It's not super often that I get to interview a designer based in San Francisco! How long have you lived in SF? If you're a non native San Franciscan, what drew you here? What keeps you here? What is your favorite thing about SF?
I have been in SF almost 5 years now; I planned on moving here to study fashion design and then move elsewhere, but I fell in love with the Bay Area and California in general. I love the laid back vibe, that I can bike everywhere, and that so many outdoor adventures are so accessible.
I have had an interest in fashion my whole life, but decided to seriously pursue design after I finished my Bachelors in Business. I wanted to do something more creative and hands on, and had been altering thrift store treasures for a long time. I moved to SF to attend FIDM and learned everything I needed to know to create a garment from beginning to end.
While I was still in school I knew my end goal was to start my own business, so I began making and selling clothes in my free time.The line happened very naturally. The garments were getting a good response, I loved doing it, so I set it all up as a proper business and launched First Rite in Spring 2010.
What considerations come into play when you are designing for First Rite?
I think a lot about what I like to wear, what my friends like to wear, what fabrics are comfortable, and what will feel timeless and easy to wear. When there are pieces that I find myself wanting to throw on every day, I feel like I've accomplished my goal.
They are time consuming to produce; that jacket alone is comprised of something like 30 pieces, but it's not difficult. I really enjoy making the patterns and sewing the initial samples, and my sewers are professionals that blow me away with how fast they can catch on and finish a project. It can be challenging when I try something completely new, but in the end I learn a lot to move forward with. I put a lot of time and work into each garment to be sure they come out exactly as I pictured.
The aesthetic of First Rite is definitely overall femme, but so many of the designs are beautifully androgynous/subtly masculine. The garments look like clothes meant for adventurous women. Why is this ambiguity important? How do you achieve the balance?
I'm not a girly person, I prefer trousers and a blouse to a dress for dressing up any day. This aesthetic naturally carries into the line. The balance comes in the cut of the styles and drape of the fabric. I love to combine structured, tailored pieces, with softer and loose fitting styles.
What is currently inspiring you?
I am currently experimenting with different dye procceses and fabric painting techniques for my next collection. It has been a good experience for me because I'm not as focused on a controlled outcome like I am with the process of patternmaking. It's been fun developing ideas with the dyes as I go. I'm also loving mix and match prints in dark and neutral pallettes, loose silky layering, and the idea of quilting in clothing.