by Laura Feinstein
While oftentimes New York Fashion Week shows at Lincoln Center are characterized by flash and grandeur, downtown at Chelsea Piers Studio, a showing of younger designers is proving to be where a new spark is. Since graduating from RISD in 2008, Brooklyn-based knitwear designer, clothier and textile artist Lindsay Degen has made ripples in the fashion world for her haute-ly bonkers and trippy designs (the title of her SS ’15 show was “LSDegen”). After recent collaborations with Teva, Converse, Todd Selby and GERLAN—and a much publicized net-inspired knitwear collection for Victoria’s Secret the designer’s star rose even higher with the win of the 2014 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award, whose previous recipients have included Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzurra.
For her Spring 2015 showing Degen teamed up with fellow RISD alum Greta Johnson, who provided Degen’s whimsical patterns an interesting punch of neo-pop edge. Entitled “Vision Quest” Degen’s presentation included a psychedelic beach party scene complete with knit life-preservers, rainbow-marble bathing suits and matching Teva sandals. Like an Ibiza foam party mixed with a color-saturated ’90s Gregg Araki movie, the surreal sight of dreadlocked and pastel spike-haired models in acid-drenched beachwear added a much needed playful element to NYFW. Early last week, we met with Degen to ask her about her creative process, secret superheroes and what’s next.
You always seem to enjoy balancing several projects at once. What are you currently working on?
Right now I am wrapping up babyDEGEN production and prepping for Fashion Week. Outside of that, I am teaching two knitting classes at Parsons and collaborating with Rufio Hearts Little Snotty on a capsule collection of sweatshirts for Holiday.
How is this collection different from past collections?
This season I wanted to push myself in a more ready-to-wear direction. I have a large number of cut-and-sew basics with great printed patterns in the line that are totally new. Print All Over Me, a web platform for making great digitally printed garments, collaborated with us to make our digitally printed garments come to life.
What was your design inspiration?
It varies from season to season, but this time around I felt pretty weighed down by all of the world events—from ISIS, to the kidnappings in Nigeria. All of the tragedies, paired with their accessibility through HD photography and the internet, made me think about drugs; used for prescription as well as escape. Although I find that knitting is my own escape method, I looked to psychedelia for inspiration. “LSDegen,” the title of this collection, rejects the negativity in the world and presents an inclusive, bright alternative in psychedelic colors via knitted and printed textures.
How has receiving the Ecco Domani FFA changed your business and design process?
I don’t think it really changed much business or design-wise, but definitely motivated me and showed me that what I am doing is not just a fringe DIY thing, that industry people also are interested in the collection and see its artistic integrity.
Who would you say some of your biggest influences are?
I guess my circle of creative friends is my greatest influence. Artist Chris Uphues, Killer Acid, comic artist Caca Pasa, potter Universal Isaac, designer Jamie Wolfond, musicians Anamanaguchi and George and Jonathan—all are my friends and influencers. We all [collaborate and] share ideas.
If you could have any cultural figure—real or fake, superhero or villain—wear your designs who would it be?
Lil Wayne. Definitely.
What techniques do you use to create your unique textiles?
Usually everything is knitted either by hand or on a hand-operated knitting machine, but this season my friend Fiona Ryan of Fifo Cycle helped me do a lot of the marbleizing technique.
What is your favorite part of NYFW?
Definitely seeing all of my friend’s visions coming to life in their presentations or runway shows is the best part. We all work so hard for months and months to put on these 10 minute / one hour events. It’s so great to see the payoff and then relax together.
Studio images courtesy of Hanna Agar, additional images courtesy of Degen