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EMILY-HEADSHOT
Image courtesy Emily Diamandis
Interview

Emily Diamandis

06.28.16

Tabula Rasa is the knitwear-heavy lifestyle brand founded by Emily Diamandis. This exquisite brand has been on my radar (and in my closet) for months, and the brand has grown tremendously since launching 3 years ago. Diamandis has spent 15 years in fashion, most notably at Rag & Bone where she launched their knitwear division, and later consulted for Uniqlo and Altuzarra. When she launched Tabula Rasa, which is the Latin phrase for “blank slate,” it was safe to assume a line of her own would result in some unique and original knitwear offerings. Her ultimate goal is for her journey-woman customers to always feel at home- many of her pieces are one-of-a-kind, and when you know the multiple-step, handwoven processes her collections undergo, the at-home sentiment feels very real when you’re wrapped up in a Tabula Rasa crochet knit caftan.

Interview

What do you love about fashion?

Fashion plays an in important role in how we express ourselves and how we want to be seen. It’s an accessible way for people to tap into their creative energy and play with style and color. Fashion has become increasingly democratic – you don’t necessarily need a lot of money to have a strong sense of style.

Was there a turning point in your life when you knew it would be your profession?

I wanted to be fashion designer from a very young age. My father is from Bangladesh, which used to be one of the main hubs for weaving and embroidery. The textiles produced in Bangladesh are otherworldly and our house was chock full so I was constantly surrounded by and drawn to them. I was instinctively creative as a young girl – always crafting things. For me, fashion felt like a very natural way to showcase the textiles I would make.

You have had a very international upbringing and credit travel as a constant source of inspiration-how is this reflected in the clothes?

When I travel I am always searching for textiles and often inspired by local fashion. No matter where you venture in the world, there are so many different textiles and styles of clothing belonging to various tribes, cultures and religions and I find that fashion is a great way to learn about a place and its provenance and history. Textiles I have picked up along many years of traveling have provided endless inspiration for my collections because I like to draw from century-old traditional techniques and translate them in new and modern ways.

Does the woman you envision wearing your clothes have a similar lifestyle?

I created the brand for the modern journeywoman who wants to adventure in style.  The original idea for a comprehensive knitwear line came from a desire to feel ‘at home’ anywhere in the world – whether that is in a knit hoodie or cloaked in a travel blanket.

As a designer, you have a more involved process creating garments than most. Can you describe this?

It is important to me to not only create unique, layered and textured textiles but also experiment with knits and use them in surprising ways. My design process has always had two steps – first, to design a textile and second, to design a garment or accessory. The creation of an artful textile is as important as the finished product.

Where is your production done?

Production is done in the USA, China, India, Japan and Peru. Long term, the plan is to help sustain traditional textiles techniques from a wider range of regions. I am obsessed with yarns and mainly source from Japan, Italy, Peru, Spain and Uruguay…

Before settling in New York, you spent time in Hong Kong- what were you doing there?

After graduating from University of Brighton in 2002 with a BA Honors in Fashion Textiles, I began a graduate internship at Prosperity, an established knitwear factory in Hong Kong. This was a crucial learning curve for me. Working directly with a factory in Hong Kong quickly advanced my understanding of knitwear machinery. I learned the complete manufacturing process, from design and sourcing to pricing and production!

You created the knitwear category at Rag & Bone – how did this experience influence your own designs?

When I started in 2007 it was a pretty small company and they had no sweaters. It was an amazing experience as I was thrown into the deep end to set up both the men’s and women’s sweater department; I was responsible for sourcing, pricing and production. I wore a lot of different hats which gave me the know-how to set up my own business. I put a lot of my own passion and style into their sweaters and now that same passion can be seen in what I’m doing with TR.

There is quite a bit of juxtaposition in your collections – short shorts and oversized sweaters, body con and ponchos – was this the idea for the brand? Multiple dimensions?

The collection is designed for a customer’s needs and lifestyle. So we have the perfect things to lounge in at home, evening dressier style knits to wear for a night out, bikinis and a beach throw and of course everyday sweaters you want to live in. The idea is to design clothing to fit around our customer’s full wardrobe needs rather then have a particular shape/fit or style.

Why the name Tabula Rasa?

I chose the name Tabula Rasa (translation: ‘blank slate’), because I felt it captured the spirit of the brand – the notion that we are given an opportunity to put our stamp on any space we enter. Philosophically, I wanted to explore how we style ourselves and our surroundings.

You describe Tabula Rasa as a lifestyle brand – do you plan to add more categories?

The concept behind Tabula Rasa was hatched out of a desire to build a knitwear brand that serviced customer’s lives in a more dynamic way – at home and on the go. There were plenty of companies producing beautiful sweaters but few that offered sweaters, travel pillows and hammocks. I believe that one’s wardrobe and home décor should relate. Tabula Rasa combined my vision for the elegant comforts of travel and home with my love and knowledge of fashion. And yes, there will be other categories in the future. Watch this space!

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