For designer Michelle Biondolillo, the empowerment you get from your clothes – whether it’s from the way you look or the choices you represent – is fashion’s new raison d’etre. A trained artist and FIT graduate, Michelle’s brand, Schuylark (pronounced “sky-lark”), focuses on style and sustainability inspired by nature and with an artist’s attention to detail. Her Spring/ Summer 2015 collection, Metamorphisis, sets out to change the fashion paradigm and combine sustainable practices with all natural fabrics to produce seasonless styles that offer a new alternatives to mass production. Today we chat with Michelle about her brand Schuylark, the power of choice in creating change, and what it’s like to dress punk teddy bears.
How and why did you start designing?
I’ve always enjoyed making things and have been sewing since as far back I can remember. I started making clothes for my stuffed animals when I was in young, and I’d like to think that my teddy bear really liked his denim vest with the skull and cross bones embroidered on it, but who’s to say. And I think I’m pretty picky. One of biggest reason that I started designing, what spurs a lot of designers on, was always wanting something I couldn’t find and knowing that I could just make it myself. I would have an idea and just try to figure out how I could get it to actually work.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
I’m a designer, and if you could build a brand by just creating great designs that would be awesome, but you can’t.
Personally, my biggest hurdle was learning all aspects of the business side of having a line. I can do all the creative design, branding, advertising, etc., but wrapping my head around business plans, marketing plans, and databases is where I have a hard time. Going through an emerging designer bootcamp gave me the tools and knowledge that helped me to get past the fear of how to put it all together and to realize it really isn’t that scary.
What do you think about fashion today?
As with anything there are good things and bad things. I love to see the creativity that is out there and I am constantly inspired to push myself when I see great design. On the other hand, there is a lot about the industry that needs to be changed. Other than style trends, I think the trend I like seeing the most is that designers and retailers are embracing the “green” idea. From Stella McCartney’s full collection for the Green Carpet Challenge to H&M’s Conscious Denim, more and more names are finding alternate ways to reduce the fashion industry’s impact on our environment and take accountability for how it’s made.
What is your fashion philosophy?
And as an artist, as well as a designer, I want my line to reflect my individual aesthetic as well as my desire to produce an “ethically” responsible line. I had to examine what that term meant not only to me, but how it was being perceived by the industry. I didn’t want it to be just a marketing catch phrase, because the sentiment behind it truly was what I wanted Schuylark to stand for. I was told many times that I could cut the cost if I made it overseas or by using cheaper fabrics. I didn’t want to do that. The line had to stand for something – all natural fabrics, locally produced, and with great details. I knew that on those things I couldn’t compromise. But was all of that enough to call it conscious clothing? When I thought about it more I realized that the one thing I think that makes it so, the very core of the idea, is the fact that the goal of my collection is not for mass quantity or great profit, but to make creative, contemporary styles without having to compromise my inherent ethos.
Making choices that make a difference is really the heart of it. There are more options then there have been in the past. We know more about how those choices ultimately affect our world and others and even if it’s a small step it matters. I want Schuylark to be part of the change not part of the problem.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
Sometimes all it takes is a word or a phrase to spark an idea. One that resonates inside as being the thing to do. You know it when you feel it and it happens more often than not when you least expect it. As a designer I see inspiring things all the time. It’s that special one, however, that just feels different. It’s the image you can’t get out of your mind after looking at a thousand images, or the one thought that keeps popping up when you’re thinking of something completely different. For me they rattle around in my head until I finally just have to get them out by designing it, painting it, sculpting it or creating it by whatever means. Otherwise they get jumbled up and collide with other thoughts and end up as lost fragments that eventually disappear. That’s such a sad fate for a good idea. Unfortunately, it happens too often. Too busy, too much over thinking, waiting for the “right time.” Guess what, there never is a right time, there is only “right now” and that’s when it needs to be done.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
I think the best tip I was ever given has been “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” Basically don’t just sit and wait or over think, just get out of your own way and get something done. Either it works or you learn something.
Ready to change the world? Follow Schuylark to be one of the first to pre-purchase Metamorphisis when her line launches.