Brand to Know: A Men’s Wear Line Made From Vintage Quilts

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he designer Emily Adams Bode has been accumulating fabric since childhood; she inherited some from her grandmother, and picked up other pieces while antiquing with her mom. Eventually, she began to frequent estate sales and trade shows herself, and buying surplus that vintage stores couldn’t sell. Now 27, Bode’s Lower East Side workroom is filled with everything from 19th- and 20th-century quilts (including several Victorian ones with intricate threading) to handwoven African textiles, from old stock from dish towel companies to grain sacks, and abstract floral fabrics that she created with a couple in India. Nearby stands a jam-packed rack of pants, shirts and jackets that a local tailor cut from these unexpected fabrics.

It’s doubly unexpected that Bode only makes men’s wear — and will launch her eponymous line of limited-run garments this weekend to coincide with New York Fashion Week: Men’s. She’s always been inspired by the way that the opposite sex dresses, especially those closest to her: her grandfather, a bow tie devotee, left behind his collection, and her father, who always wore khakis, was confounded when she wore jeans as a young girl in Atlanta. Her high school boyfriends also acted as mannequins (“I would dress them up and take pictures,” she says) and enablers (“we’d always share clothes”). She ended up in New York and graduated from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College with a dual-degree in men’s wear and philosophy in 2013, and interned for Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and Reformation.

Bode developed the patterns for her brand from vintage forms (such as French workwear pants) or by putting her own spin on a certain silhouette (a men’s trousers style riffs on a pair of women’s shorts). “A huge factor,” she says, “is sizing, because everything is one of a kind,” except for the fabric she has manufactured in India, which is reproducible. She leaves a fabric allowance in the back of her pants and uses side-buckle detailing so they can be adjusted. And her shirts are a boxier cut, to accommodate guys of varying heights. She enlisted a different model (and body type) for her last four photo shoots, “but the clothes fit all of them,” she notes. “That’s part of what I love about these shapes.” Another part is breathing new life into the fabrics, specifically the quilts. “Somebody spent hours and days and months making those from scraps and they were, at some point, so functional and cherished,” she says. “I’m repurposing that labor of love into a new piece that will be utilized. It gains a new function.”

In keeping with her fondness for heirlooms, she’s also lending her hand to pillowcases, ashtrays and lapel pins. Both the clothing and objects will be sold on a seasonless schedule — “that’s the way the market’s going,” she remarks (it helps that she has been a buyer for the L.E.S. shop the Rising States for two years). She plans to add stockists at her official launch on July 10, when she’ll finally debut the clothes, which “are not a collection and not looks,” she says. “The way that we’re taught, especially in school, is that you want to sell a new wardrobe — ‘make sure there’s a pant to wear with that top.’ I want you to fall in love with an individual piece, just as I’m passionate about each individual piece. And,” she adds, “I want you to look at this and think, ‘Oh, that’s her, that’s Bode, of course.’ Everyone calls me Bode.”