Behind the Seams with Emily Katz


Emily Katz took the 2007 Fashion Week in Portland by storm with the debut of her self-titled fashion line. The flattering designs done up in sustainable fabrics and produced locally were an instant hit.

After studying at the Marilyn Institute College of Arts in Baltimore, Emily returned to Portland in 2003 to start her first clothing line, Bonnie Heart Clyde, with her (now-former) sweetheart. After they went their own separate ways, Emily started her self-titled line last year to much fan fare. GLO fashion writer, Victoria Everman meet up with the designer to discuss the Emily Katz line.

GLO: How does your self-titled Emily Katz line differ from your first fashion label, Bonnie Heart Clyde?
Emily Katz: Bonnie Heart Clyde was a freehand embroidered line of separates for men and women. It was crafty and whimsical. The Emily Katz line is the grown up version. More sophisticated, modern, and clean. Simple and elegant. The line has organically grown with my own growth as a designer and person as a whole.

Have you always wanted to design with sustainable fabrics or were you introduced to them recently?
My dad always told me to wear natural fabrics, and organic and sustainable seemed like the right way to go. I can't believe I used to wear so many polyester shirts in high school!

As a new, small fashion brand, do you find it even more difficult to afford to produce your line with sustainable fabrics?
Yes absolutely. I have financed the line by myself, and when you look at the difference between conventional baby jersey ($1.50 per yard), and soy/organic cotton ($6-9 per yard)! You can see how it can be stressful. However, I believe in what I am doing, and thankfully lots of other people do too!

Also a musician, food lover and visual artist, how do you other creative endeavors inspire your fashion creations?
Everything inspires everything else. I couldn't choose just one outlet for my creativity. I love how the clothing line has assisted in connections with the music/art. When the local papers write about my band, they also mention my fashion. I am excited to keep mixing them up too. I am in the process of designing outfits for my band and I to wear on tour, and next to the screen printed Tees and CDs for sale I will have a rack of Bonnie Heart Clyde and Emily Katz clothing for sale. We attach a lot of our identities to the music we listen to and the clothing we wear, I make it one stop shopping!

Your premiere Fall 2007 collection has gotten a lot of press. Are you feeling any anxieties about your upcoming Spring 2008 collection?
Not really, I feel confident about the designs and have gotten great feedback from stores and customers. If anything the press is almost too overwhelming! I feel very lucky.

You work with organic cotton fleece, hemp, soy, and recycled fabrics. Do you have a favorite fiber to work with? Do you plan on introducing additional sustainable fabrics in the future?
The soy jersey is incredibly soft. I love the weight and texture of it. For Fall 08 I am using repurposed army blankets and making them into Coats where a percent of the proceeds will go to Doctors without Borders.

Do you have any other nifty, secret projects in the works that you could hint at?
I am working to record a full length album with my band, Love Menu and planning a tour of California in April to coincide with selling my Fall 08 line to boutiques.

Victoria Everman is a freelance writer, model, on-camera personality and founder of the San Francisco Craft Mafia. She is a regular contributor to Green Living Online.