Tuesday, November 3, 2009

City Girl in the Wilderness

The day I graduated from college, I was finally able to give in to the wanderlust that had been brewing inside me since my relatively travel-less days growing up in Chicago. I did so by packing up my Ford Escort and trekking solo from Madison, WI to the tiny mountain town of Leadville, CO, where I spent a few weeks here and there in between incessant road trips throughout the most remote areas of the country. To pay for my travels, I stitched up one-of-a-kind dresses and bags on a hand-me-down sewing machine propped up on a cardboard box. It was, of course, the beginning of Mountains of the Moon, and the beginning of my fascination with combining the themes of nature and city in my designs.

These days, my wanderlust more satisfied than in my early years as a designer, most of my travels consist of trips to more urban locales. My boyfriend is the Stage Manager for a band, so my non-business related trips tend to revolve around whatever cool locations end up on their schedule, usually to bigger cities.

Last week, however, my fabulous assistant Mary Welch Fox and I decided to hop a plane and meet the boys in LA, and ride the tour bus up to a remote part of Yosemite where they were playing a festival for Halloween. It had been a long time since I'd explored nature (at least outside of the forest preserves that dot the Chicago 'burbs), and my Chicago-fashion-week-weary bones were ready. I might add that there was no cell reception, so I was forced to put down my electronic leash (CrackBerry) and truly relax (a concept with which I am, admittedly, no longer familiar).

The lack of sirens and late night drunk ramblings outside my window was inspiring in itself, but the gorgeous, towering sequoias and glacier-carved granite mountains reminded me why I got into eco-fashion in the first place. Today it's almost cliche to say it, but how can we ignore the truly breath-taking beauty of this planet and allow money, greed and ignorance to all but destroy it? Okay, so I hiked Yosemite in slouchy cuffed boots and leggings, but somehow, I was able to let go of a mind consumed by stress and unleash the free spirit with which I so easily lose touch living in the city. Every new turn down each path on our hikes brought new sights and smells so incredible that I left feeling renewed and inspired, again, recalling the reason for which I do what I do.

As I mentioned above, the foundation of my label is the union of nature with city, and I especially channeled this into the Spring 2010 collection, titled "Etendue Sauvage Dans La Grande Ville" (Wilderness in the City). Floral printed fabrics, ruffles and draping were included to represent nature (flowers, ocean waves, mountains), and I combined them with sharper lines (tiers and pleated detailing) to represent a metropolis (urban architecture and the overall grittiness of the city). In the bigger picture, this all goes back to the point that many of us in the eco-design world are trying to make: eco-fashion can be chic, stylish and modern, without sacrificing the earth or its inhabitants. It was almost ironic that it took a trip to the middle of nowhere to remind (or moreso, refresh) me how important this really is.

In the end, fellow city girls, I highly recommend a little get-away to the woods now and then. And nature girls, I think the same can be said for a trip to the big city. There is so much to explore on this earth, and that said, no reason why all of these amazing places can't find ways to coexist without causing harm. I left Yosemite with a new plan: leave the city and a take a trip, no matter how brief, to a remote place at least once a year. Oh yeah - and continue to work, even harder, to show the world through my art that the city's bright lights and skyscrapers can live in harmony with nature's starry skies and big, big trees.

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