Happy Friday friends! Today I’m excited to have designer Emily DeLong of Margu Design here to chat about ethical fashion, the design process, trends, inspiration, her latest collection, and more. Emily designs and creates her collections in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and I absolutely love her take on the fashion industry. I know you will enjoy reading what she has to say, and if you missed my post highlighting one of her beautiful dresses, click here.
Brew a cup of coffee and join us for a chat!
L: Thank you so much for joining me for this interview Emily! Let’s start by talking a little bit about how you got to where you are today– was clothing design something you were always interested in?
E: In a strange way, clothing design has been something I’ve always been interested in, although I don’t think I was always aware of it! I was really into crafty things as a child (friendship bracelets, jewelry, those keychains made out of beads) and as I got older, my interest in crafts matured into less juvenile forms, mostly knitting and sewing. As a teenager, I loved to sew and knit my own garments and wear the things I had made!
Only recently did I become interested in the designing part in addition to the making, though. For the longest time, I followed sewing patterns to the letter and was too scared to alter them (how would I know better than them? I wondered), until one day I got the courage to alter a pattern … and you probably can guess the rest of the story.
L: As you know, we’re all about style and ethics here at Chic Éthique. When did you first discover the concept of ethical fashion?
E: My transition to an ethical/slow wardrobe has been a slow one, begun several years ago and still ongoing, and I really can’t remember any sort of “aha” moment when things began to change for me. Looking back, I think there were just a lot of little things I began to see and notice about the clothes I owned and the clothes I bought that made me wonder ($20 dresses, clothes that fell apart instantly, crazy-fast trend cycles, the ubiquity of polyester). After a while, I began to question what I was buying and why I was buying it, and I slowly began to buy less and buy better (and sew a lot of my own wardrobe too, of course).
L: The Margu line is so unique, and yet classic at the same time. Where do you find your design inspiration?
E: Lots of places! I spend a lot of time looking for inspiration on the internet, not only of garments both new and old, but also paintings and photography and other art. Sometimes a single color or shape or silhouette will become the basis of a garment, which I will adjust and revise, sometimes so much that the original inspiration is barely there!
I also get a lot of my inspiration from vintage fashion. Several of the pieces I’ve designed over the last couple of seasons have been inspired by vintage dresses in my own wardrobe, where I have incorporated the elements I love about them but improved the fit and the construction (and added pockets, of course!).
L: Where did the name ‘Margu’ come from?
E: Margu is a nickname of mine! When I was deciding on what to call my line, the idea of naming it after my real name felt strange, but the idea of not naming it after myself also felt strange, as the line is so much a part of me. Naming it Margu was a happy compromise.
L: Who is your style icon?
E: Asking me that is like asking me what my favorite book is — impossible! There is no one person I look to for inspiration at all times, although I do go through phases where I’ll get semi-obsessed with someone’s look or general attitude toward life. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Emile Flöge. She was Gustav Kilmt’s lifelong friend/partner and an extraordinary fashion designer. She was way ahead of her time in her use of bold patterns and free-flowing dresses, and the photographs of her modeling her designs are so inspiring.
L: The fabrics your pieces are made from are beautiful. What is your favorite material to work with?
E: Why thank you! My passion for fabric knows no bounds, and using high-quality, beautiful fabrics is one of my top priorities as a designer. My favorite fabric usually changes with the season, but I am eternally in love with soft linens, matte silks, and gauzy cottons.
L: I hear your spring collection is in the works! Can you give us any hints about it?
E: Yes! Our spring collection is coming out in March, and I cannot wait to show it to you. It is loosely based around the idea of a long, warm summer day spent outside picnicking. There are tons of pastels (my favorite!), lots of sundresses, and the most comfortable pair of pants ever!
L: If you had to pick one dress from your line to wear for the next year, which one would it be?
E: For versatility’s sake, it would have to be the Juniper Dress. The sleeveless, flowy nature of the dress would keep me cool in the summer with just a pair of sandals, and I would stay warm with it in the winter pairing it with tights, boots, and a sweater. Even though our collections are seasonal, I’m always trying to make pieces that can be worn all year round, and the Juniper is definitely one of them.
L: The season of Fashion Week has begun! Are there any trends that are catching your eye?
E: I haven’t been nearly as attentive to what’s been going on this season as I have been in previous seasons, but I have read a number of roundups and have liked a lot of what I’ve seen! I’ve loved a lot of the oversized outerwear this season, and it’s been interesting to see a lot of designers play with texture in interesting ways (sequins, feathers, velvet, etc.). My favorite trend for FW17, though, has to be the opulent, romantic, feminine overtone that a lot of collections have had. (Also, I’m happy to see a lot less athleisure than there has been the past several seasons!)
L: Do you have a favorite color to incorporate into your designs?
E: Color is one of the main elements I design around when I’m making clothing — deciding on a palette is often the first thing I do when I’m planning out a collection. I try not to consciously incorporate certain colors and rather let the colors I choose naturally progress out of my ideas for each collection, but I have noticed that I subconsciously gravitate toward certain colors and shades! Creams, soft pinks, and deep blues are some of those colors I always seem to incorporate.
L: One of my favorite things to do is watch movies with great fashions. What movie would you say has the best designs?
E: Oh, that’s tough! When I think of the best fashion movies, my mind automatically goes to all the Audrey Hepburn-in-Givenchy films of the ‘50s and ‘60s. So many beautiful dresses and outfits! If I had to pick just one, I think I have to to go with Funny Face — I love all the ballerina-length skirts in that one (the little black dress she wears in the balloon scene and the wedding dress in particular!).
L: Describe a typical day in your life as a designer.
E: My days vary a lot (one of the reasons I have the best job ever!), but if I had to outline a typical day, it’d go something like: 1. Wake up 2. Make coffee 3. Drink coffee and eat breakfast while I catch up on emails or other laptop tasks 4. Do a quick at-home yoga session 5. Get into the studio and get to work (depending on the day, this could be anything from sewing orders to making patterns to sewing samples to planning out new designs) 6. Get out of the studio, eat dinner, and spend the evening either doing a bit more work or taking it easy, depending on how busy things are!
L: Coffee or tea?
E: I love both coffee and tea, but if I had to pick, it would hands-down have to be coffee. It’s a very firmly cemented part of my morning routine.
L: What designer, past or present, would you love to have coffee (or tea!) with?
E: I’m going to go with an unconventional choice and say Elizabeth Hawes, one of the first great American designers, who designed all throughout the early twentieth century. I’d love to visit with her not only to hear about what went into all her beautiful designs, but also to hear about her thoughts on fashion, style, and the world at large. She was known for her biting commentary on the fashion industry, and I’d be so curious to hear what she thinks of the way things are today.
L: What advice would you offer to someone just starting on a slow fashion journey?
E: Small steps. There’s no reason to overhaul your wardrobe (or your life!) all at once or feel terrible about yourself every time you make a not-so-ethical purchase. What’s most important is being cognizant of what you own and what you’re buying, and making your wardrobe better one step at a time. You can’t change what you’ve already bought, but you can take good care of it and treat it with love. Likewise, you can’t become a slow-fashion goddess overnight, but you can start to delve into the stories behind your clothing now and work to build the wardrobe of your dreams.