A C O N V E R S A T I O N W I T H C H R I S T I N A D E S M E T
A refreshing new era of consciousness fueled by the desire to both create and shop responsibly, with awareness and intention is where you will find the most thoughtful and innovative minds within design. In an industry driven by fast fashion where 'quick to market' and profit margins are valued over design, quality and working conditions, its this new era of designer who offers us a more purposeful experience. A beacon of light within these emerging brands, DE SMET ...
[ Sanam Miremadi ] Something that has really captured me about De Smet is how incredibly thoughtful you are with your brand, design philosophy and process. How is 'INTENT' ( intuitive | deliberate | purposeful ) woven into and reflected within De Smet?
[ Christina De Smet ] DE SMET represents a lifestyle of conscious, finespun luxury. Crafted one piece at a time in New York City’s Garment District, the made-to-order collection offers a perennial wardrobe of versatile garments, celebrating the nuances of refinement found within the everyday. From fabric selection to silhouette design and even down to the inside finishing details, every aspect of the design process is intentional, deliberate and purposeful. Silhouettes and details are designed for versatility, fabrics are made primarily of natural fibers and everything is made-to-order. Constructing each garment in New York City helps grow the local economy while supporting the ever-shrinking Garment District.
[ SM ] What was your own personal experience with wardrobe/fashion prior to De Smet that motivated you to design within this processes?
[ CDS ] Before launching DE SMET, I was a designer for a mass-market retailer bringing high-end designers to the masses. It was through this experience that I learned about the negative implications fast fashion has on the environment and consumers. When I decided to launch DE SMET, I knew I had to do things differently, more thoughtfully. After leaving the corporate world, I began to choose my personal wardrobe more intentionally, only buying five pieces each season. I supplemented my wardrobe with my own designs, making one new garment every month and publishing these designs on my blog, DeSmitten. This is how the idea for the DE SMET process was born: Offering women one thoughtfully designed garment each month, which is made-to-order in New York City's Garment District, out of fabrics made from mostly natural fibers (wool, silk, flax, cotton, linen).
[ SM ] I love the lines "dialogue between purest fabrics and their natural surroundings" and "celebrating the fluid nature of the design process", which to me feels very organic. I'm not sure how else to put it into words besides, there seems to be a thoughtful awareness at play within your designs that turn out timeless staples... that are all a bit more then just a staple. Each piece designed with subtle details that give them a modern and feminine touch.
Where do you find the balance in designing something with the intention of timelessness and yet striving to create something unique with elements that still feel unique... now and in the future?
[ CDS ] I include details that offer multiple ways to wear and style each garment. It is important that each piece stands on its own but also works well with your existing wardrobe and within the entirety of the collection. Offering different ways to wear one garment promotes longevity and versatility in one's wardrobe.
[ SM ] This is my chicken or the egg moment within the realm of design, but what comes first within your process form or function?
[ CSD ] Function is at the forefront of my design process. It is important to make clothes that are wearable, comfortable and serve a purpose within an existing wardrobe. Although at times, when I am draping, the fabric will lead me into a new silhouette and I will go with it, in which case I let the form dictate the garment. Either way, during the fit process, I ensure the garment functions on its own and with other garments.
[ SM ] What outside inspirations or influences impact your designs?
[ CDS ] I look to other design fields for inspiration including ceramics, furniture, and architecture. Longtime favorites include Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth, Alvar Aalto, Charlotte Perriand, and John Pawson. Their ability to create something so simple, paired back and raw is a constant touchstone for me during my design process. From them, I've learned to strip away, edit, live with and in a garment before integrating it into the collection.
[ SM ] In what ways do you as a brand strive to make De Smet an experience vs. a singular garment?
[ CDS ] I'm offering women a different, more thoughtful approach to buying clothes, to building a wardrobe they can wear for years, and hopefully, streamline the way women get dressed every day. It's a constant conversation, an evolving relationship with the women who buy my clothes.
[ SM ] Who is the De Smet woman? Personal muses?
[ CDS ] The DE SMET woman is someone who appreciates buying less but better pieces. She invests in her wardrobe and in turn, invests in herself. She is intentionally building a wardrobe that will grow with her. I look to my friends most as muses, both male, and female. They are real people who continually refuel my desire to design.
[ SM ] What has withstood the test of time within your own personal wardrobe?
[ CDS ] There are many pieces that I've had for 10+ years but one that stands out most in my mind is a navy blue MIU MIU cashmere cardigan that was gifted to me by my first mentor in New York. I pull it out year after year and it never goes out of style. She bought it ten years before gifting it to me, so there's something to be said about that.
[ SM ] What would you like to see next for De Smet?
[ CDS ] I'm focused on developing a complete wardrobe, so I look forward to introducing outerwear and sweaters sometime in the future.
WORDS | Sanam Mireamdi [ ChloeTouran ]
DESIGNER | Christina De Smet of De Smet
IMAGES | De Smet