A Vision Made Material
Within every piece of clothing that we love are two intertwined elements.
There is the designer's aesthetic and vision that defines the brand — that which draws us in, which intrigues us. The second essential element is the production, the physical creation. Production is both the translation of the designer’s vision into form, and the craftsmanship which makes the final product something we cherish.
This process of a vision translated into a material substance — of an emotion being rendered in fabric — is the result of a conversation between the designer, the pattern-maker, and the seamstress. It is akin to the dialogue between a film director and their director of photography to capture and express their thoughts in a visual language.
Lan will start with an emotion, perhaps a need, which she then translates internally into a sketch, a rendering. She might feel a certain color or fabric, a specific cut or drape or proportion that reflect a mood. Lan often works directly in three dimensions, draping fabric over a form, pinning and tucking, actively defining the silhouette until it takes on the shape she has in mind — a fluid transformation from internal vision into a tactile reality.
Once she has a satisfying expression, the next step is to render the new, sculptural form into a wearable piece. This step is developed in the atelier — a live discussion between Lan and her in-house tailor and seamstress that occurs over the cutting table, with swaths of fabric and trims being handled and engaged.
Outside of the atelier, Lan also works with a few, small-scale production houses to help meet demand. Houses such as these are also characterized by handmade craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Here Lan will meet with a pattern-maker to ensure that the creations are all faithful renderings of her design. A talented pattern-maker creates patterns that are beyond simple measurements — they are able to give life to the garment.
As Lan’s design’s feature an approach geared toward sustainability, the patterns and their measurements must be precisely aligned. Decisions on what kind of stitching, how blocks of fabric should connect, is the behind-the-scenes language that the wearer may not speak, but will definitely feel.
Lan’s clothing is intended to be integrated into life, to be worn frequently, if not daily. As such, high quality manufacturing is fundamental. A key part of a production house’s task is quality control — inspecting each piece to guarantee that it is free of flaws. It is only after vigorous and meticulous assessment that they leave the production house.
The owner of her LA production house is a second-generation tailor whose father was trained in Italy, had a workshop in NY for decades, and settled in LA. This old-world heritage is evident in the focused attention to creation and wearability. His father claimed that while we may be attracted to a piece of clothing by its appearance, what we remember it by is the fit — how it feels on our body is paramount. Lan’s designs are organic embodiments of this philosophy. How one wears a piece, how one feels within it, proves ultimately to be its true value over time.
Some pieces of clothing we own surpass mere functionality and become memorable, almost sacred, objects. They integrate into our lives as we create memories, effortlessly carrying a designer’s feeling into ones that become our own.