In a surprisingly spacious and naturally well-lit space above Broadway just below the Garment Center, Amy McCormick drapes custom printed silks, fusing art and design for her label AMYCLAIRE. Originally a photographer, she made the switch to fashion design before switching from film to digital. Without a Facebook page to her name, she uses her computer and time for sizing, twisting and turning art on Photoshop into her next collection’s fabrics.
I’ve heard you were a photographer in Italy for quite some time, and then found your way into fashion. What brought you there?
I started wanting to do just portraits, kind of like fashion. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take with photography. Then I think it was I just missed working with my hands. That’s what brought me to fashion. I’m even working on an art project right now. You don’t get the touch and feel of things with photography. You get the images, which are beautiful, but something about that brought me back to fashion. Wanting to actually sew and create.
When you’re designing, what are 3 things you need within arms reach.
Pencil and sharpener, I guess that’s one. Fabrics or at least an idea of what they’ll be. Usually it’s some sort of tear sheets or images or books; something that visually inspires me.
What are your favorite textures to work with?
I love lace. For lot of the fabrics, if they’re not printed, I try to find something with a degree of depth, a textured quality to it. It’s not so plain. Even georgette has something to it.
In developing the textures and prints, I see you work with other artists. What’s the strangest way you’ve gone about discovering an artist with whom you collaborate?
Probably just from a blog actually. A lot of them came from recommendations, but the last one came from a blog I found a bunch of different great art blogs, pulling pieces that I really like. I found one that was Perfect for what I’m working on. I contacted him and he happened to be in New York, so he came and showed me his work. It was nice because it was someone totally random. He had never worked on fabric before.
How did you find a place to print?
We do most of our printing overseas. There’s someone we work with here on 38th St. initially to get the color and the sample right. After that, we send it overseas to do more sampling and production.
Have you developed any of your own fabrics?
I actually drew this one (burnout velvet) because I couldn’t find a textured fabric I liked. They’re women that I put into Photoshop and moved around. The theme was Edward Weston nudes and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and so these were the nudes of the woman falling down the hill. So I drew it and placed them into position. They’re abstract, so you’re not supposed to be able to tell immediately that they’re women. This [silk print] is also very abstract, but now that you know, you can see the butt cheeks.
Once you get these fabrics back, what’s you’re process? Do you drape the fabrics beforehand or do you wait till you have the prints?
I wait till we have the print. The first step is the artwork and the theme. Then we come up with the bodies after we know what the fabrics are. We listen to what the customers are liking, and what pieces should move into the new season.
Do you find that prints are your strong suit?
Does that mean you sometimes keep your silhouettes the same and change the print?
Some, yeah. The boyfriend dress from spring, with the collar, drapes really nicely. So we flipped it for fall and made the print the focal point, versus it being the collar.
Do you do custom knit or cut and sew?
We do custom. We started last fall and they were really popular. These we did in Bolivia, which was fun to work with these women. This time we found a factory here, so we did the sampling here. It’s a little bit easier to communicate.
Would you go back to producing in Bolivia, or with a coop like that in South America?
There were complications getting yarns from Italy to Bolivia.
I’ve heard the tax to import Italian fabrics is astronomical!
Yeah, it’s about 30% for wools for winter.
Did you study or work in design?
No, I just figured it out along the way with a lot of mistakes?
How did you figure out the patternmaking?
Well, I love math. It’s like puzzle pieces. I learned through a lot of books, and mistakes. There were definitely a lot of fit issues at the beginning. Little by little I learned things like that dresses are less complicated than pants or a jacket. (We’ll typically send those out to be patterned). It’s been fun to figure out. And now of course we have tons of patterns to work from.
Did you work on lots of arts and crafts projects when you were little?
My mom was in art school when I was a kid. So she’d work on her projects and have me work on mine. It’s how she kept us busy. Ever since then, I’ve always had projects I’m working on. And she taught me how to sew. I think that was the beginning of the beginning.
Do you find that there’s a theme you keep returning to?
It changes. Last season was the American Beaver. This season it’s Edward Weston’s nudes and 20,000 Leagues. It’s weird.
How did you come into that state of mind?
A lot of photography inspires me. I went to high school in Monterey, which is where Edward Weston is from. I was looking at a lot of his artwork at the time. It led me to think about Monterey because I was going back for the holidays. There’s a squid festival there every year, and someone asked me if I ever saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I hadn’t, so then I watched the movie. It became this whole world of giant squid and the nudes, and squid attacks, so this being the woman, the nude, and then the ink from the squid.
Does the artist know about the squid now?
Well I told him what was going on in my head, and he came up with 20 different prints to go along with it. We picked these two. It’s fun to see what people come up with, and then art direct. We only had one that we really liked when we started, and we needed others to go along with it.
Do you still do any photography?
For myself. Not really for anyone else. I still haven’t made the switch over to digital. It gets expensive. I’ve been trying to find a good camera that has the basics that I can control everything.