Wednesday, September 16, 2009

on the job: davora of prairie underground

Davora Lindner and Camilla Eckersley are some of the smartest and most successful women I know in the industry. Success is measured in many ways, but it all adds up for the designers of Seattle-based Prairie Underground.

Read on for my interview with Davora...

Piles of cords for Prairie Underground's signature hoodies

KK: How did you and Camilla meet and why did you start a line together? Why the name "Prairie Underground"?

DL: Camilla and I met when we were kids at a park in Nebraska, but we didn't become friends until High School. We were a part of a group of like-minded teens in the mid west who were interested in independent music, art, politics and avant-garde fashion.

We started the line because Camilla was relocating from San Francisco and she needed a job! She approached me about moving to Seattle and doing a collection with her.

Naming the line was impossible - seriously we had pages of lists. I practiced writing different names with a calligraphy pen in a journal and Camilla came with piles of books that were important to her and of course every possible combination of our personal names was explored.

We ended up with Prairie Underground because the line was an extension of a friendship and community in the midwest. there are so many memories that we share and our cultural references intersect in really easy ways, there is a very healthy dose of our past in everything we do that is filtered through the present.

Your Orbit shown with Tuxedo Legging - Prairie Underground

KK: You are the designers of the somewhat iconic Prairie Hoodie and the Cloak Hoodie. I know women who own four or five! What was the original concept?

DL: The Prairie Hoodie was always a sort of robe or duster jacket. It was a garment that Camilla wanted personally, and it was our response to all of the hoodies we saw on a trip to LA. The first production ended up fitting rather small, so stores perceived them as dresses. It was designed to fit the body whereas traditional hoodies have a boxy volume.

The Cloak Hoodie evolved out of hood Camilla was working on for a vest. The vest was never finished but the hood inspired a series of drawings that looked like Angel caricatures and with this hyper feminine triangular skirt and puffed shoulders. It's a Victorian silhouette that both Camilla and I are drawn to that also shows up in the forties and the eighties and continues to inspire us.

Triple Layer Hoodie - Prairie Underground

KK: Can you describe your design process? What pieces are you excited about?

DL: We aren't thematic designers and we don't work from mood boards. We like them, it just isn't our method. Our design process is more of a dialogue. Sometimes themes emerge but this is always after the fact. We're more inspired by previous collections and we build on styles we have offered previously. We haven't ever consciously reinvented the collection for a new season though it has appeared that way at times. Some of our favorite styles from upcoming collections are the Kite Top, Triple Layer Hoodie and Your Orbit.

Phillip Guston

KK: As the line has grown, I've noticed an emphasis on organic and natural fabrics in the line. Can you tell me about that?

DL: We have always worked with sustainable textiles or textiles that are produced in a way that does less harm to the environment. When we first started selling the line no one cared about organic or sustainable fabrications, but they responded to our collection. At the beginning we made the decision to establish a business that was in sync with our personal beliefs.

In the last couple of years clothing made in this way has become more mainstream and as a result we are able to offer more styles in sustainable fabrications. The majority of line is organic cotton. We continue to work with a variety of hemp blends as well as recycled poly, but we also produce a few styles made with conventional cotton lycra. We have always wanted the line to be financially accessible for a contemporary collection, and this has meant offering some conventional styles.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

KK: Prairie Underground appeals to a wide range of sizes and ages. Is this intentional?

DL: We've never intentionally limited our customer to a particular age or size, it always been more about a shared lifestyle or point of view. Beginning with Spring 2010 the entire collection will be available in XL which is something we're excited about.

KK: What kind of music do you listen to? Who are your favorite artists?

DL: Recently we have been listening to Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Bill Callahan, Devendra Banhart, The XX, Jack Penate... We're big 90.3 KEXP fans. Our favorite artists include Phillip Guston, Alice Neel and Samuel Delaney.

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is available at these and other fine boutiques:

Pin Me Apparel Portland, Oregon - 503.281.1572
Parts + Labour Hood River, Oregon - 541.387.2787

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