Buttons = personalized clothing

When I was just starting out as a clothing designer, I explored a lot with different techniques to help develop my own style. One approach I was experimenting with was taking a classic vintage gem and transforming it into something modern with an urban-vibe. I was taking something cool but outdated and making it fresh again.

My inspiration came from the Northwest Coast Native American’s Button Blankets. The Indians received wool Hudson Trading Company blankets in dark colors as traders were making their way into the Pacific Northwest. Instead of using the blankets to sleep with, they turned them into decorative ceremonial jackets. They sewed shiny, mother of pearl buttons in different patterns and characters across the back. It was a simple way to make a bold impact. I didn’t want to follow the concept exactly. I was mainly drawn to the approach.

At the time I was working in a shared creative studio. Other designers would stop by regularly. We were always helping each other with constructive feedback and solution ideas. There was one exception. Randomly one day, another designer announced to me that I just couldn’t buy something, add buttons to it and turn around and sell it. I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand and appreciated what I was doing; she didn’t realize that I was using a tribal technique to create personalized clothing.

What I do is more than just sewing on buttons. It starts with finding the right elements then bringing them together in a method that works. Finding a vintage gem in good condition requires some digging; it’s a process. Next are the details. Finding the right buttons, at the right price, along with the other complementary notions takes skill; they don’t just appear. Final step: knowing where to place them and making sure it all comes together. It’s design thinking just like any other creative process.

My approach with buttons has turned into one of my more expressive techniques for creating personalized clothing. I’m creating ultra-modern, artisan garments with buttons as the main element of the creative expression. I’d like to thank the Northwest Coast Native Americans for the inspiration.

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