I love to recommend unique clothes because forming a connection with a maker or designer is very special. For many years now, I have made a ritual of attending the New York Fashion Conference. It’s an annual confab that has become a very important source of inspiration. A few years ago while there, I met Mary Jaeger, a very talented textile and fashion designer. My colleague and dear friend Annie, who knew Mary, nonchalantly suggested that we should meet. No one could have known that this innocent introduction turned into the fantastic professional and personal relationship that it has become.
Mary’s clothes shine as examples of why I love to recommend unique clothes. They are special because, as an artisan, she takes an ancient Japanese dyeing technique and makes it very modern. Perhaps the earliest example of what is known as the shibori technique dates from the 8th century. All through the 19th century, Japan had access to, and used, a limited range of fabrics and dyes. Mary still uses this same range of silk today, and has expanded to use cotton, which became available in the 20th century. Mary also still dyes many of her very modern-looking items in indigo, which has been typical of the shibori technique.
Shibori is one of many different forms of resist dyeing techniques. In essence, it is a Japanese hand-dyed technique that produces patters on fabric. Shibori dyeing offers an infinite number of patterns based on how cloth is compressed, twisted, bound, folded, or stitched. This sense of the infinite may sound like the dyeing and pattern results are totally random. However, shibori dyeing is meant to be harmonious with the type of cloth used. The characteristics of the cloth being dyed will impact the shibori technique that is used. Sometimes more than one technique will be combined to make a more elaborate design.
So, when you look at something that Mary creates, she is following these rules. Yet, it’s living in this infinite space where her creativity comes alive for the 21st century. The design philosophy may be centuries old. But, the results look modern, fluid, artistic, and compelling for the present moment.
The machine age brought in a level of precision that created todays luxury fashion designers and brands. This is the level of clothes that my clients wear every day. By and large, the quality is very good to excellent. Some brands still do things by hand, and it shows in the price of a garment. This same technology, or lack thereof, are both still available to lesser known designers like Mary. In fact, she really does a lot of the work on her pieces right in her SoHo atelier. Some of her scarf designs are put into production, outside her atelier. But, she has still designed every piece, every pattern.
The results are unique.
I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to pair a Dior coat with a Mary Jaeger scarf. Or to take an outfit, made by Akris, and to fit a Mary Jaeger coat over the top of it. This touch of Mary’s designs, here and there, I have found, adds texture, rhythm, and soul to an outfit. Even more than the outfit itself, as a wearer, you interact with something that feels unique, something that is rare, limited, special, like a signature.
The feeling of developing a signature that helps to punctuate your own personal style is why I love to recommend unique clothes. We all want to be seen in the best light, and looking distinctive in a good way draws the eyes of onlookers to see us for who we really are. I’ve eyed so many interesting makers of clothing over my career. But, the reaction and response that people have about Mary’s creations is unlike any I’ve experienced among a cadre of very talented and otherwise low profile designers.
This is why, when I first laid eyes on Mary, and on all the clothes she had on-hand in her atelier, I knew that I had discovered gold for my clients.
Mary is Midwestern-born, and toured Japan as a child with her family. That visit stirred her soul. She ended up living there for 10 years as a designer. She learned these impressive ancient techniques, and brought them to New York, where she’s lived for a long time. You may not see her journey in a piece of clothing she’s designed. But, I can tell you that, unequivocally, that journey is part of her process. It’s a real life journey, just like yours and mine. Somehow we all share some part of that journey in ourselves. It makes the clothes approachable and we get to celebrate who we are by making that look our own.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles. Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley.” Get details about Joseph’s proven program that transforms your life through personal brand and style development.