A slew of artists and designers often turn to the galaxies as their muse, but Shadowplaynyc‘s Ali Bennaim and Ximena Chouza expertly bring the celestial bodies down to Earth by digitally printing photos taken by NASA’s Hubble telescope—among other nature-inspired landscapes—onto circle scarves, jersey dresses and swimsuits. CH visited the young duo’s Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio to learn more about their exciting designs.
How did you two meet?
Ali Bennaim: The first week of school [at Parsons]. She’s from Mexico and I’m from Venezuela, so I guess Latin people always kind of meet—[laughs]—if you hear somebody speaking Spanish. Then we moved in together the second year and lived together all through school. We were both in fashion and we had a lot of classes together. When we graduated, we still lived together and started printing fabric because we loved these images [of space] and naturally, as fashion designers, we were like, “Ooh, it’d be cool on fabric.”
Why do you find these images so compelling?
AB: These images have been around for years and have become part of our culture, but they’ll never fail to strike us with their beautiful colors and compositions. They’re also inspiring and represent incredible advances in technology, knowledge and our ability and desire to explore.
Were there any bumps along the way to starting your own business?
AB: Christopher Kane did a Hubble collection [in 2010] and when we first started doing this for fun—we were just selling on Etsy—they actually approached with a cease and desist. His lawyers threatened to sue us; it was ridiculous, we didn’t even have a lawyer.
It was scary, because obviously it’s the big guys. I didn’t know if I should be scared, or honored.
Can you tell us more about the unique shapes of the scarves and dresses?
AB: Our most popular fabric is this jersey. We make everything out of one yard of fabric and we don’t cut into the fabric, so there’s no fabric waste. That’s a thing we started doing because when we first started printing them, the prints were so pretty that we didn’t want to cut or throw away fabric. So we came up with a way to make skirts that wouldn’t cut into the fabric, and would use the whole yardage (we just cut the borders). And when Ximena was at Theory, I was at Eden—I remember seeing the amount of fabric wasted there, it was crazy—they just throw it out. The amount of samples they throw out, the amount of fabric… So we decided that [saving fabric] was such a good thing to continue whenever we can.
What surprises can we expect to see this fall from ShadowplayNYC?
AB: We’re working on some exciting new prints. We’ll be offering a new collection of galaxy images (and remaking our popular ones) as well as other space-inspired prints, many of which have a very black/dark vibe. We’ve been working on an Apocalypse collection with images of meteorites, as well as eclipses, auroras, moon phases, etc. We’ve also been working with many images of quartz, diamonds, and other stones and minerals. We’ve been trying to incorporate more Earth-inspired prints into our otherwise space-dominated collections.
Visit Shadowplaynyc online to peruse and shop their current collection.
Photos by Nara Shin