Postscript by Claire Gardipee

Sassafras: Claire, when did you know you wanted to become a clothing designer?

Claire: I've always felt that I never made this decision, it's just who I am and what I do and there is no Plan B. I've sewn clothes for my dolls and myself since I was very young and just continued to develop that. I do remember strongly disliking my parents' insistence that I go to college until I found out that fashion design was a legitimate degree with career options. There was no stopping me after that. Initially as a big dreamer I decided to get a cosmetology license, a bachelor's in fashion design and a master's in fashion photography so that I could design the clothing, style the hair, and do killer photoshoots to be featured in Vogue and W magazines. Since then, I've pared it down to having my own clothing line with an emphasis on being able to craft and stitch everything myself and have unlimited creative license. The craftsmanship is what I really love and value being able to do. I know that growing my company and having my garments manufactured is more financially viable, but this is what makes me fulfilled and that's better to me than getting a big paycheck.

For the record, I did get the cosmetology license before the bachelor's in design, so I do a lot of living room haircuts!

Sassafras:  Who are some of the people who helped you along your path to creating your line Postscript?

Claire: My family has always been immensely supportive; my dad and older sister have especially gone out of their way to help me along and encourage me. I'm really blessed to live in a strong neighborhood community where many friends and literally dozens of people have stepped up to support me along the way. And I couldn't be where I am today without my business/life coach and friend Jenny MacLeod working through every step of it with me. It really takes a lot for an artist to pursue their work and also figure out how to make a viable living off of it, or run a business, and Jenny made all of that easy for me and walked me through it so I don't feel like I'm drowning in the details.

Sassafras: What's your background? Where are you from and where did you study?

Claire: I grew up here in Northgate and studied in Tukwila at the International Academy of Design and Technology (which is now called Sanford-Brown). I was able to finish up my degree in London and do my internship there, which was a hugely formative experience in my approach to life, creativity, craft, and the way I work. One course that I took focused on gathering and developing inspiration, which very much influenced my design and exploration process; and my internship with couturier Ulrich Engler taught me so much about the intricacies of handwork and valuing what is at your fingertips.

Sassafras: Can you describe your target market--how old is she? what's she doing? what's her attitude?

Claire: I hear a lot of women in their fifties or sixties saying, "That's really beautiful! If I was younger..." and I really want to iterate that age in no way negates beauty. Not all of my pieces are for everyone, but in general I aim to design rather timeless work that looks as elegant on a 25-year-old as a 65-year-old. I design for a woman who understands that she graces the world with her beauty and is confident in that, and even more, I hope to convince women of that who don't already feel that way. It's not about selling more of my work, but about encouraging every woman that she deserves to look and feel beautiful. And I design for the woman who cherishes things.

Sassafras: Your current collection is very fluid and light. Do you expect this to continue in your future collections?

Claire: I'm sure that I'll continue to design that way a lot, but not with everything. I wanted this collection to be what you would like to be wearing on a perfect summer day. For my winter collection, you'll see something different. It's very important to me to always be exploring and learning, so you can expect some variety in the future.

Sassafras: You mentioned to me once that designs come to you in your sleep. Where do you go for motivation and inspiration?

Claire: Oh man, that was one piece! I don't know how it happened, but I designed all of the mechanics of my Limitless Toss from this collection in a dream. I've actually wanted to make something like that for a couple of years and have been collecting all of the requirements for it. Then in my sleep the whole thing came together right down to the button placement and the different ways you can wrap it around and wear it. I jumped out of bed, ran to the store for fabric, and made a prototype immediately, and had to pat myself on the back when it actually worked out!

But, not, I wouldn't say "sometimes." Perhaps I'll practice some lucid dreaming and because "Seattle's Dream Designer." But I wouldn't count on it.

As for motivation and inspiration, I learned in that course in London to look for it everywhere in everything. I don't often turn to clothing for inspiration, but rather things like songs, buildings, water, plants and literature. Often I'll have a muse and design what I think they should be wearing, like Bjork, Amelie, or the Black Market Baby that Tom Waits sings of. A valuable thing that I've learned is to take some time to gather all of the beautiful things that capture my heart, find connections between them and the ones that are most important to me and cut out the rest, design clothing that best interprets that, pair down again, and end up with something concise and rich. That's my goal anyway.

My current collection was inspired by the contrast of architecture and water, structure and flow. The Beatles' Across the Universe was a big part of the inspiration with all this beautiful imagery of "thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box" and such. I named each of the pieces in this collection with a word or phrase from the song.

Sassafras: You're using very soft, rich fabrics in your designs, like silk and felt. What are your favorite materials and why?

Claire: Silk, silk, silk. There are so many types of fabric made out of silk and nothing compares to its lustre, drape, and ability to sculpt. It just feels so luxurious to know that you're wearing silk -- something about it makes you really treasure that garment and feel special in it. Every woman deserves to have at least one silk piece that makes her feel so lovely. I also love working with wool, cotton, and rayon. I primarily stick to woven materials because it involves more tailoring and complex patterning and shows off that contrast of structure and flow.

Sassafras: What can we anticipate for the future of Postscript?

Claire: I'm focusing right now on developing my design ability in more creative patterning and shapes, and delving deeper in to the initial inspiration-to-design process. I want my work to not scream for attention, but when you see it you like it and the longer you look at it the more you love it. Also I'm soon going to start incorporating a few pieces that are much more creative and intricate, like wearable art. I call these my "Intrigue" pieces. Down the road, I'd like to move into some bridal and more extravagant, formal dresses, but for the time being I'm really enjoying daywear and will be doing this for at least the next few years.

Sassafras: We're excited to have your new line in the shop and we're looking forward to what comes next. Thanks, Claire!

Meet Jeni Falldine, Fiber Artist and Designer of Parallel Jewelry

Sassafras: Hi, Jeni! We're seeing your line of jewelry, Parallel Jewelry, all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. What elements and materials do you incorporate into your designs? Jeni: Hi, Amy! I'm especially attracted to materials that are naturally beautiful and resonant, like gemstones and fresh water pearls. I like to think about how they came from the sea and the earth all over the world. There's something special about how far they travel before they get to me. I started using silver because it's an easier metal to work with than some of the harder metals; it's softer for wire wrapping and hammering to create the organic shapes that make up my line. I love the delicate and lightweight look that I can create with it, too.

Sassafras: What's your background as an artist, and how did you first create your jewelry line?

Jeni: I studied textiles in college at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee. While I was in college, I made jewelry as a way to afford school supplies. I had a following among the staff and teachers, who looked forward to my display at the art events. I would always sell out!

Sassafras: That sounds like a great start! Have you pursued other art endeavors?

Jeni: I love costume and fashion. Clothing is like sewn sculpture, and I'm always looking for interesting things to do with it. I've done conceptual clothing and dance costume design, millinery, and some theatre costume. I buy clothes in thrift stores and experiment with changing the silhouettes to make my own wardrobe special. I see fashion as art and a way to communicate.

Sassafras: Do you see an artist community in Seattle, and what's your view on that?

Jeni: I think community is so important for our success as individual artists. There are a lot of people here (in Seattle) with amazing talents to share, but it's only the people who know how to network that get attention. I'd like to see more creative people getting a leg up! Self-promotion is a completely different kind of skill set from being a maker, and while it's super important, it doesn't always go hand in hand with a highly developed design sense or a unique and moving form of expression. If we band together and help each other out with the skills we lack, we're more likely to be able to actualize the most amazing things in our hearts and minds rather than getting discouraged.

Sassafras: How do you collaborate with other artists or designers in Seattle?

Jeni: Collaboration isn't always formal or project based. Sometimes it's simply about sharing resources, networking, and helping connect people who can help each other. I like to connect people. I do a lot of project collaboration for my business, though! For example, I worked with a local graphic designer to design the perfect logo and branding for my company, and I work with professional photographers to shoot the images of my jewelry. Lately, I find myself drawn to bringing people together with public art installations and group art shows. Last Summer I curated and organized the Belltown Summer Market in the new Bell Street Park. My latest collaboration is a pop-up shop concept called Design Kollektive, which will move around the city. The first show will be on March 21, the first day of Spring.

Sassafras: Public art installations? Tell us more about that!

Jeni: The most exciting so far was the 16-foot dream catcher I built for Occidental Park. A "community catcher." The concept for the project was community inclusiveness in the process of making artwork. So much art making happens when we're alone, and I think people can connect more deeply with art and the artist when they can see the process.

Sassafras: How did the community and neighborhood respond to your dream catcher?

Jeni: People were so excited and curious to know what I was doing. Seeing something different going on in the park made everyone want to ask questions and participate. Some people stopped to help. The support was overwhelming! As artists, we're not just creating things. I think by exposing the process, we're able to convey to people what's really special about what we do and the reasons we do it. Maybe we're not performance artists, but there's certainly a gap to be bridged there.

Sassafras: What are your plans for Parallel Jewelry in the next year?

Jeni: I'd like to expand into more shops around the country. My wholesale package is ready for distribution! I'd also like to do more sculptural pieces. I design and sew clothing, too, so look out for a new line of clothing in the future.

Sassafras: That's fantastic, and we can't wait to see what you come up with! Thank you, Jeni!

Designer Shari Noble of La Macón

Sassafras: Shari, tell us about the beginning of your line La Macón. Shari: La Macón began as my label upon graduating from Seattle Central College's Apparel Design program. It's a line that was inspired by those old Cha Cha Cha records from the 50's and 60's. It's fitting that after graduating, I worked in the costume world in Seattle for 7-8 years. I then apprenticed with a leather accessories designer who I met through theater and it just felt natural for me to work in this medium. I decided to design and sew a line of vintage-inspired leather handbags and do various trunk shows, but now that I have a real, fantastic studio at Sassafras, I've been inspired to expand my label and design leather garments!

Sassafras: How would you describe your line?

Shari: Tough, but sweet. Mod, but a bit rocker!

Sassafras: We notice a love of leather in your line. Do you like to use other materials (other than denim)?

Shari: Yes, absolutely! I love finishing my garments (and handbags) with nice quality suit linings that are in stripes, polka dots, or plaid. And if it's vintage, even better! I also love to subtly embellish my garments using rivets and studs. I enjoy the hand work and it helps make a piece feel that much more special.

Sassafras: We're curious about how you picked the French name for your line.

Shari: "Macón" is an acronym for my grandmother's name: Maria Alicia Cortes Otero Noble. She actually had a small record label called Macón. She always said that Macón was going to be famous someday, so I added the "La" to make it my own. To my surprise, it turns out Macón is also the name of a wine region in France, so I will never give it up!

Sassafras: What people or places inspired you most and influence your clothing and handbag designs?

Shari: Well, I would have to say my grandmother, who actually modeled some in the 50's for Miss Clairol, dyed her hair red, and had a fabulous walk-in closet filled with goodies from all over! But I've also been inspired most by listening to and going to tons of punk rock shows most of my life. I'm especially inspired by the female icons of the genre: Debbie, Alice, and Ivy.

Sassafras: What's your favorite era for fashion? Do you see that influence in your designs?

Shari: My favorite era is mid-century and even some early 70's! Yes, you will see this influence in the silhouette, simplicity of the shapes and I try to use construction techniques of the era but with the present in mind.

Sassafras: Who is your customer? What's she doing and where is she going?

Shari: She's definitely a city girl who may be going to a high-end restaurant for steak and red wine before a dirty punk rock show.

Sassafras: If you had to name your favorite item in your new collection, what would it be and why?

Shari: I'm thrilled to be producing my Leather Cat Jacket with a removable hood. And what's really exciting is to be adding denim options to my garment line.

Sassafras: What do you see on the horizon for La Macón?

Shari: I would love to produce a more extensive line with more pieces for dudes. I would love to be a part of some cool fashion shows in Seattle, and of course I would love a new sexy website. That would be lovely.

Sassafras: Thanks, Shari! We look forward to hosting your Fashion Launch Party October 25th and 26th at Sassafras!