These LA-Based Labels Are Re-Imagining Women's Workwear
With hashtags like #pantsuitnation and #dresslikeawoman trending, one good thing to come out of very controversial election results is the current dialogue about what it means to be and dress like a woman—specifically what it means to look like a powerful, intelligent, and capable woman. For presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, that meant a pantsuit in every shade the spectrum has to offer, and we've seen many women in turn become inspired by the concept of finding their own uniform (so to speak) to make them feel like Superwoman. This has also been influencing the way designers cultivate new collections. Two newer local labels, Town Clothes and Art of the Gentlewoman, create clothing that empowers women—from offering stylish workwear options beyond what's traditional to utilizing ethical manufacturing by family-owned businesses and contributing to charitable women's causes.
In creating Town Clothes a few years ago, designer Krista Bachmeier wanted to specifically address issues in the fashion industry that include waste and human rights violation (which often occur in some overseas manufacturing). Her last collection reimagined women's suiting with 70's inspired cropped baby-flares and single-breasted jackets with slightly exaggerated lapels—and the clothing is made with sustainable materials (organic or deadstock fabrics and plant-based dyes as often as possible). While her new spring pieces might be more stereotypically feminine (breezy linen culottes, open-back blouses), Town Clothes' aim to dress the strong-willed, mindful woman is as apparent as ever.
Vastly different in style, Art of the Gentlewoman also wants to offer professional options for confident, successful women. For the brand, that means launching with a mix-and-match 6-piece suit collection. Creators Melissa Martinez-Booth and Melissa Kanarek wanted to bring a fresh feel to the "power suit." The two fashion vets also wanted to make pieces that felt luxurious, but maintained a price point reasonable for a wide range of women.
We got a chance to chat with the ladies behind both lines, and discovered what they wear to feel powerful, how their badass customers drive their brands, and exactly what it means to "dress like a woman."
What do you wear to feel powerful?
It differs depending on my mood—sometimes my favorite coat makes me feel powerful! Right after the election results what felt powerful to me was wearing my hair in two braids, wearing a bunch of political pins that referenced my principles, and wearing a monochromatic suit made by moi. And for some of my closest friends and peers it meant dusting off their berets like many revolutionaries before them.
How do you describe the Town Clothes woman?
A woman who gravitates towards androgyny for the most part. She does not need to dress a certain way to be regarded as female. She rules her own gender identity.
A modern, working woman means so many things these days, which is probably why there are now so many possibilities for how professional women can be appropriately dressed. How do the badass working women who wear Town Clothes inspire you further as you create new collections?
It’s such a compliment when I see a woman I respect and admire wearing my clothes. Often, when designing I think about them and how they would look in certain pieces and how they would wear it in their day-to-day lives. Would it make them feel comfortable, strong, chic, etc.
In reference to Trump's recent idiotic comment about dressing "like a woman"—what do you personally think it means to "dress like a woman"? Or, as the case may be, what does it not mean?
Well obviously, we all know old man Trump doesn’t know much about dressing; he wears rectangular boxes with lapels and calls it a suit. For me, to dress like a woman is to wear whatever it is you want to wear. Obviously certain jobs require a dress code, but Trump’s dress code is likely a sexual harassment suit. I feel empowered when I dress a certain way, when I wear tailored suiting or anything I’ve made. Others like wearing jeans and a soft, worn-in t-shirt, while others feel empowered in a sexy dress and heels. All are valid ways for a woman to dress and long story short we as women need to continue to disrupt and question the male gaze.
Art of the Gentlewoman
What's the most powerful thing a woman can wear?
That's easy. Confidence.
How does your brand speak to that idea?
Wearing a suit is incredibly empowering. Especially a well cut one. Fashion is a reflection of the times and we needed to craft go-to pieces that were stylish and wearable for busy women who look great. Guys get to throw on a suit and tie and be meeting ready. The choices for women with our aesthetic were lacking and we wanted to address that through accessible luxury and the concept of capsule buying.
What inspiring woman would you love to dress and what would you put her in?
Only One? The list could go on forever. Patti Smith, Coco Chanel, Katharine Hepburn, Notorious RBG, Viola Davis, Ki Longfellow, Diana Vreeland, Sofia Coppola, Georgia O'Keeffe, Amy Poehler, Cher...we could go on and on. We'd put them in our 6-piece Slouch Suit Launch Collection and they'd all kill it.
Who inspired you to create the brand?
Women who have made their mark and are no longer around as well as women who are doing their thing in the here and now. We both have teenage daughters and it is somewhat of a legacy to pass onto them. To find the thing you love and then work your ass off. We are both pretty determined and surround ourselves with strong, confident women. There is no shortage of inspiration and we are honored when the women we admire put on our clothing to take on their day.