Amanda Blake is the multi-tasking, one-woman show behind womenswear line, Calder. Blake attended design school at Parsons and went on to design at Calvin Klein in the 90s. A pivotal time in fashion – one that inspired simple and thoughtful designs. This philosophy appealed to Blake as she moved to LA to focus on smaller operations and be a part of something from start to finish. She designed at Joie when the brand began, and the foundation for her own line grew. After having her daughter, who the line is named after, she knew it was time to put her heart into her work. Calder Blake is simple in design, but multifaceted in function and form. Materials are key and the idea that each piece fit into a woman’s real life, day after day is pertinent. It’s for women like Amanda who work hard, prioritize their families, and reserve time to explore and live their lives.
You’ve been in the fashion industry for years, what were you doing before you launched Calder Blake?
I have been designing since I was a teen. I took the traditional route of attending school at Parsons in NYC and designing at Calvin Klein in the 90s. I also volunteered as a doula for homeless teens during this time period in Brooklyn and continue to attend births to this day.
In the early 2000s, I felt a pull to move to try out the West coast where clothing brands were still doing design, sampling under one roof and local manufacturing. I longed to be a part of the whole process from start to finish. When I arrived, I had the opportunity to design for Joie when it was just starting up. There, I was able to be a part of the entire design and manufacture process which planted the seeds of Calder Blake. It was only after being a part of launching a few brands and having my first child that I felt the push and voice to start Calder Blake.
Why did you decide to move to LA?
I moved to LA for a lot of reasons – a feeling of wanting to explore new places, design in a place that had small indie companies that did everything and produced locally, sunshine and that spirit of going West! In truth I thought it would be a stepping stone between NYC and somewhere else.
Your approach to design is simple in aesthetic, but everyone knows running a fashion line isn’t simple – what sort of challenges to you encounter even as a seasoned designer?
Well, I have built a very unique business in that I am all the departments of my business from design to sales to marketing strategy. I would say the challenges are multi-tasking like never before and having a calendar in my head at all times. My biggest challenge is time – I wish I had 10 more hours in each day.
Are you still running a one-woman shop with Calder Blake?
Yes, I am. I enlist amazing friends along the way to advise me in certain areas and thanks to my years in the industry I am lucky to have met so many great people.
Tenoversix was the first store to carry Calder Blake – are they still supporting the brand?
Tenoversix is the BEST! Their eye is just so unique to them. I am very happy to say that they still carry the line and are huge supporters of Calder Blake.
How many retailers do you have now?
I have around 30 retailers across the globe.
You keep the line pretty tight, and release similar styles each season – is this how you stay sane?
Actually, keeping a tight line was one of the pillars of my business. After designing for so many companies, constantly pushing out design after design, I felt it didn’t make sense. The more stuff we produced, the less of an emotional connection I had to the piece. It’s a direct response to the speed at which things are going, and the speed to which people are moving and discarding. There’s a lack of a simple voice and consistency. When I looked back at the clothing I cherished it was simple yet beautiful in cut. I still have the first two items that I could afford to buy from APC in 1992. I want people to know what Calder Blake is and to feel a kinship. The main reason I started the line was to connect with those who wear Calder Blake. I also started the line on my own with my own money and two hands which is conducive to a small and tight line. On a daily basis I have so many ideas and I am constantly editing…
I think this business model also speaks to your committed customer who doesn’t need a ton of new styles, just good, reliable Calder Blake gear. Do you find this is true?
Yes, I love when I get notes from customers saying thank you and that they love every piece.
How would you describe your lifestyle as a working mother of two?
I am a fairly low maintenance woman rarely wearing makeup with a simple routine. We come together as a family to eat breakfast and dinner together everyday. These times are precious, protected times for us to have as touch points. During the weekdays we play it by ear based on what each week holds. Weekend time is time to truly be free, get dirty at the beach…in the garden and allow for fluid days that aren’t as structured. My Westfalia is also the life’s blood of the family we throw our bathing suits and a towel in and hit the road to all places natural. Allowing play for myself and the girls is key to shaking off the week and just being in the present.
Each moment is utilized. When I am working I have tunnel vision so I think that without trying my daughters are very independent. It is amazing to look up and see the worlds and stories that they have created without my lead. My studio, home and the girls’ schools are within a mile which means a lot in time saving in Los Angeles. As little car time as possible is key. My husband Chris is a Film and commercial Director and we are both our own boss allowing for us both to do a dance that is choreographed uniquely each week to the entire family’s needs. When it is crunch time for me Chris picks up the slack, when he flies off to shoot I pick up the slack, and when times are more mellow we relish the time all together. Calder spends time at the studio and has her responsibilities like watering the plants, stamping Calder Blake on the bags and she takes pride in helping me out. Both of the girls have done their share of visiting the factories with me and seeing me work which I believe to be as women of the world in the days we are now living. I am so proud for my daughters to grow up with 2 parents sharing in all responsibilities, seeing their mom be her own boss as well and participate in a creative community.
You named the line after your daughter, Calder how old is she now? What’s she up to?
Calder is now 6 years old and amazes me everyday.
Will your daughter Agnes inspire a namsake project?
Agnes is hilarious! I would say she inspires my playful side, and inspires a lot of laughter in our house.
What are your favorite activities to do together in LA?
There are so many! If we aren’t at the beach on the weekends, you can find us at the Mar Vista farmers market.
Taco Tuesdays at Gilbert’s El Indio
Mitsuwa Market cafeteria for a big bowl of Ramen
Rockreation climbing gym
Museum and gallery visits at the Broad, Mama Gallery, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, LACMA…
Get togethers at friends for dinner and hang time
Calder is recently into roller skating so we are going to check out some of the classic retro rinks in the east side
Are they interested in fashion?
They are interested in making things, but the only thing remotely fashion related is that we sew together sometimes. Aside from that, they aren’t really interested in fashion, and I prefer that. I want my daughters to feel free and open to everything, and not focus on appearances (within reason) for as long as possible.