How the Familiar Just Got Fresh
Getting to Know Emily Bode, the Coolest Woman in Menswear

How the Familiar Just Got Fresh
Getting to Know Emily Bode, the Coolest Woman in Menswear

In two short years, Emily Bode has created the most talked about menswear brand in New York, one whose synthesis of vintage, deadstock fabrics, sensible-yet-progressive silhouettes, intricate embroidery and dash of romanticism is the freshest thing we’ve seen in a long time. And as someone who grew up immersed in the business of vintage, she’s been able to infuse that same narrative quality into something cool and new. On the heels of her CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nomination, Josh Peskowitz sits down with Emily to talk about the catalyst for her brand, her design philosophy and why New York will always be home.

In two short years, Emily Bode has created the most talked about menswear brand in New York, one whose synthesis of vintage, deadstock fabrics, sensible-yet-progressive silhouettes, intricate embroidery and dash of romanticism is the freshest thing we’ve seen in a long time. And as someone who grew up immersed in the business of vintage, she’s been able to infuse that same narrative quality into something cool and new. On the heels of her CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nomination, Josh Peskowitz sits down with Emily to talk about the catalyst for her brand, her design philosophy and why New York will always be home.

Josh Peskowitz: So let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from originally?
 
Emily Bode: I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia so I grew up in the South and began antiquing when I was a kid with my mother and my aunts. Both sides of my family are from Massachusetts originally, so I grew up spending all of my summers in Cape Cod, a little town in Massachusetts. After a year in Switzerland, I came to New York to Parsons and did a dual degree program, in philosophy at Eugene Lang and menswear at Parsons.
 
JP: After school, who’d you work for? I know you started the brand early, but there must have been someone?
 
EB: Yeah, a little bit. Throughout college I worked in special projects and collaborations at Marc Jacobs, I did Rough Wear at Ralph Lauren, and then I did a lot of freelance. When I finished my fashion degree, I was recruited by a lot of larger corporations so I spent that year traveling around to all of their campus offices all over America. But I knew I wanted to start my own brand ever since I was little and I think that process really made me realize that. I really didn’t want to just work in a corporate environment.
 
JP: Fair enough.

EB: Up until I launched my brand, I was buying for a small boutique in Manhattan. I grew up buying—and my mother as well—buying mostly antique and vintage clothing and I always have this response to the stories of vintage, how it’s one-of-a-kind, and the way that there was a past history to things. It informed the way I made clothes—being a young person wearing my mother’s clothes, that she had bought as vintage, and then continuing that on.

Josh Peskowitz: So let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from originally?
 
Emily Bode: I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia so I grew up in the South and began antiquing when I was a kid with my mother and my aunts. Both sides of my family are from Massachusetts originally, so I grew up spending all of my summers in Cape Cod, a little town in Massachusetts. After a year in Switzerland, I came to New York to Parsons and did a dual degree program, in philosophy at Eugene Lang and menswear at Parsons.
 
JP: After school, who’d you work for? I know you started the brand early, but there must have been someone?
 
EB: Yeah, a little bit. Throughout college I worked in special projects and collaborations at Marc Jacobs, I did Rough Wear at Ralph Lauren, and then I did a lot of freelance. When I finished my fashion degree, I was recruited by a lot of larger corporations so I spent that year traveling around to all of their campus offices all over America. But I knew I wanted to start my own brand ever since I was little and I think that process really made me realize that. I really didn’t want to just work in a corporate environment.
 
JP: Fair enough.

EB: Up until I launched my brand, I was buying for a small boutique in Manhattan. I grew up buying—and my mother as well—buying mostly antique and vintage clothing and I always have this response to the stories of vintage, how it’s one-of-a-kind, and the way that there was a past history to things. It informed the way I made clothes—being a young person wearing my mother’s clothes, that she had bought as vintage, and then continuing that on.

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JP: So, when you launched BODE, you decided on menswear. What attracted you to doing men’s, as opposed to launching women’s?
 
EB: I actually went to college for menswear. When I was in third grade, I petitioned to allow the women to wear the men’s uniforms, so I think I’ve always been attracted to menswear. It’s the shape, that pragmatic form of clothes.  The way that we wear menswear, and the way that people shop for menswear, that’s always been really attractive to me. I really love working with a customer that’s outside myself. I’m not designing for myself, it’s like I’m designing for this ideal being that isn’t me. Um, not ideal in that I want to be a guy [laughs].
 
JP: [laughs] Right.
 
EB: [laughing] That sounds weird. But, it’s just more interesting for me to design for this other person. You know, even when I was little, I just remember the way that I responded to menswear. It was a lot of these boxier shapes, like I bought primarily men’s sportswear, and I loved those design elements and details like buttons and pockets on military wear. I think that it’s been something since I was young.

JP: So, when you launched BODE, you decided on menswear. What attracted you to doing men’s, as opposed to launching women’s?
 
EB: I actually went to college for menswear. When I was in third grade, I petitioned to allow the women to wear the men’s uniforms, so I think I’ve always been attracted to menswear. It’s the shape, that pragmatic form of clothes.  The way that we wear menswear, and the way that people shop for menswear, that’s always been really attractive to me. I really love working with a customer that’s outside myself. I’m not designing for myself, it’s like I’m designing for this ideal being that isn’t me. Um, not ideal in that I want to be a guy [laughs].
 
JP: [laughs] Right.
 
EB: [laughing] That sounds weird. But, it’s just more interesting for me to design for this other person. You know, even when I was little, I just remember the way that I responded to menswear. It was a lot of these boxier shapes, like I bought primarily men’s sportswear, and I loved those design elements and details like buttons and pockets on military wear. I think that it’s been something since I was young.

JP: Let’s talk a little bit about your process.
 
EB: When we first launched I was making only one-of-a-kind clothing, and now that we have expanded to India, it’s been really important to me to keep the tradition of craft making: the hand embroideries, the hand weaving and the appliques and preserve the traditions of these historical techniques. We work with a lot with antique textiles, so that’s the foundation and that’s how I think people have such a personal and emotional response to the clothes. Even though not every single thing we make is one-of-a-kind now,  you can still tell that there was a person that was involved in the making. We have a really close relationship with our craftsmen and our tailors. So much of our inspiration comes from antique embroideries and it feels familiar. It’s like “this is a shirt but it reminds me of something my grandmother had in her home, or something that I’ve studied from a museum”. That emotive response is what we aim for.
 
JP: Is there consideration to the idea of reuse? Because that’s a really big thing right now, this idea of taking something that already exists and giving it new life. How important is that to you and to the process?
 
EB: A lot of the textiles we use are otherwise discarded. I work with a lot of my quilt dealers to pick and choose quilts––I would never cut something that has historical significance or that is signed. There’s a process that we go through to figure out what we should cut as a brand that repurposes textiles and what should be saved as an artifact. We have to mend a lot of it and bring it back to life. So a huge part of my brand is preserving the fabric of history. When we do manufacture in India, we keep the brand sustainable by working with piece goods and by embroidering just the pieces so that we’re not embroidering hundreds of yards at a time.

JP: Let’s talk a little bit about your process.
 
EB: When we first launched I was making only one-of-a-kind clothing, and now that we have expanded to India, it’s been really important to me to keep the tradition of craft making: the hand embroideries, the hand weaving and the appliques and preserve the traditions of these historical techniques. We work with a lot with antique textiles, so that’s the foundation and that’s how I think people have such a personal and emotional response to the clothes. Even though not every single thing we make is one-of-a-kind now,  you can still tell that there was a person that was involved in the making. We have a really close relationship with our craftsmen and our tailors. So much of our inspiration comes from antique embroideries and it feels familiar. It’s like “this is a shirt but it reminds me of something my grandmother had in her home, or something that I’ve studied from a museum”. That emotive response is what we aim for.
 
JP: Is there consideration to the idea of reuse? Because that’s a really big thing right now, this idea of taking something that already exists and giving it new life. How important is that to you and to the process?
 
EB: A lot of the textiles we use are otherwise discarded. I work with a lot of my quilt dealers to pick and choose quilts––I would never cut something that has historical significance or that is signed. There’s a process that we go through to figure out what we should cut as a brand that repurposes textiles and what should be saved as an artifact. We have to mend a lot of it and bring it back to life. So a huge part of my brand is preserving the fabric of history. When we do manufacture in India, we keep the brand sustainable by working with piece goods and by embroidering just the pieces so that we’re not embroidering hundreds of yards at a time.

JP: Tell me about the SS19 collection, where the inspiration comes from.
 
EB: It’s based on the personal narrative of Aaron Aujla, whose family came from India to British Columbia in the 1920s, and then brought the rest of his family over in 1947 after Indian Independence. I was able to source for this collection some khadi cotton which was really important in Indian independence. Khadi is handwoven cloth that Ghandi was a huge supporter of, as he thought bringing the making of these goods back to the Indians would allowed people to regain their self-reliance and independence. So we used that, and fabric from saris both vintage and new.
 
JP: How close of a relationship do you have with those customers?
 
EB: I love hearing feedback. We have a couple clients who like working with us trying to figure out their sizing, especially for athletes who have very specific size measurements. (We’re not really gonna be making them a cropped trouser.) We have some customers come in and choose their textiles for what they want to make, especially for our one-of-a-kind. We have customers who will buy one shirt, and then they’ll come back and buy like, thirteen. I think that’s also what I love about the way guys shop.

JP: Tell me about the SS19 collection, where the inspiration comes from.
 
EB: It’s based on the personal narrative of Aaron Aujla, whose family came from India to British Columbia in the 1920s, and then brought the rest of his family over in 1947 after Indian Independence. I was able to source for this collection some khadi cotton which was really important in Indian independence. Khadi is handwoven cloth that Ghandi was a huge supporter of, as he thought bringing the making of these goods back to the Indians would allowed people to regain their self-reliance and independence. So we used that, and fabric from saris both vintage and new.
 
JP: How close of a relationship do you have with those customers?
 
EB: I love hearing feedback. We have a couple clients who like working with us trying to figure out their sizing, especially for athletes who have very specific size measurements. (We’re not really gonna be making them a cropped trouser.) We have some customers come in and choose their textiles for what they want to make, especially for our one-of-a-kind. We have customers who will buy one shirt, and then they’ll come back and buy like, thirteen. I think that’s also what I love about the way guys shop.

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