We were extremely excited to have Oakland's very own Ali Golden as our next pop-up at the Voyager Shop. We took a trip to her beautiful space in Temescal Alley and talked with her to talk about her process, inspirations and being one of a growing number of talented designers who are changing the game right here in the Bay Area.
What is the most challenging aspect of starting your own brand?
In the fashion industry, there’s so much that’s good already. It’s hard to find your place--a place that’s different and interesting and unique. You want to keep your brand something that you believe in, but still something that people want. Also, where I’m producing and where I’m located are other factors that impact the brand.
Do you think you’ve gotten closer to figuring out your voice?
Absolutely. I think every time I do a collection I get closer. I’ve kind of just been doing what I want to do and what I believe in each time, seeing if it catches on. It was slow and steady at first, but now, after 5 seasons, I feel like there’s a clear voice and it’s authentic. My brand isn’t supposed to be that complicated.
What continues to excite you about your brand?
I do feel a desire to educate people about the creation of a garment, both making and owning a garment of quality. I love having my own business and manufacturing a product, starting with designing it and seeing it become created, that’s really exciting to me. I really love seeing other people do it, too.
You call your line “the modern urban uniform”...Can you tell us more about that?
I think that the idea of the clothes is that they can be worn in whichever way you want and in any capacity. That’s where the uniform idea comes from. I really like the idea of something going from day to night, something you can pull on and not have to be fussy with. I’ve created these things to be layerable so there’s no question about how to wear it. I’d like to move more towards a seasonless, signature line. Something a little more modern. The idea of actually being able to wear your clothes is important, too. We try to make the silk so that it’s actually washable.
What’s the process like when you’re beginning a collection?
I actually do a lot of sketching and pulling of color and textures. We always design one print per season. I always design the print first. I don’t really ever do a thematic idea, I just think of a print that’s cool and relevant. The design really starts to come through once I start picking the pattern. It’s nice, too, because since I’m so close to my production, I can have a say in something quickly in case it starts going in the wrong direction.
Why did you choose to manufacture out of California?
I choose to produce here because I can have more of a part in what I do. I can choose my patterns and my samples. I can go to my factory and talk through the process, so if I want to do something about a garment, I can do it immediately.
What is your relationship with the designers in the Bay Area? Do you draw inspiration from them?
I absolutely would not be here if it wasn’t for my community. If I was trying to run a business from my home, it would never work. Being introduced by Leah (of Reliquary) to this area was so crucial, and this alley (Temescal) has such a great community. It’s not competitive--everyone is helping everyone out. You can take a break and be refreshed by other people around here. Even beyond this place, though, there are people doing such great things in Oakland.
Do you pull things from these other designers to style with your own clothes?
Maya from Minds Eye Vintage styles all of my shoots, really, and we’ve done shoots in conjunction with Lauren (Wolf, of Esqueleto) and Marisa Haskell’s jewelry. We use James Rowland shoes and go to Reliquary to pull. It’s great. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them.
You mentioned that you went to school for graphic design. Do you find that your graphic design background has a strong influence on what you design?
Yeah, probably without even noticing. Mostly, I gravitate towards really big silhouettes paired with really small silhouettes, so maybe that comes from those roots. I’m really attracted to those proportions, so I try to work with them in every collection.
What do you do to relax or to find inspiration?
Believe it or not, after all this, I still love to sew. I sew a lot, even just for fun. Stuff I just wanna make for myself. Also, I grew up on the beach, and I used to competitively surf, so any time I can get towards water, it’s a really therapeutic process. Anything I can do with my hands, really, is what I love. I also like to hang out with my dog, Jack.
Thank you to Ali Golden for sitting down with us at her wonderful studio and inspiring all of us in the Bay Area with her wonderful craft.
Visit Voyager for the Ali Golden Pop up Through May! - Opening Party May 1st!
*all photos by Brian Ortega