ONE OF THE most prominent forces in the local apparel scene, multimedia artist/designer/musician Emily Katz has been off the radar for the past few years. This month marks her exciting return with art show In the Flower Months. In conjunction with the show, she is launching her first clothing collection since 2010. Katz took a moment to catch up with us on where she's been and what her return looks like. Art show at Breeze Block Gallery, 323 NW 6th, through Nov 30; fashion show at same location, Sat Nov 17, 8 pm, $7 (includes hosted bar)
MERCURY: Why did you withdraw from the fashion scene, and what led to your return?
EMILY KATZ: There were many reasons for my withdrawal. The economy crashed and affected me pretty heavily. I had shipped 100 skirts to Anthropologie and they refused to pay for them. Luckily I convinced them to take half, but it was bank-breaking. Many other stores closed that also had outstanding orders or payments due, so it was partially a financial decision. Then there was a general feeling of a shift in the fashion scene, and I admit I didn't feel emotionally connected or safe. In the interim, I have spread out my time making art, music, writing, cooking, and searching for greater meaning and purpose. The reason I decided to return is that I found myself at the fabric store inspired. And working in embroidery again, which is where it all began, made me think about what comes most easily to me, and I am setting out to focus on it.
The accompanying art exhibit draws heavily from Jeevan Singh's poetry. Can you tell me about your relationship to the author?
I was offered this solo art show back in February, and at the time, I didn't know what I planned on doing. I have been working on these layered tulle-embroidered drawings for a few years now, but wasn't feeling connected to any imagery. I was talking about my dreams one day with Jeevan, and she said she was writing poems about her dreams. It just clicked. Jeevan and I have known each other for 10 years, and we used to play music in my band Love Menu. I respect the way in which she exposes her subjects, shines light on them, and plays with her words. From there it all made sense: rearranging my room to recall dreams, drawing images of flowers that evoke dreams, poppies, angelica....
The description of materials in your new line suggests that these clothes are detail heavy, meant to walk a line between waking and sleeping. Can you expound on that a bit?
I imagine them as dream-wear. That can mean many things. I was thinking about dreaming in the literal sense, maybe you would wear the dress to sleep, but maybe it is your "dream dress": the colors are soft, but with some bold standouts. The fabrics are all very sumptuous. There is velvet. There are formal details, lace that is made through embroidering. There are tops, dresses, vests, skirts, and outerwear. I would say that the garments are all functional and wearable, but there is a lot of sheerness, and while some items are delicate and "dreamy," others are more grounded and "awake."
Does this collection mean that you are "back" in terms of clothing?
Before I was stuck in a machine that wasn't working or making me happy, and now I feel excited to have the freedom to create beautiful things because I want to, because I am inspired. That said, I sometimes miss the days of the old guard. I miss Seaplane, and the very DIY fashion shows that were always put on so elegantly. But now we have events like Content, which I think is really amazing. And as long as it is still inspired and satisfying, then I will continue. I don't yet know what that looks like, but I am ready for whatever it is.