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Inspired Indy Label

11/25/2013

Basquiat’s Untitled (Two Heads on Gold) – excerpted above, center – helped clarify Patmos’ resort wear palette.

“I’m not interested in fast, throwaway fashion,” Marcia Patmos 91 AP told students at a November 12 presentation in the Metcalf Auditorium. The independent knitwear and womenswear designer was on campus speaking about her inspiration and process as part of a lecture series for students in the Apparel Design and Textiles departments. Her label, M. Patmos, is known for its socially conscious, eco-friendly production techniques.

After graduating from RISD, Patmos started her career designing for large retail companies such as Macy’s, Barneys and the Gap. In 2000 she partnered with German designer Tina Lutz to launch Lutz & Patmos, a niche knitwear company with stores throughout the world featuring sweaters, separates and accessories made of cashmere and other luxury fibers and fabrics. In 2010, after a successful decade in business, the two parted ways in order to pursue new interests, with Patmos launching her own label, M. Patmos. “My current lines feature clean, graphic designs that fit different body types,” she says.

At her presentation, Patmos encouraged students to look outside the fashion world for inspiration, using her newly released line of resort wear as a case in point. A detour through the galleries of NYC’s Chelsea district brought her face-to-face with paintings by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, including Untitled (Two Heads on Gold). “His use of colors helped to clarify my palette for the line,” she explained.

Students asked Patmos questions about the real-world challenges inherent in sourcing and working with sustainable materials. The designer is considered to be something of an expert in the field, with her environmentally friendly processes earning her a 2011 Lexus Eco-Challenge award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. These days her favorite factory – in New Jersey, right across the river from her home base in Manhattan – uses seamless knitting machines to produce entire sweaters (rather than pieces that are then hand-stitched together). The process allows for beautiful garments that are made in the USA producing zero waste.

Patmos also works with Bolivian artisans, who use organically produced fabrics, and with Nepalese weavers, who take on simple, high-volume production pieces for her label. “It’s hard to compete with cheap, nonorganic clothes and materials,” she told students. “But if you produce less and are more thoughtful and original in your work, you can always find buyers and magazine editors who are looking for something new.”

Simone Solondz

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tags: Apparel Design, alumni, Textiles

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