Celene and Tim omg! They're friends, they're designers, they're the co founders of Novel, a new brand in the Los Angeles slow fashion community, and they're sweet sweet like sugar! Celene and Tim met while studying fashion at Otis (my west coast sister school alum) and when I met them both, I knew we were kindred creative spirits -- they just get it!! Like b.a.g, The Novel collection is reconstructed from dead-stock/thrifted materials and made with purpose because, like us they are more concerned with the people and the planet. Even though Celene and Tim have both worked in different design positions that opened their eyes to the over consumption and toxicity within the Fashion industry, they remain hopeful and positive in their mission to change industry standards for the better. We met up in Echo Park on a foggy night after work, to do more work, but the fun work! We chat, we danced, and we ate Taco Zone on top of Celene's car (Taco Zone Mulitas 4eva) It was truly magical. See and read the vibes below:
R: How do you decide what you're going to wear everyday?
C: I look mostly the same every day. Usually, I try to wear something that workout in and still look decent in, so that I can not have any excuses not to work out after my day job. Sometimes it doesn't work but at least I'm comfy.
T: I usually get obsessed with a few items and wear them for an entire month. My current pieces in rotation are pleated pants, old baggy painters pants, and a wide leg DKNY jean from the 90s - all with a fitted tee. The number priority for me is comfortability while looking put together. Been finishing all my looks with Birkenstocks or my white leather boots which always get compliments.
R: Why do you choose to work in fashion? What's your favorite part of fashion?
C: At some point, I remember the feeling of transforming after getting dressed up. That is what made me fall in love with fashion. I loved feeling like I could be anything just from changing my clothes. After that, I thought, I wish I could make clothes for myself. Then I went to school to learn how to do that.
My favorite part about fashion is making the clothes. I like figuring out how to make it happen and I like the whole process of working with the fabric, maybe doing draping or pattern work and then cutting, sewing. It's kind of like magic.
T: I chose to work in fashion because I love creating a story, cohesive looks, and ultimately seeing real people wear the clothes. Designing all its parts it's actually always stressful, but the real fun starts when you start to see the clothes come alive, and when it's seen out in the real world. Seeing the way clothes transforms a person's entire energy is the best feeling.
R: What role does community play in your work?
C: For me and Tim's brand Novel, what we do is take clothes that already exist and then recreate something new from that. Our hope is that people learn to understand the importance of buying things that can last long and also realize that things can be remade into something new and don't need to be wasted. Our brand is a bit personal because Tim and I work on each piece ourselves. Our hands and our minds touch everything we make. There is only one of each piece so it's very special to us and connects us to whoever is buying the garment. A lot of people already know how bad fast fashion is for a multitude of reasons including that it's destroying the environment so we are trying to keep popularizing the idea of slow fashion. We support designers who do the same and really take time to create.
T: Community is everything, you can only get so much done by yourself. At my previous design job my team was my entire world, it feels great to filter all your decisions and problem solve collectively. Currently, Celene and I are a team for our new line, Novel. We talk through every aspect of the brand, bouncing around ideas to the point where we get in sync with each other's thoughts. It's scary and magical, and we bring out the best in each other.
R: What does sustainability mean to you?
It means working with the environment to make sure there are enough resources for the future.
T: To me sustainability means you better walk the walk. Live it, be about it. I haven't bought newly produced clothes in a long time, and I try my best to shop vintage and pick through clothes my friends would plan to throw away. There's an insane amount of clothes that already exist in the world, and everything is just a regurgitation of the past. I really admire every brand that is committing to slow fashion, rethinking and repurposing clothes. That is what we hope to do with Novel.
R: Who are some of your fashion designers? Where do you find inspiration?
Oooooh..... hmmm..... Mugler, Iris van Herpen, Peter Do, Schiaparelli, Miss Sohee, Margiela, Alexander Mcqueen, Dion Lee, Monse, Area. Those are big ones haha. I find inspiration everywhere. Movies, poems, photos, paintings, songs, outside - in nature, or restaurants, or bars, or other stores. From other people. Really, everywhere.
T: My favorite designers have to be every era of John Galliano, he is pure creativity and his current work at Margiela is completely mind blowing. Hairder Ackerman is a master of modern silhouettes and Tom Ford exudes sensuality. But currently my eye has been on Peter Do and Emily Bode - this next generation of designers are shattering even more glass ceilings. As for inspiration, I find so much of it in world cultures and architecture, but in terms of fashion, I love people watching and seeing how people style themselves - individuality is intoxicating.
R: What does your collaboration process look like?
T: We start with creating a mood board of silhouettes and techniques we want to experiment with. We then collect vintage items, review everything and start playing with all the possibilities. The direction of our collection can change dramatically several times, but it's through this constant transformation that we land on something that excites both of us. We talk through every creative decision, and work side by side in a truly collaborative process. You can count there's always a film playing in the background with some wine and snacks, good snacks are very important to our process.
We have only done this once but this is how it's gone. We will shop for vintage and deadstock trims. Then we will look at everything together and see what kind of story we might be able to tell. Then we will look for inspiration and a sort of theme that can tie it all together. Then we get our hands on the stuff and just ask each other questions all throughout and pass things back and forth. It's only collaborative. This whole brand is completely US.
R: What excites you most about your work?
T: What excites me most is getting our hands dirty. Since we are upcycling we have to take a lot of the clothes apart and reconfigure or embellish them. Being hands on, slowing down to reconstruct and problem solve is both challenging and highly rewarding. The potential of a garment rebirthed is beautiful in its possibilities, but once it's realized and worn by a real person, that's electric.
1. When we finish a piece
2. Getting to see how people feel when they put on the clothes
R: What does success look like for your company? What are you trying to achieve?
It looks like me and Tim being able to keep doing this and keep pushing what we can make. I want to be able to have a proper studio space with him to work in, with pant forms, and an overlock and cover-stitch machine. I also would very much love it if our clothes could be on display somewhere. If not a store, maybe like a gallery. I'd like people to be able to see it all in person vs. only in photos online. Oh! and I'd like to have a collection launch party sometime. :)
T: We are a humble brand among the many giants that are currently pushing the agenda of slow fashion. We are trying to educate consumers to really research who they're buying from and how much they're contributing to this excessive industry. Scaling a small business like ours is a major challenge, but we would love to grow into a team that can help us reconstruct more pieces at an affordable price so the masses can easily digest the real meaning behind sustainability. We would love to be a notable brand among many others to encourage slow fashion and upcycling, that would be a success story in my book.