Deborah Roberts, the visionary behind Silvae clothing, is nothing if not poetic. Take for instance her forthcoming S/S ’15 collection, called Inscaping. The word “inscape” refers to the “unique inner nature of a person or object as shown in a work of art,” which is an appropriate definition for Roberts’ work. Her pieces go beyond the functional by striving to exude the essence of not just Roberts the designer, but also of each woman who chooses Silvae. “To me, fashion is a large part of our visual history,” Silvae tells CH, “And something I’d like to contribute to.”
Based in her native Seattle, Roberts clearly takes inspiration from her PNW environment, but brings a raw, urban sharpness to her style. Inscaping is Roberts’ third collection since launching Silvae in 2013, and it’s clear that she has bold ideas that she is unafraid to execute. Filled with mixed denims, gauzy pleats and sturdier linens, the line mixes structured cuts with soft silhouettes that carry her outfits from casual daywear to informal-yet-dashing evening dress. Put succinctly: the collection is definitively feminine with a touch of masculine swagger.
Roberts integrates illustrations by fellow Seattleite Olivia Knapp, whose surreal pen-and-ink style has made Silvae pieces particularly unique. Roberts initially met Knapp when they were both working for Eddie Bauer, and she became enamored with Knapp’s personal drawings when she showed them to her one day on the bus to work. “A lot of her work incorporates the head and the heart with modern objects in an exploration of desire, reason and circumstance,” says Roberts. “I thought her style would look amazing on fabric, and when I launched Silvae in 2013, I asked if she’d collaborate with me on the fabric prints. We’ve been working together since.”
In fact, Inscaping is actually named after the eponymous piece by Knapp, which Roberts explains is all about introspection and rebirth. “I tried to echo that thought throughout the collection with layered silhouettes, cut-outs and textural sheer fabrics,” she says.
Roberts makes a habit of keeping her collaborators close, and has committed to supporting domestic manufacturing with that same attitude. She employed a family-owned production team located in NYC’s Garment District to create her collection, and says, “It’s been great to visit the factories and meet the people sewing the collections.” In turn, the team supports Roberts and other developing designers by offering flexible production minimums, which is a blessing for any small enterprise.
As an independent designer, Roberts finds herself tested by a highly competitive industry, but has found that it forces her to be more resourceful and creative. “You’re often faced with high minimums for interesting fabrics, as well as a high cost,” she explains. “I’ve been going to the LA fabric show for the past couple seasons, and have found a number of great suppliers that are willing to work with new designers.” She also worked with a digital printer on the East Coast for Inscaping, saying it allows her more flexibility with her fabrics. “Digital printing is a relatively new technology that gives smaller brands the opportunity to create something unique without having large minimums,” she says.
Despite the challenges, it seems as though Roberts wouldn’t have it any other way. “Fashion is an extremely competitive industry, but I think that’s also what makes it so fun—to find your unique voice and see where you fit in the market,” she says. “Since starting Silvae I’ve become more connected to the local art scene, and it’s been really inspiring to meet other makers in Seattle and across the country.”
The Inscaping Collection will be available Spring 2015 online and at select retailers.
Images by Charlie Schuck