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It's time to get to know some of the emerging designers nominated for Racked Young Guns, our annual search for the country's most promising up-and-coming fashion talent.
Left, a Calder top; right, Calder founder and designer Amanda Blake
Amanda Blake started her made-in-LA knitwear label, Calder, because her pal Sofia Coppola asked her to design the perfect tee. "Sofia said she couldn't find a great t-shirt that's simple, had a great cut, and wasn't too sheer," Blake told Racked. "I kept saying I'm not going to do a line—it's already out there. Eventually I got sick of hearing myself say no and making up excuses."
Luckily, Blake was also friendly with Brady Cunningham, the brains behind the West Coast boutique TenOverSix, who offered to hold a trunk show for the fledgling collection. "I have an old-school value that a designer should have a connection to the store," Blake said, "so they know where it's going. It feels more connected, as opposed to making a sketch and somebody selling it for me."
Two simple Calder tops
After a successful show, the rest came organically. Putting one foot in front of another, Amanda took it to capsule in New York and before she knew it, her pieces were in stores on both coasts, including Bird and Steven Alan.
Today, Calder is a one-woman show that the designer and mother of two runs out of an attached studio from her Venice home. Inspired by moments spent hiking, surfing, and camping in California, as well as by artists like George Nakashima, Amanda puts an emphasis on the fabric she uses. "[Nakashima] lived what he made. He saw the spirit in the materials he worked with. The wood spoke to him and he would make his pieces based on what the wood was dictating," she says. With a similar ethos in mind, Amanda crafts her throw-on-and-go pieces from lightweight cotton jersey, using it as the foundation for all the other details.
The result: a line of comfortable-yet-cleaned-up t-shirts, tanks, and dresses ($76 to $148) with long, lean silhouettes, relaxed cuts and classic stripe patterns. Each piece is an extension of Blake's personality—cool, laidback, and elegant. "It's about simplicity," she says. "My personality isn't the type to hit you over the head. It's about coming in slow and steady where people fall in love with you slowly and then stick around." This kind of consistency is what breathes life into the unsung heroes of our wardrobe. "I've heard that often when people buy a great t-shirt, they go back to the store and can't find it. I want to be able to offer that so people can come back the next season and find it. They'll want to return to it—and take care of it."
Design wasn't new territory for Blake. Although she didn't officially launch Calder until June 2013, she's had one foot in the visual world since she was a little girl. With an inventor-slash-industrial designer dad, modeling mom, and designer sis, Amanda hails from a family of artists. "That's where I got my drive and design ethic. It didn't just come out of the blue—it was my morning cereal, so to speak," she says about naturally finding her calling in fashion.
A Calder dress, and a close-up of the sleeve detail on a tee.
Her first gig on the Golden Coast was designing the line with Joie Rucker. In the first three years she worked with Joie, Amanda learned to do it all—from sketching and working with patternmakers and sewers to cutting, dyeing, and handling actual samples. This helped get the ball rolling for a number of consulting projects for start-ups that followed. In one, she designed a variety of silhouettes in French terry for the brand, Aiko. This do-it-all approach most certainly carries into her line today.
As for who she designs for, Amanda looks to Charlotte Rampling as her muse. "I love her because she's comfortable with herself—she ages gracefully. I think whoever wears my line is someone that doesn't need to prove themselves and is comfortable with themselves in a natural way."—Alisha Prakash
· Calder [Official Site]
· Meet the Designer Who Creates Beyonce's Sexy Legwear [Racked]
· All Young Guns 2014 content [Racked]