits that are personal to me, but could also be applied and accessible to other people too. So with each of these pieces people feel like they are getting more of a customized garment. There are aspects of each dress that I can change for people if they wanted a different order.
It’s all kind of working in a couture-burlesque look. It’s all hand sewn, and I use old textiles like the veil material you would find on a hat from the 1920s.
As I’ve gotten older, yes. My great uncle was a fashion designer in South Africa, he would design custom gowns for tons of people; he made a dress for the Queen of England. For some reason when he passed away I had this weird urge that that was what I am supposed to do in my life. I was never serious about doing my fashion design as a career before, but I remember feeling, at that point, that I should really take this seriously. I almost feel like he is sometimes working through me. That’s where my interest in the family lineage and history comes from. It’s like a bottomless pit. You can explore that aspect of your life to no end.
It’s all kind of inspired by this old fashioned, couture model. I feel like people just don’t have access to clothing that is unique and custom for them. I want to make that accessible. I want to bring American-made things back to America and have people feel like their clothing reflects their personality and not just have an outfit be some off the rack throw away thing.
Fashion is so fast now that you wear it for three months and it falls apart and you forget about it. I think that it’s a shame that we aren’t making garments that are inheritable.
I see potential in a lot of things. It doesn’t have to be off the rack perfect. I want those things that I can translate into something else. If it speaks to me, I have a specific color palette I like, muted and earthy, and black and white, pink.
Is there any particular style that you prefer? Do you like making your longer dresses more?
I just like to make clothes that have a character and history, and are very carefree at the same time. I don’t like stuffy clothing. I like very free, loose, and long garments. Kind of fairytale-esque.
Yeah, I usually wear something once I finish it and if it’s my size. Otherwise it’s sad for me to just make things and sell them instantly all the time. I mean I have to look good too.