Meet the girl behind Alle Vögel. When she is not in her studio creating one of a kind dresses and textiles, she is illustrating, cooking, or designing for GQ Magazine. Click below to read more about this wonder woman and how she does it all!
Chelsea, we would have to say, hands down that your are one of the most driven, motivated, and talented people one could ever know. We admire your multiple talents and passion for design while exploring everything from illustration, pattern making, graphic design, and now fashion.
Just this past year, you started Alle Vögel. A collection of beautiful dresses and accessories earning recognition from Refinary 21 and gaining mad compliments on the street. How was changing gears from being an illustrator and graphic designer, to learning the fashion business and how to manufacture and produce your own line?
Chelsea: “Learning the fashion business has been a wild ride so far—definitely the fastest, steepest learning curve I’ve experienced—and I’ve only barely scratched the surface. I learned to sew in my early teens and began drafting custom patterns shortly after and since then have been practicing my skills on many one-off pieces for my own personal use. Last year I was approached about producing a small run to be sold in stores and it seemed crazy not to try it.
I started by putting just one piece (a dress) into production as a practice run, with the hopes of teasing out some of the potential disasters before I moved onto a slightly larger, more ambitious line. That really paid off and now as I’m working on the line for Fall 2012, I feel a little more confident.
I’ve always said that there are innumerable parallels between graphic design and illustration and I think those also carry over into fashion and textile design. A lot of the same principles apply. Color, contrast, vernacular and historical reference, shape, mood. It’s all there. The technical part is very different though, and I’ve found it’s a welcome break from staring at a computer day in and day out. “
We think what is most special about your Alle Vögel collection is your custom prints and fine choice of fabrics. We understand that all your textile patterns are hand illustrations. What was the process for creating a custom print, specifying a material, and having it reproduced?
” It started with actually drawing/painting directly on fabric with assorted pens, pencils, markers and dyes to create small batch custom prints that I could use to make one-offs. I like textiles that look and feel hand treated, even if they aren’t and I’ve found there are ways to retain that hand done quality for a large volume. I usually start with drawing or mark making with a brush and ink. Once I have something good, I scan that in and begin to create a pattern, sometimes very random, so it barely feels like a pattern at all. I can play with color, scale and density very quickly on the computer. The more technical aspects are making sure the pattern repeats seamlessly, which is very easy with some patterns and a mind-bend with others and lastly, dealing with color separation.
I’ve been working with a silk supplier in the New York fashion district who does custom printing and they allow fairly small minimums, which has made it possible for me to use custom silks for small runs. I think it really does add something special to the garments and it’s something that I plan to continue with.”
What tools in your studio could you never live without?
“My sewing machine, of course. It’s a 1980s vintage Bernina. The Rolls Royce of sewing machines, I like to say. My favorite paint brush that I use for all my ink and watercolor illustrations. I’ve whittled it down to the perfect softness and by now I know all it’s angles and stray hairs so well that using any other one feels like I may as well be drawing with my left hand. Listening material. I like Radio Paradise and also listening to movies while I work. Sewing requires only about 80% of my full attention and the audio of a well written movie with a killer soundtrack provides a nice partial distraction.”
How would you explain your personal style?
“Hmmm, I guess my style is somewhat eclectic, but not loud at all. It changes pretty drastically from day to day. Some days I’m in the tom-boy mood and that really comes across in what I wear. But generally, it’s pretty feminine and a bit etherea. Classics aren’t really my thing, though I appreciate the ease of them. If it feels like something that anybody would wear then chances are I won’t be into it. There’s got to be something a little off about it. An unexpected color or cut. My favorite thing to do is buy vintage pieces and rework them. I’ve got several silk shirts that I bought just for the fabric and some of them were barely holding together and then I remake them in a different style, retaining certain features like a great collar or shoulder shape. I’ve been really inspired by 20th century French style and have been called out on it once in a while. Some strangers have asked me if I’m French, before hearing me speak, which I get a kick out of. “
Where do you go to seek inspiration?
“The key for me is a change of scenery, no matter how slight. I try to travel as much as possible, but when I’m working at home, I like to take walks. My boyfriend, Chris, and I live around the corner from Prospect Park so we go there a lot or we go out for a tea. It’s all very proper sounding, but it’s rare to come home from a walk and not have some idea brewing that makes me anxious to get back to work. Museums and galleries are obviously a great source of inspiration, but they can be overwhelming at the same time. I have a rule that I’ll spend no more than one or two hours at a time in a museum or galleries. Any longer and I reach my maximum absorption capacity.”
What is a creative goal or dream you hope to accomplish and do you have any strategy on how to get there?
“Keep making things. As long as I can find a way to get paid for some of it, I’ll be designing, illustrating, painting, sewing, sculpting, cooking until I die. If nothing gets in the way of that, I’ll be a happy girl.”