You may never have heard of Bemis, but if you’ve bought any outdoors gear or active wear in the past couple of years most likely you’ve worn something they’ve designed. They don’t design things for companies, but they design the technology that allows companies to make more breathable, more lightweight, more waterproof gear.
In short, they are the behind-the-scenes inventors of so many things we take for granted. We caught up with one of their designers, Anna Newton, to talk about her career and the latest coming out of this Wonka Factory of high performance fashion.
How did you start working in clothing design?
I went to school for Apparel Design and Merchandising at Oregon State University. My program was focused on technical design, patternmaking and textile testing, so I’ve always gravitated towards R&D. I’m very interested in finding new ways to create garments while improving the functionality of clothing.
How is Bemis different from other places you’ve worked?
I have worked for fashion brands and performance sport brands, but Bemis is the first material supplier I have worked for. I love the fact that because we are a manufacturer, if we don’t have a product in our portfolio that meets a need in the market, we can create it!
What do you do at Bemis?
I worked with Bemis for many years as a designer and developer of performance sport apparel, using their adhesives and films to create lightweight, durable gear with added functionality — cut resistance, body alignment, water resistance, etc.
Now I work with design teams at brands across the globe help them explore the possibilities that replacing sewing with bonding opens up. We are educating the industry in a whole new way of thinking about functional design, and it’s very exciting.
What do you look for when you buy clothing? What brands do you like, respect, and look to for inspiration?
I look for quality fabric, and simple silhouette. I’m a lot like most designers I know — we have a practical uniform — usually it’s Jeans, a tee shirt, a versatile jacket and some statement shoes. Right now for me, It’s James Perse tees, Hudson jeans, I’m searching for a vintage denim jacket because I lost mine on the road, and I’m shopping for some creepers, since I’m feeling nostalgic for the 90’s. I definitely like to mix the old and new.
My favorite places to shop are thrift stores — they get me the most excited. Clothing isn’t made the same way it once was. I love discovering the construction techniques used in a beautifully made garment. I have a huge collection of vintage pieces.
I always look to Issey Miyake for inspiration. He’s so far ahead of everyone in terms of exploring new manufacturing techniques, and then using them to create the most elegant, wearable designs. I fantasize about having an entire wardrobe of his when I grow up. I also recommend exploring modular dressing concepts from incredible anti-fashion innovator Sandra Garratt. Her original line from the 80’s still feels very current to me. I’d love to do a collaboration with her and Bemis.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever designed?
What’s your dream job? What’s your dream trip?
I’m living the dream! I get to be creative, travel and collaborate with creatives all over the world! Next time I’m in Asia, I’d love to go on a scuba diving trip with our Master Patternmaker and Technical Designer Raymond. He showed me underwater videos from some of his trips and I was mesmerized!
What’s new for fall and winter 2015? Anything we should be looking forward to?
Living in New England, I will be stocking up on everything down and merino wool. Winter around here is fierce, but totally bearable with the right gear. We’ve been playing around in the lab with bonding natural fibers so we have the best of both worlds: lightweight, comfortable garments with the performance of wool. Bonded quilted down jackets are also wonderful, because you don’t get any of the cold spots that come from traditional quilting, which perforates the fabric. Also, leather and wooden jewelry with a modern tribal vibe is a great accent to a simple outfit, and unlike metal, it doesn’t get cold!
Thanks, Anna! Suddenly inspired to up my winter-gear game. And get some wooden jewelry.