You can learn a lot about Daphne and Vera Correll’s clothing line, Correll Correll, just by looking at who they employ: No unpaid interns, for one. When their sunny Chinatown studio is at full production capacity — as it has been in the weeks leading up to their Ecco Domani Award–sponsored Fall/Winter 2012 presentation this Friday — it’s staffed almost entirely by proper assistants. It’s not really fair, Vera reasons, to get by on free labor when the labor itself is what sells the clothes. “They look precious because you can tell we spend a lot of time on them,” she says, pointing to a recent jacket made using one of their signature techniques, where more than 40 different kinds of yarns and vintage fabric strips are woven together into a textile befitting what Vera refers to as a “shepherd from the future.” Each of the jackets takes a day’s work to create, and the sisters can make 30 or 40 such garments in a season. “Our clothes go through so many levels of work, all this sewing and knitting, and people can see that,” she says.
There’s also something to be said for the type of assistants the Corrells hire, and why they do so much in-house production in the first place. Neither of them studied fashion — Vera has a photography degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, while her identical twin sister Daphne graduated from the Rietveld Academy’s graphic design department — and most of the people they employ went to art school. “Maybe because of that, they’re more open-minded in terms of what you can do with fabric,” says Vera. “They’re not trained to do things a certain way.” Which proves especially helpful while the sisters are slicing through delicate sweaters and then sewing over them as they unravel, or producing wildly textured and decidedly imperfect knits meant to mimic the appearance of fur — “things you’re not traditionally supposed to do,” she says. “That’s one of the difficulties in our production process: It’s about chaos and imperfection, and that’s difficult for a professional knitter. We do everything ourselves because it’s very hard to train skilled people to de-skill themselves in order to achieve the right look.”
Vera is quick to point out, though, that just because their more experimental pieces can look chaotic doesn’t mean they’re any less considered. Every variation in thickness, every asymmetry, and every seeming flaw in their designs is thought out and purposeful. “We always know exactly how we want things to go,” she says. “We get really obsessive compulsive about it.” Even the pair’s comparatively simple color-wheel shift dresses — which evolved from the unisex color-wheel t-shirts they launched their line with at Opening Ceremony back in 2006 — are meticulously choreographed by Daphne, who’s so serious about her hues she’ll often dye a swatch of fabric dozens of times before she finds the exact blue or black that she’s looking for. Her fanatacism about color forms part of the focus of the sisters’ new Fall/Winter collection, whose theme is opposites: gradients of contrasting shades, plus heavier fabrics paired with more delicate ones. They’re all ideas the sisters have played around with for the past five years, just pushed a bit further as part of their ongoing evolution into ever-more complex and experimental territories. It’s that inventiveness which won them the Domani award, and which makes their studio such an interesting place to visit. Sight Unseen documented their workspace this past summer.
It takes the Zürich-based fashion duo Ikou Tschüss a full week to hand-knit the blankets from their winter collection — each ringed with dangling sleeves to appear as though it’s hugging the bed — and maybe a day to knit one of their bulky sweater dresses. Even silk shifts are hand-printed and edged with rows of crochet, the pair's signature trope. Add to all that labor the fact that Carmen D'Apollonio spends the majority of her time in New York, where she’s been the right-hand-woman to Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the past eight years, and it’s a good thing she and partner Guya Marini have help. “Most of our knitting is done by Swiss grandmothers now,” says Marini.
Between the two of them, Julie Ho and Nicholas Andersen had designed clothing, jewelry, movie sets, music videos, and Martha Stewart shoots, plus dabbled in painting, drawing, pattern-making, sewing, and crocheting before teaming up creatively in 2008. Ho had even been a studio assistant for Tom Sachs, making foam Hello Kittys with a medical scalpel (and slicing open her hands almost weekly in the process). So it took a particular kind of alchemy for the pair to decide that — out of all their talents and interests — they would devote their days to making paper party decorations, the kind you'd expect to find in a dollar store.
Sruli Recht was born in Jerusalem, spent most of his life in Australia, and for the past few years has called Reykjavik, Iceland, his home. But even before he was a foreign-born talent rising to prominence in a city of fiercely local independence, he was already a bit of an outsider. “We traveled to different countries a lot as a kid,” says Recht. “I was always confused about what people wore and the language of clothing. I was very anxious about what to wear and how to fit in. That’s probably why I now just wear jeans and a T-shirt — like everybody else, I just wanted to blend in.” It’s an ironic thing coming from a designer who in January released his first full menswear line, a 55-piece collection of beautifully constructed garments — at once futuristic and cozy — that aren’t exactly for the faint of fashion heart. Or from a designer who calls his studio in the city’s Fishpacking District The Armoury. “The Icelanders don’t seem to get it. They really do think we sell weapons, and we have maybe three visitors to the store a day just looking for guns,” Recht has said.