Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Study- Tara St James

Tara St James is an incredible designer and mentor. After working as the creative director for Covet, Tara launched her own label Study in 2009 and has swiftly established herself as a key innovator in the ethical fashion scene. Her intelligent zero waste designs and constant collaborations with artists and textile designers are probably the key components to her success. A firm believer in open sourcing, Tara has also set up the Study Hall project, throwing interns into the deep end. Each intern is given the skills and guidance to create their own collections which they then sell to stockists.

Tara tells us about her latest collaboration and gives us an insight into some exciting new developments she is eagerly experimenting with.

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
I'll talk about my upcoming SS12 season here as the inspiration for that is most prominent on my mind. It started with the work of artist Zhen Chew who developed a series of Blind Train Drawings in her native Australia, which I am using as prints and the main inspiration for textile development for the collection. The New York City subway system is the secondary inspiration for the collection, which compliments Zhen's work and allows us to expand on it in our own textile development using printing, pleating and dyeing to simulate the folds lines of the train tracks. The body shapes are being kept clean and simple to really focus on the textiles.

Can you explain the concept behind your no waste skirt/top and your approach to versatility?
I started Study with an entirely zero-waste collection for SS09 and have continued to use this patternmaking technique in subsequent seasons. In the Spring 11 collection I made a no waste skirt because the fabric - which is a silk ikat that was hand woven in Uzbekistan - is very narrow and can be used without waste.
Every season I repeat a version of the square dress which can be worn in many different way. This is the most basic form of zero waste as it is just a large square of fabric that has intricately placed buttons and buttonholes allowing the customer to play with it and find their ideal shape. Essentially I want my customers to have fun with their clothes and play around, which is why my designs are made to be versatile.

You are very open with your fabric sourcing and production knowledge, why is this important to you?
A lot of the suppliers I work with are small, fair trade companies or mills that work very hard to be sustainable. I want to support them by buying their fabrics. But I also want them to succeed independently of the work they do for me since I'm not big enough to support them all on my own. So I share their contact info with fellow designers who I respect so we can "group fund" them as suppliers. I'm not worried about being open sourced with my supplier info, I'm confident in my designs and know that other designers will be able to make beautiful garments using the same fabrics without the risk of saturating the market.

Can you tell us more about your project "Study Hall"?
Study Hall is an intern project. The idea is for them to design a mini collection, under my supervision, of 3-4 pieces. They will develop their designs, source fabrics, calculate costs, make samples, sell the styles to a retailer, produce the styles and deliver them to the store. All between now and the end of August. It’s doable. A mini version of what designers and big houses do repeatedly every season.We are now on round 2 of Study Hall with 6 interns, each will be doing one item instead of 4, and they will work together to make the complete collection more cohesive. I have 2 textile designers working with me, so they'll be designing their own textiles as well as garments, so I'm very excited about this season of Study Hall!

Why New York?
I love New York. It's as simple as that. There's a fully functioning garment center here where I can develop and manufacture almost everything I need. And I can walk outside my door and be inspired. I tend to draw inspiration from music, art, people and movement, I need to be surrounded by energy, I don't work well when it's too quiet or peaceful.

What's next for Study?
Always a tough question! I want to continue to develop the brand's sustainability and really evaluate my chain of production to see where I can be more transparent and where I can make improvements. I'm also working with AirDye this season to develop a line of printed textiles that require little to no water use in the printing. This has been a big challenge to source a fabric that is suitable for this next level of printing, but I think we have found what we need! Stay tuned...

For information on her projects go to her informative blog here or the Study website here

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