Alex and Lili , Designers, Nettle Studios
Meet Alex and Lili!
Who are you? Tell me your stories.
An introverted extrovert who sometimes ditches her friends to sew.
True blue California kid– I grew up, for the most part, in a very diverse suburbia type city by the bay and spent my free time learning how to sew used/vintage clothing into modern wearables. Fast forward to college, where I earned my B.F.A. in Womenswear Design and then ran away to Paris to continue learning about fashion. I’ve since moved back to San Francisco and still continue to learn about the apparel industry.
How did both of you meet?
We met in college, but we weren’t friends straight away. It took us a semester or two to get acquainted and by the time we were seniors and working on our senior projects, we were basically inseparable. We bonded over stinky pizza (parmesan) and our shared need for caffeine accompanied by Feta-stic bagels.
Who inspires you the most?
You know the people you see in the city walking around with outlandish outfits on? and crazy socks? Those people inspire me! Self confidence and the ability to not let other people’s opinions affect you are amazing qualities, and I hope to dress all of those people!
This sounds generic but i’m really inspired by the women of history. I love finding little known facts and stories of ladies who may not have gotten notable mentions in history books and it just makes me so happy to learn about how rebellious women have been, relative to their time. Those are the ladies that I want to dress.
When I was little, I used to stockpile scissors from my mom’s craft room, so that when she wasn’t looking I could cut holes into my pants. Not because I was trying to be stylish, I just reallllly liked the sound when you cut fabric. After I got caught, I continued to cut holes in things, but then that turned into cutting out pillows for my dolls, then blankets, and doll dresses, until I was making outfits for myself in high school. It kind of just progressed from there…
I was drawn to fashion because fashion allows you to be the person you want to be. I am a big believer in choosing your own self, and choosing your clothing goes a long way in terms of establishing your identity.
The Brand : Nettle Studios
“We wanted a name that was versatile and useful, and the Nettle plant is interesting in that in its purest form (encountered in the wild), it is quite abrasive and stings your skin– however, once dried, it’s actually very handy and has been used to treat a wide variety of illnesses/diseases.
We’re a San Francisco based brand that focuses on delivering quality, modern handmade apparel in small batches. We love using deadstock fabrics and cutting only a handful of silhouettes in each to truly produce special limited edition runs that are slow made in house. Our pieces were designed to wear well over time, and are easy to layer with pieces that you may already have in your wardrobe. Well made things, well loved.
When we designed the collection, we felt that we were designing for the girl or guy that wasn’t so much concerned with trends or fast fashion, but rather with durability and seasonless silhouettes. We also wanted our audience to appreciate comfort and break away from the confines of skin tight clothing and purely synthetic materials– we imagined our ideal consumer to be attracted to fabrics and individual pieces that gets better with wash and wear.
At the end of the day, we’re motivated to design pieces that we ourselves would want to wear, made out of fabrics that we would want to see in stores.
We feel that this first range showcases a range of confident silhouettes in bold and wearable fabrics, and that’s what we intended to create when we set out.”
What advice do you have for up and coming designers?
My best advice for up and coming designers is to study improvisation. No seriously. As Tina Fey succinctly wrote, the four main rules of improvisation are:
3. The next rule is to MAKE STATEMENTS.
I’ve learned a lot of things working in fashion and have come across a multitude of problems that needed solving, but the most useful thing that I have in my toolkit is the mindset that improv has taught me– that nothing is impossible. It has served me very well to always believe that if there’s a problem, there’s a solution.
What is one thing that you struggled with the most when creating the Nettle Studios brand?
Actually establishing yourself as a business to the government has been the most exhausting. I mean, we both knew it was going to be a ton of work, but all the filing of official paperwork, taxes, po boxes, and pretty much anything else we had to do along the way. You never truly know if you’re doing it right, so just hold your breathe and hope you sent in the right form 🙂 Besides that, finding a studio space for us to house Nettle took a while longer than we had hoped. After about 5 months of working in separate studios and meeting up late at night to sew together, we finally found a great space in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, Get High on Mountains.
Please take a second to explain your latest collection ‘2017/Cobalt’? What does it mean to you?
Cobalt, to us, is kind of a mixture of silhouettes that we wanted to have in our own closets. We both have been gravitating towards more unisex clothing, and we wanted to make things that weren’t overtly feminine or masculine. Really, our first collection is the first layer of basics that one could use to layer up on and that’s what it means to us.
What are your ultimate goals for your Brand?
To build and create timeless pieces that will be worn forever. Ultimately, we just want people to feel confident and creative in our clothes. And we’ll always be striving to create new and different contemporary pieces for our customers, in an industry that can quickly end up all looking the same.
Where are you going to go from here? (New collection, show, showroom?)
We will be debuting at Renegade Craft Fair this year on April 1st and 2nd! We’ll be bringing a handful of one of a kind pieces and a couple of Renegade specific products that we won’t be carrying in our everyday line.
As to our next next steps, we’ll be working on releasing new silhouettes throughout the year. We don’t really want to confine ourselves to seasons, so will work towards releasing new product every so often. Eventually we would love to have a showroom either here, LA, or NYC where we can expose Nettle Studios to a wider audience.
Getting to know you:
Favorite novel at the moment?
It’s not a novel, but I just received this great book “Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers.”. It’s a reminder that all things are imperfect, and the artistic process is beautiful, always. Which is something that I needed to be reminded of every now and again when I have to rip out stitches.
Slowly but surely making my way through Caramelo by Sandra Cisernos, whilst also reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.
Must have beauty product?
Charcoal! I use it to make my own exfoliant, face masks, and toothpaste.
I generally never ever leave my apartment without sunblock on my face (La Roche-Posay 50 SPF + Toucher Sec) and a layer of lip balm (Smith’s Rosebud Salve Minted Rose Lip Balm).
Favorite song at the moment?
Red Bone by Childish Gambino— I don’t usually listen to music at the studio (I mainly re-watch 90’s rom coms/every season of friends), but this song has been on repeat for the last few weeks
Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton
Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto ALWAYS
I think Kaarem is doing really awesome things right now, and I’m always a fan of Maison Margiela pieces.
Photos taken by: Kevin Laughlin
Background images via: Tumblr