Quiltwork with CARLEEN
A term synonymous with Americana (or possibly even Grandma), quilting has experienced something of a resurgence in the past few years, showing up on the runways of Fashion Week and in the collections of emerging designers worldwide. We sat down with CARLEEN founder, Kelsy, to talk more about this nostalgic trend and how it’s inspired her line of clothing since 2012.
KP: I've been working with quilts and other vintage textiles since 2011 when I started conceiving of my senior thesis collection while I was studying fashion design at Pratt Institute. I grew up surrounded by women who sewed and I learned at an early age. One of my favorite childhood memories is collaborating with my mom on homemade Halloween costumes each year.
Another popular family activity, then and now, was going to flea markets (even now I attend the Long Beach and Rose Bowl flea markets religiously), swap meets, and antique shops, so I wasn't steeped in a tradition of making quilts so much as appreciating them. With the luxury of space and time that I was afforded while studying fashion and textiles at school, I was able to dive deep into the skills and traditions involved, and quilting has stuck with me ever since. Sometimes it shows up in my collections more literally—like when a garment is made out of a vintage quilt—and sometimes more subtly in the way a garment is constructed.
There is such a wealth of traditions to draw from. I return most often to the quilts of Gee’s Bend, a small, remote community of Black women in Alabama. But I also love Amish quilting, was recently drawn to Hawaiian quilting, and love the work of contemporary quilters like Coulter Fussell and Maura Ambrose. I really enjoy looking to contemporary quilters to see how they’re incorporating traditional techniques with a more modern sensibility. Conversely, this is also why I love the work of Gee’s Bend so much: some of it was made as early as the 1920s, but it can have a very contemporary look. Piecework Collective has put on three really wonderful exhibits, the first of which in 2016 focused on quilts made entirely in a black and white scheme. I discovered a lot of really wonderful quilters through that show, and those artists continue to open my eyes to how this medium can evolve.
Discover Kelsy's favorites below!
"Synonymous with its title, this is the perfect dress for those hot days when you want to wear something airy."
"This skirt is that one piece that elevates an outfit but is still comfortable."
"Excellent pockets, seaming, and a nice swingy shape."