EMIT: LASER CUT FASHION
Emit‘s laser cut dresses and skirts are made from performance fabrics used in athletic wear. They’re so lightweight, breathable and wrinkle-resistant, you could probably work out in them, I joked with co-founders Ben Hermel and Monica Cullen after a fashion show.
But these aren’t your jock’s slouchy warmups. Emit adds a level of sophistication to modern Skittles-colored dresses with the technical engineering of their geometric cutouts. The designers can create very complex patterns through the pinpoint accuracy of a laser cutter.
Emit first splashed onto the Portland scene in a downtown pop up shop during the 2012 holiday season. The entry was such a success, Hermel and Cullen realized they could expand their line. They recently added a third partner to develop business strategies, freeing up more time for the creative side of design. The two designers talked about their creative process with Eyes + Edge, their upcoming online retail store and what’s next for their collection.
E+E: What roles did the two of you have in your more than 10 years of experience in the sportswear industry?
Ben Hermel: Monica was a teacher before moving into the sportswear industry. She was at Adidas for 10 years. Her most recent role was as design director for U.S. training. I began my career as a graphic designer, but spent some time designing furniture before taking a position at Adidas as the design director for strategy and innovation.
E+E: What inspired you to partner up and start Emit?
BH: Having both worked in big organizations, we found that there is little opportunity to see a product through all the way from concept to realization. We had both played parts in the creation process but wanted to learn more about the challenges in aspects of the business we weren’t involved in.
We wanted to create a product with no compromises, and this is very difficult to do when part of a larger team. We realized that to have true control over the output we needed to own it from start to finish. We worked closely together and had great respect for each other’s skills, and were ready to take a chance at the same time. So in mid-2012, we took the plunge.
BH: Working at Adidas, we realized that just a tiny fraction of performance products were used for the intended purpose, that the majority of people buy these products because they are simply more comfortable than everyday wear.
We felt that there was an opportunity to create products with this level of comfort that were truly fashionable. We felt that it was a relatively unexplored area. While there are a number of companies that are performance-based with a small concession to fashion, there were very few that were truly putting style first.
E+E: I haven’t seen many other designers use laser cutting, let alone performance fabrics. Tell me more about this technique.
BH: The first season we knew that there would be a lot of challenges, so we kept the silhouette simple and pushed to create more variation with dramatic colors and cuts. The designs are intended to flatter the female form but are also heavily influenced by the limitations of production technique.
Smaller geometric shapes retain their integrity far better than larger, organic shapes. We’ve enjoyed playing with light and shadows created by the layering of fabrics. The bright colors are a benefit of using performance fabrics, and we’re generally optimistic people, and we want that to come through in our work.
E+E: What are you working on now for Emit? Are you going to be in more fashion shows?
BH: This year we’re hoping to expand, most likely on the e-commerce side and partnering with local boutiques. Eventually we’d like to have a retail presence but I think that is a while away.
Our goal is to add online retail to our site in May, and we’re currently looking at other distribution options, both small boutiques and larger stores.
On the creative side, we’re working on next season’s line at the moment and also creating some runway-specific pieces. We’re hoping to be in more shows this year. We’ll definitely be a part of Fade to Light in August and we’ll let you know if there are any others between now and then.
Written by: Dominique Fong