Image courtesy Shaina Mote
Interview

Shaina Mote

01.29.15

Shaina Mote is a former vintage buyer who launched her namesake collection of modern, innovative, and wearable basics in 2012. Mote is a trained pattern maker – a rare quality among designers these days – especially among the contemporary set. Her collections, designed and produced in LA, have attracted a cult following due to the brand’s commitment to renewable materials and a thoughtful consciousness to the production process. Mote’s collections are wardrobe staples and her pieces aim to transform themselves season after season.

Interview

What was missing from the market that encouraged you to launch your own collection of well-tailored, interesting basics?

Quite a few ideas intrigued and encouraged me to launch the line. Mainly, I was interested in the idea of design with the intention to evolve with the wearer.

I was looking for something that would be easy and comfortable enough to wear everyday, but also designed with versatility in mind. I was looking for something that could move with me—physically, but also in terms of time. I wanted to design pieces that could go from day to night or even occasionally, season to season.

I felt that for a good period of time, I circulated through pieces that would not last due to being too overly trendy or too poorly made. I noticed how much consumption that created within my own world. When I launched the line, I decided to try to create something built to last, with a conversational, seasonless design approach, built entirely by all family-run factories and independent contractors here in Los Angeles.

When did you launch?

Fall 2012.

How did your experience as a vintage buyer inform your design approach?

As a vintage buyer, I sometimes saw thousands of pieces daily. I learned to understand quality by fabric and construction. I saw where our modern production practices could fall short and where 1940s, union-made construction excelled. I realized that to create something with the capacity to endure was really powerful. It inspired me to pursue a design concept and production practice that will hopefully bring about a lasting and relevant piece years down the line.

We’ve been featuring many LA-based designers (Jesse Kamm, Jennie Kwon, Elkin, Cerre) and stylists (Sissy Sainte-Marie) lately due to the city’s booming downtown fashion district industry – how supportive is this environment? Are you close with other designers?

I find it is very supportive. Some wonderful friends of mine here in LA are designers, stylists, etc. … Kieley Kimmel, Mondo Mondo, Desiree Klein, Osei Duro, The Palatines, Sissy Sainte Marie…all awesome, talented, down-to-earth people!

What similarities do you find among designers who have chosen LA as a base? Is it at all limiting?

To me, the designers out here seem less inhibited by trends. Since things are a bit separated spatially, you can create worlds easily around yourself.

I find the limiting aspects occasionally have to do with resources. I always love the models that are NYC-based or fabrics from brokers in NYC. Because LA is a more underrated fashion destination, sometimes it is difficult to find exactly what you envision.

I read you are a self taught pattern maker – so many designers outsource this part, what are your thoughts on this? Why was learning pattern making important to you?

Yes, I am mainly a self-taught pattern maker, but times are changing. I started the line making every pattern by hand. I have a background in pattern making from an apprenticeship I took years back.

Since my company has been growing, I haven’t been the full-time pattern maker I once was. I am, however, quite particular about the pattern making process. I draw maps of how I envision a pattern should be drafted; I create draped muslins; I am an intense note writer and sometimes I will just make the pattern if I feel it could be too difficult to try to convey.

To me, being a designer and not understanding pattern making is like being a chef who cannot taste. I think you must be able to understand the process to create something that will last, fit and have interesting detail. Much of the element of design rests in the lines and shapes of a pattern. I believe this is where many great fashion designers have shown their ingenuity.

How many collections a year do you release?

Two seasons a year.

With a design ethos to create staples for one’s wardrobe – is it tough to convince your girl to shop new staples multiple times a year?

I haven’t thought about it in this way. I think that as long as the pattern and detailing is thoughtful and clever, it should be convincing enough on its own.

How has the success of your line influenced new collections? Collaborations?

I have been able to experiment with new color tones and fabrics, which is really exciting coming from working mainly with only two fabrics and two colors for years.

I am currently working on my first collection with knits, all made in LA.

As far as collaborations go, I had a wonderful time collaborating with friend Jmy James Kidd (dancer, designer and artist) on a dance piece at the Hammer Museum last summer. I hope to continue the trend of collaborating with other designers and artists through the years.

What are the three Shaina Mote “basics” every woman should have in her closet?

Tie Dress, Garendo Pant, Argento Dress.