Nº21: CONVERSATIONS WITH DESIGNERS & CREATORS OF BLLUEMADE
Linens & Love
Photos by Gerardo Mendez
Alex and Lilly caught my attention at “MAN WOMAN” SS18 show. Their vibrant personalities and love for each other and their clothing brand charmed me. After a few minutes of conversation, I realized it’s only right that they should be featured in this issue. It’s one thing to love a brand because of the aesthetics; it’s even better when the designers are a part of the brand’s identity and of design. I joined Alex and Lilly at their beautiful apartment in Brooklyn.
Their home was filled with life, color and knowledge. The decor that was extremely authentic and inspirational. They are educated on everything from literature to old vinyl, to art. The couple’s home has many personalities and every item has a story behind it, from quilts of denim made by the couple to art pieces given to them by friends decorating their walls. Hints of Japanese culture added up to a magnificent and well-developed palate.
When couples come together and decide to build a company, the fear of jeopardizing not only their love but their business as well, can certainly occur. However, both Alex and Lilly seem to have the blueprint to keep things afloat no matter what problems arise. A general rule Lilly mentioned during the interview is that the couple "will not discuss anything concerning the business after 10 pm.” They write what needs to be discussed or a post-it note and save it for the next day in order to prevent any form of disagreement before bed. So far, what’s not to love about this couple? The realness of their love, stories and vast knowledge on fashion, something that neither studied before, is very admirable.
Coming from teaching backgrounds at a university level, the couple traveled frequently during summers, visiting family in Asia. On one of those occasions, the idea of blluemade was born. They had a vision of creating comfortable clothing when they traveled in the middle of a "blazing hot" July. They realized over the course of their trips that cotton wasn’t cutting it because it was damp and heavy and does not dry overnight. Athletic wear smelled terrible and felt terrible to the touch. Lilly added how they wanted clothing that felt and looked good. “We wanted something that was kind of more elevated than what someone in college would wear, but wasn’t stuffy or professional business wear.”
Once they figured out what they wanted to do and found what worked for them as they made their own clothing, they moved from Atlanta to New York City last year. Since then, they’ve increased their knowledge in the linen industry and contacted different companies from all over the world before finally deciding to work with a company in Belgium, as it was not only affordable but also of great quality.
They’ve used their love for Japanese culture, and creative genius in their ever-growing brand. Being transparent as possible, Alex and Lilly shared with me stories on their love, their inspirations for their S/S18 collection and the remedy that helps them get over slumps.
Love the name of the brand. What’s the meaning of the extra “L”?
LILLY: Good eye for details. Well, we went through a bunch of names while trying to purchase the domain for our website. We wanted “blluemade” to start because ethical labor and indigo is so important to us, but the domain was already taken. So we decided to add another L, we also had so many other names for the site but this one just stuck out for us. Maybe we can say it’s for 'Lilly' *laughs*.
ALEX: Later, we then realized that the extra L could just stand for “Linen”. So that’s been our thing and we’re happy we stuck with that name because now it makes so much sense.
How would you guys describe each of your roles/involvement when it came down to creating blluemade?
LILLY: For a while, Alex was a professor at Fordham University and I was the one focusing on the business, so at first I would really just work on the womenswear for blluemade and then Alex would get home and work on the menswear. It became increasingly unisex because that’s how we wanted to dress, and that change helped us both streamline our eye for design and the process. Our roles switch a lot. Sometimes Alex works on the designs and I do the numbers; other times he’s getting orders out and I’m designing.
Who or what inspired this S/S18 collection?
ALEX: This year’s collection was really inspired by other couples.
LILLY: Art and design duos Jeanne- Claude and Christo, Charles and Ray Eames' have been huge for us this year. We visited Charles and Ray Eames studio and it was very validating. They work at their home and they brought their entire families into what they were doing. Both were big collectors. They had a ton of books, objects, plants that still exist at their site today and artwork that they traded amongst their friends.
ALEX: Friends like the artist, Alexander Calder.
LILLY (cont.): The tour guide gave us really great quotes that we found very validating, based on how we live and work. Ray Eames would say things like “collecting is a form of note-taking.” And also, “every object here will teach you something about design”. This stuff that very much enables our own collecting (aka hoarding tendencies) when it comes to objects, like books, art, textiles, and ceramics.
ALEX: But we do often think about creative couples like Josef and Anni Albers. There haven’t been any direct connections to any collections we’ve made, but we think of them and the Bauhaus frequently. But the Eames have been really occupying our imagination recently.
You guys are married. What were your initial thoughts on starting a business as a couple?
ALEX: It was a no-brainer. We were working separately as teachers and would often spend days without really getting to spend much quality time together. Selfishly, we wanted to work together and be together more. But it also just suits our temperament and how we like to work. We like to talk constantly and debate constantly.
LILLY: In many ways, working together has made us stronger as a couple, as well as constantly tested us! Both of those aspects come from the fact that we have to make every decision in our personal and work lives together now, and the lines get very blurry between personal and work. But it has taught us more about each other too. We love it, but we do bicker sometimes!
How do you guys get out of slumps?
LILLY: We try to tap back into the things that we’re always excited about. Sometimes It’s hard to be excited about whatever task we have to deal with on the business end. So we remember all the other things that inspire us. We go to bookstores, museums, galleries, and interesting retail stores. We try to find the beautiful stores in New York that will inspire us and that’s always good research. We visit friends' studios, trying not to be too distracting to their work. We always end up talking about design and business, encouraging each other and those are always very validating visits and cool things will always come out of those too. It gets us out of the house and out of our heads.
ALEX: A bumping Friday night for us is going to the extended hours at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, colloquially the MET. Being there at like 7:30pm the galleries are pretty much empty.
LILLY: We did that a lot in like 2013-2014. We don’t have much time to do that anymore.
ALEX: But when we do have a slump, those are kind of spaces we go to. Going to a museum and getting out always helps.
How would you describe your love? What song reminds you of your love?
ALEX: Like a pomegranate. *laughs*
LILLY: What, why? A pomegranate is so messy and stains everything.
ALEX: *laughs* Okay, well, we knew we loved each other once we started traveling a lot together. In Cambodia, we would take these cheap buses and would be side-by-side for hours! On one trip, we were the only Americans on the bus and I remember the attendant would play karaoke music on the bus sound system and the Cambodian passengers would sing along and everyone knew the Khmer songs but us. So he decided to be nice and play the one English song he had and gave us the mic because he knew we were American. The name of the song is called “Mice Loves Rice”. It was incredibly popular in China and throughout Asia, but we had no idea what it was, so we just sat there baffled as the rest of the bus watched, smiling. It’s the first song that I always think about when it comes to our love. It was an unexpected and fun collision of cultures and we were together.
LILLY: We ended up loving the song so much that we actually wanted it played at our wedding and no one knew about it, just like we didn’t when we first heard it. The band was not into it so we didn’t get to have it at our wedding but we love the song.
Favorite musician you’re listening to right now?
LILLY: I fell in love with the work of Kahlil Joseph, which is what led me to Kendrick Lamar who of course I’d already heard of. Falling for his work through Kahlil—whose work I admire so much—was really a genius idea experience. I discovered Kahlil’s work when I was writing about art a lot more. His work was included in an exhibition that Karen Walker curated for the ICA in Philadelphia. The two works on view were the music videos that he created for "Flying Lotus" and "Shabazz Palaces" that were like beautiful little art films. I think I went twice to the museum and every time I was there I would sit and watch the videos like 5 or 6 times and if anyone would come in and start talking and not paying attention to the music and music video, I would glare at them until they left. It was like, “we’re having an experience here, you need to respect the work.” I ended up writing about Kahlil twice, going out and interviewing him on the occasion of his first museum show at MOCA in LA. His work for that was a single piece that Kendrick Lamar had commissioned for his Good Kid, M.A.A.D CITY tour. He also admired Kahlil Joseph’s work, and gave him all these home videos from the 80s, from growing up in Compton, and all of it stems from the Good Kid, M.A.A.D CITY album. Kendrick allowed Kahlil to transform it into this work that had new material, had dancers, very atmospheric clips of LA and Compton, as well as historical, biographical tidbits of Kendrick Lamar’s family and his upbringing. Through that work and what Kahlil was able to do with that source material, I became very interested in Kendrick Lamar, not just as a rapper but really as an artist. It was so cool to see that he was someone who had confidence and trust in another artist, to the point where he could give someone else that kind of freedom with his own work. It’s very rare to see with someone that successful. To let someone transform your own work, a lot of people like to exercise very rigid control and he was the opposite. It’s like “I believe in your work, take what I’ve done and mix it up and remake it in your own way.”
ALEX: I really like folk and country music. I’m always looking for LP’s of Charley Pride and other 60s and 70s country singers. But what I’ve been streaming as I work or what I've been listening to on the subway is actually contemporary zydeco from the Texas Louisiana border. J Paul Jr. and the Zydeco Nubreeds for example. I’m always seduced by music that mixes lots of cultural influences and contemporary zydeco is a vibrant mix of Afro-Caribbean dance music, R&B vocals and an overall cowboy sensibility. What’s not to like?
Here are our editors picks on the s/s18 lookbook if you like what you see, feel free to visit their page and purchase your linens for this hot weather www.blluemade.com