This past winter on a very windy morning, I was invited to come play dress up in a strangers Brooklyn apartment. When I walked in, I was met with a floating technicolor gallery of some of the most thoughtful, beautiful garments I had seen in a very long time. Over coffee, designer Camilla Carper and Ty, Femail's self proclaimed cheerleader explained each piece to me in the same way one explains a photograph where you just had to be there. This piece came from a tarp that was made into pants, this piece came from grandmother's sweater. Each Femail piece is a conversation without words. Each completed garment is a story, woven by two women, for you to wear. The connection is palpable and honest. Later, Camilla helped me struggle into a Femail jumpsuit with the care and intention of a parent dressing a toddler for a dance recital. We laughed; I struggled more than a few times. It was playing dress-up with the same joyful naïveté that I had nearly forgotten. That is the power of Femail, to bring you in to the conversation, to share in the collective memory.
First Matter is honored for the privilege to bring Janelle & Camilla into our family of designers and beyond excited to welcome you to the world of Femail.
Below is text written by Janelle Abbot of Femail originally published by Refigural online magazine. She explains Femail better than I ever could. :*)
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF FEMAIL
1. Our story
Camilla Carper and Janelle Abbott met at Parsons School of Design in 2008. Their first encounter was in a dorm elevator. Camilla was far too nice and outgoing. Janelle was skeptical. Later, the two formed a friendship over their shared love of adventure, childhood, and unbridled creative expression. After college, both girls returned to their native lands on the West Coast; San Francisco and Seattle respectively. Their need to maintain a friendship from afar was resolved with FEMAIL: an art and fashion collaboration conducted remotely, via exchanges through the USPS.
Today, FEMAIL’s work includes collage, one of a kind garments, printed matter, digital doodles, an official Fan Club, official FEMAIL themed merchandise, and a ready-to-wear clothing line.
2. Design Philosophy
To FEMAIL is to design with commas,
Everything is a work in progress, left open ended,
always changing, and being altered.
3. Reactive Collaboration
FEMAIL’s methodology of remotely exchanging collage and garments yet working in tandem has been coined reactive collaboration. There is no communication about the intention or direction of a given piece; both artists are allowed to make additions and subtractions based on their own will and vision. Often either Camilla or Janelle will receive work from the other that they do not like or find offensive in some way. For example, Janelle sent Camilla a jumpsuit. Camilla added a “Hannah Montana” patch to the back. Janelle’s not a fan of the show or actress so she painted over the patch with dripping red paint. Camilla then proceeded to cover the jumpsuit in image transfers of Miley Cyrus’ face. Janelle covered those with smiley faces from plastic bags. Camilla then wrote “Smiley Cyrus” in puff paint over the entire jumpsuit. All Janelle could do was paint over the whole thing in black—yet the evidence of the exchange still shown through. Many other (less extreme) examples of the unpredictable nature of ‘reactive collaboration’ emerge within the work. In this way, the work becomes a conversation, a dictation, and the end product is not a representation of either artist, but instead, the personification of Camilla and Janelle’s friendship. Each garment and collage can be read like a letter between the two pals. Some conversations are feisty, such as the Smiley Cyrus example; others are more harmonious, friendly, or playful.
4.. Unorthodox Pricing
“Once we had finished our first collection of collage and garments, we struggled to figure out how to properly price our work. Within each piece was a wide variety of materials: some sentimental, some nondescript, others imbued with history, symbolism, meaning. We decided, instead of setting arbitrary prices, to come up with a pricing equation that would allow for each material present in the work to be documented and priced according to our association with that material. And even further, we allowed for additions and subtractions in price to be made if we like the piece, if we found working on it to be frustrated, and if the piece ended up being used for a photo shoot or exhibition.”
FEMAIL is about history, it’s about memory, it’s about clothing as conversation, it’s about fashion as a universal language of femininity. The story of a garment matters. Through the following pricing equation, the story of FEMAIL is made known and price of the piece is elevated to be an aspect of the art itself:
T (Time spent as represented through ‘layers’) + $50.00 each
M (Material value) = MS (Sentimental) + MH (Historical)
MS (Rate emotional connection 1-10 X 18% sum of T)
MH (Each item valued at $1.00-$45.00)
L (Likability—We would keep it but…) + $175.00* (*up to)
**F (Frustration level) + or - 30%* (*up to)
**A (As seen on—show, photoshoot, magazine, etc.) + $25.00
5. Zero Waste Methodology (R2W)
Traditional forms of garment construction allow for positive and negative shapes when cutting out raw material. If there is a curve in the neckline then there is a negative curve of wasted material. As a result, about 15% of all textiles are thrown away during the garment making process. Annually, Americans cast off about 13.1 million tons of textiles to landfills. Our planet is precious and it is sacred. Resources cannot be treated frivolously as if they spring from a wall that will never run dry. Before our eyes, this globe is changing at an alarming rate, and as FEMAIL ventures into creating collections of ready-to-wear clothing, we wanted to be cognizant that our impact on the planet could be positive aesthetically, yet negative environmentally.
Instead of toeing the line of the status quo, FEMAIL has committed to a radically different approach to garment construction known as the zero waste methodology. Each pattern piece fits together like a jig-saw puzzle so that nothing is wasted in the manufacturing of our goods. Thus every FEMAIL ready-to-wear garment can be deconstructed and returned to a perfect square or rectangle of material. We have also committed to using dead stock textiles that might otherwise meet a landfill in their old age. The use of discarded materials is in keeping with the mission of utilizing reclaimed textiles and garments for our one of a kind garments and collages. Beyond the material and methodology, we have specifically chosen to keep the production of pieces close to home; only employing Seattle area seamstresses to produce our goods. This keeps the carbon footprint of shipping and handling our garments very low.
Consumers are increasingly becoming aware that their buying power can influence the way in which goods are manufactured and distributed. If more consumers demand responsibility and accountability from the companies they patron, then perhaps the continuing effects of global warming could be diminished by this heightened attention to reducing waste, reducing carbon emissions, and utilizing forgotten and discarded materials. FEMAIL wants to be in the thick of this mission, and we are committed to our convictions.
6. Thoughts on Fashion
Fashion is a second skin; in context of the body, fashion can be a multitude of things. It can be a weapon against the outside world. It can be a text book definition, a mode of stereotype. It can mark you as a slave to something. It can be camouflage or a cry of protest. For FEMAIL fashion is a conversation; it is a facet of friendship. It is a shape shifting expression of creativity and means through which to explore and experience the world at large. It is a collage of space and time. It is alive.