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Friday, July 6, 2012

Local Designer Launches Debut Collection with Anthropologie

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 12:09 PM

  • Mia Christopher
When local multi-media artist Mia Christopher received an email asking if she'd like to collaborate on designs for nationwide women's retailer Anthropologie, she thought it was a prank.

But no one was messing with her. She was being invited to participate in Anthropologie's Made In Kind project, which showcases up-and-coming artists in limited edition collections, with a new lineup each month. Earlier this week, after eight months of corresponding with Anthropologie buyers in Philadelphia and textile factories in Los Angeles, Christopher's debut collection finally hit stores.

Commercial retailers partnering with high-end designers is nothing new (see Target's collaboration with Jason Wu, or H&M's with Versace or Marni), but Made In Kind is something different. Instead of skimming the cream from the runway world and adapting it to an affordable price, Anthropologie looks for designers and other artists who are under the radar and aims to introduce them to the mainstream. In Christopher's case, it was her paintings that caught a buyer's eye. At just 24 years old, she's never designed clothing before (although she did experiment with embroidery "as a 'slow drawing' process," she says). But her paintings, obsessively delicate color studies, translate beautifully into textile designs. Most noted are her "test sheets," bits of paper that she uses to test her various materials -- she works in colored pencil, paint, gouache, nail polish, and ink, to name a few -- and then stashes away as a record of her artistic process.

Click through to see a few of the dresses from her collection, the drawings that inspired them, and more.

November Test Sheet Jumpsuit, $148 at Anthropologie
  • November Test Sheet Jumpsuit, $148 at Anthropologie

You went to California College of the Arts for painting and drawing, right? Were you interested in fashion design at that time, or were you working on entirely different projects?

I graduated from CCA with a BFA in painting and drawing but have always considered myself a multidisciplinary artist. Fashion has always been an art form that interests me but not something I necessarily saw myself working in. Personally, I do love clothes. I don't follow the fashion world, but I have a very specific aesthetic that seems to connect everything in my world from my artwork, to my clothes, living space, the foods that I eat, and so forth. The work I am making translated well into textiles, but that wasn't something that I was thinking of while I was making the paintings.

How did this collaboration happen? Did you approach Anthropologie, or did they discover your work?

A buyer from Anthropologie emailed me about the collaboration in December 2011 and we've been working together ever since. They look for emerging artists in all sorts of places. They found my work online. I traveled to Los Angeles in January and was able to get coffee with the buyer to show her my paintings in person and talk further about the project.

Test Sheets by Mia Christopher
  • Test Sheets by Mia Christopher

Once it got started, did you get to be involved in the manufacturing process?

Luckily, I was kept in the loop throughout the process. We spent a lot of time making sure the colors were right and the printing processes would be the best in terms of the feel of the ink on the fabric, the color, and creating spacing for the repeated prints so they could have an organically flowing feel.

Color Spectrum Midi Dress, $138 at Anthropologie
  • Color Spectrum Midi Dress, $138 at Anthropologie

What inspires the prints we see in the collection? What's your process like as you create them?

There are three different types of paintings that were used as prints in this collection. The first are the "test sheets" which are small works on paper that I have been making for the past two and a half years or so. They are each a different size, usually under 8 x 8, and are all on Stonehenge Fawn paper. I always have one of these sheets with me in the studio, sometimes more, and keep one in my sketchbook as well. I use these to sample materials, see how different colors look next to each other, and also to embrace my compulsive nature and sometimes just make a random mark when the drawing I am working on is very controlled and not allowing for messiness. It's become somewhat of an obsessive-compulsive pattern now, and they become beautiful paintings in their own right.

Color Stack Spectrum by Mia Christopher
  • Color Stack Spectrum by Mia Christopher

Will you design more clothing in the future?

I don't have any projects lined up involving textile or clothing design, but you never know what the future holds! Making is the most exciting thing for me, and I have considered making some hand-made, one-of-a-kind garments and accessories, or experimenting with digital printing and collaborating with friends who are more fashion-inclined (and better at sewing than I am!). I have an exhibit coming up in October at Deer Run in San Luis Obispo and some other collaborative zines and things in the works as well.

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About The Author

Kate Conger

Kate Conger has written for SF Weekly since 2011.


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