February 1, 2012
House of 950 is a new label started by my friend Eric Holbreich, a designer I used to work with, and his partner Alice Spies. I would describe their clothes as experimental, clean and minimal, awkwardly charming, and ultimately very wearable. I had a little chit-chat with co-founder Eric about starting his new line, his inspirations, plans for the future, and wishes of dressing the almighty Tilda Swinton.
House of 950‘s debut collection lookbook
Tell us about your line and why you decided to start it.
House of 950 is a collaborative workshop that focuses on garments that are often unisex and multifunctional. We think about the use of garment. How can people interact with it, how comfortable is it? We wanted to bring back the innovative craft where the make and finishings are just as important as the original idea. We manufacture everything in New York City so we can monitor the process and make sure everything is the highest quality possible.
Where are you two from and how do your roots influence the way you make clothes?
I’m from Indianapolis and Alice Los Angeles. Alice thinks about simplicity and comfort all the time she thinks that is what L.A. is all about. Indiana is a really clean, flat place with lots of trees and open spaces. I don’t feel comfortable in very fitted clothes, but I like everything to have a clean look.
Who/what else influences your design?
When we start designing a garment, we will have a general idea of what it should be. We don’t really draw, or if we do it is usually of a pattern piece. When we make the garment, that’s when we play with it, what could it be, could it be something else. We then think about what is missing in clothing that we think should be there, like a detail on the cuff, or a hidden pocket in the seam. We want the clothes to be convenient and recognizable but at the same time different and simple.
Tell me about the odd, graphic shapes that your clothes are made out of.
The shapes that our clothes make are usually related to the function of the garment, or the elimination of a conventional seam and the replacement with another type of seam. Most of the garments have no fixed closures. To close the garment a person has to first choose a way to wear it. The clothing allows the user to express their own idea of how they want it to look like. The Amish shirt for example has four different silhouettes. The user has the option to choose which one is right for their mood.
House of 950′s Amish shirt
And the prints?
This collection we collaborated with the artist Alphonse van Woerkon. We transformed his portrait of Kiki Smith into a textile, and then turned it into a shirt. We didn’t want it to be a recognizable face, but we wanted elements of Kiki to show through. You can see her eye and her nose, but the panels of the shirt cut it. It makes it more abstract and interesting.
the Kiki Smith shirt, one of my favorite pieces in the collection
You deal a lot with interactivity and customer participation (in your presentations, the lookbook). Why do you think this is essential to your brand?
Our brand is about the customer. We want them to feel involved in the process as well as the company itself. We are building the House as a collaboration between us as designers and the customers. We don’t like the idea of being singular, or alone. Interactivity, I think, would be the perfect one word description of who we are and what we want to be. We created this idea called the Minute Museum, where the traditional museum is reversed. The people who come to the exhibit, are the exhibit themselves. We use this to allow the people to interact with the clothes as well as showcase the clothing on real people.
the drawstring jacket, which I had dubbed “the noose jacket”
Tilda Swinton comes to you the day before a big premiere and begs that you dress her. What will you put her in?
First of all we would die. Then we would pull it together and put her in the Portrait Shirt and the Thai-Tie Pants hands down. Then we would probably die again. We know she would look amazing wearing those two pieces!
Plans for the future?
We are going to keep doing what we are doing! We are just starting and we have a long way to go. Every day is exciting and a new territory for us. The idea of creating our own path and it working, is amazing. (and frightening!)
photographs via House of 950