05 December 2016

An interview with Danielle Colen,
designer of Waltz

 + Background 
 I was born and raised in New York City and moved out to San Francisco in 2006 to study photography at CCA. My photography work was mostly formal and was driven largely by mood and feeling. I was never very good at putting what I was doing into words, and at the time it seemed like that was an essential part of being an artist, particular at that point in time when photography was becoming so ubiquitous. When I graduated from CCA, at the height of the recession in 2008, I couldn't find a job in the arts, and I realized that I didn't have the drive or desire to build a career as a fine artist. I had always been in love with clothing and I wanted to learn something that combined both art and craft, so I decided to return to school for fashion design. I went to Academy of Art for their MFA program, which gave me great technical training. I studied with several Japanese pattern-makers who were in their 60s and 70s and had decades of knowledge in the field. After finishing school I worked for Matt Dick at Small Trade Company. Matt is a great connector of people and Small Trade opened up a huge network for me within the design community.

 + What inspires your work? 
 I get a lot of inspiration from menswear, both vintage and contemporary. I am drawn to straightforward garments that don't rely on unnecessary details – silhouette is first and foremost for me. I tend to believe that less is more when it comes to design, but I do leave a little wiggle room for myself to keep things fun and interesting.

 + Favorite colors?
 I like colors that are hard to pin down and hover right on the edge where you can't quite identify them. I tend not to like pure colors – they need to have a bit of dirtiness. I keep returning to purplish blues like periwinkle and cornflower and earth tones like terra cotta and rust.

 + Describe a typical day
 My day always starts with coffee. I usually grab a cup on the way to work. My studio is walking distance from my house and the morning walk there is a great way to start the day. Most of the day is devoted to working on patterns and sewing test garments. The rest of the time I'm looking at fabric swatches, visiting factories, and figuring out logistics. I switch back and forth between listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks while I'm working.

 + Favorite spots in San Francisco 
I love to eat! Delfina for pizza, Hong Kong Lounge for Dim Sum, Mandalay for Burmese, Ichi for sushi. I live and work in the mission so I spend most of my time there. Dog Eared Books is great for browsing, and of course, Green Apple Books in the Inner Richmond. I also love walking around Jackson Square/North Beach – stopping in at William Stout Bookstore, getting Italian cookies from Stella Pastry, and eating delicious pasta at Tosca. Nearby, San Francisco Art Institute has a beautiful rooftop with amazing views and concrete benches perfect for a quick nap in the sunshine.

 + Favorite books and magazines 
 I have trouble choosing favorites. I don't look at many print magazines, but Apartamento is beautiful. I love still life photography and Nacho Alegre, who shoots a lot for that publication, does really amazing work. I always read a couple of books at once. Right now I'm reading The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima and The Story of the Lost Child, the last book in the Neapolitan quartet by Elena Ferrante. I like reading novels that transport you to another place or moment in history.

 + What are your winter essentials? 
 I'm always cold so I wear a lot of wool. Wool socks, wool tights, wool turtlenecks. I am eagerly awaiting my Black Friday splurge – an oversized wool scarf from Acne that you can wrap up in like a blanket.

 + Favorite music 
I like so many different types of music I don't know how to possibly narrow it down. Recently I've been listening to Dorothy Ashby, Caetano Veloso, and Solange.

 + Dreaming of... 
 Visiting Mexico City and Casa Barragan. And returning to Tokyo.

 + Favorite pieces in your wardrobe? 
 I lean toward very practical items. I mostly love shoes and coats because they can make any outfit look pulled together. I have been wearing the same pair of APC boots for at least 5 years. They have a chunky wool sole in the perfect height and will never go out of style. I also love the black linen trench that I made for my first collection. It has just the right amount of structure to feel relaxed but still polished. I always intend to introduce riskier, more statement pieces into my wardrobe but in the end I just return to the basics. Too much choice overwhelms me.

Thank you, Danielle!
View our collection of Waltz here.

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