Mia Vesper is a New York based designer, creating sustainable couture fashion with a unique drive and collaborative ethos. With a studio space in the heart of Bushwick, Vesper’s aesthetic transcends counter cultures – think Debbie Harry meets Marie Antoinette. Her brand defines a world of romance, athleticism, and will leave you in a state of reverie. Aside from her striking designs, she exhibits a larger than life presence, and a strong intellectual understanding of the ever-evolving fashion industry. After generating major buzz for her one-of-a-kind leather tapestry moto jackets, she’s about to embark on an ambitious ready to wear collection and is opening a SoHo pop-up shop at 199 Lafayette later this month. In the course of our chat, I soon learned that her whimsical vision is backed by a sharp wit and vast knowledge.
All photos styled by Michelle Rose & Ola Wilk, shot by Ola Wilk. Models : Abraham Martinez & Michelle Rose
AF: In the current climate, sustainable clothing has become a tremendous movement. Can you talk a bit about your process involved with sustainable sourcing for your couture line?
MV: The word tremendous is generous I think. The movement is on the precipice of being tremendous, but high cost and lag in green technology means a lot of popular brands that we call sustainable are just a bit better – and in just a couple of ways – than fast fashion. Still, I have hope that it will gain speed exponentially over time.
Couture, by virtue of being couture, is sustainable (not necessarily green, but sustainable). Quantities matter to your carbon footprint and couture has a quantity of one. In my couture line I also use vintage textiles and tapestries which is really fun! Still, while I try to use natural fibers or vintage where I can, I do make concessions for aesthetic. I love sequins and specialty fabrics that certainly don’t qualify as green. What I do feel confident in is my ability to create enduring pieces that people don’t throw away in a couple months. I never design just to flesh out a collection with basics that someone else has already made. My sustainability concept relies on a fair trade, direct-to-consumer model that concentrates on small quantities, design integrity, special-ness and longevity.
AF: There are a lot of resources needed to go from idea to prototype to production to market. Can you talk a bit about small scale production, and your collaborative team?
MV: I am just now creating a ready-to-wear collection, but I stayed small for a very long time prior to this point because I found it difficult to maintain quantity, quality and my sense of self at the same time. It’s hard for clothing designers to get started because there’s this perception that they need to do it all; create a 30-piece collection each season, put on runway shows, etc. I never understood why clothing doesn’t take a leaf out of the accessories book and create a few thoroughly considered pieces per season, changing their colors every now and then.
Another reason that I’ve stayed small is because I wasn’t in a position to hire employees and don’t really think interns are ethical, so I’ve only been able to handle a certain amount of work on my own. It’s really enticing to accept help wherever you can in this industry, but I think it’s important to wait for the right kind of help or you risk diluting your concept.
AF: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs coming to New York to materialize their dream line?
MV: I have so many…
Always write a contract – even for collaborations.
Concentrate on online direct-to-consumer models. Wholesale is usually costly and a bureaucratic nightmare for designers. You can spend your whole season and budget only to have a deal fall through.
Make sure your clothing has a perspective and deserves its place in the world. ‘I could do that too’ is not a good enough reason to start making products that will impact the earth for generations to come. If your concept isn’t there yet, keep developing it.
And finally, in an ironic end to this listicle of advice, remember that everyone will have a lot of advice for you; don’t let it pull you in too many directions.
AF: Your designs are really innovative and eye-catching. What are your main aesthetic influences? What was the first moto jacket you ever acquired?
MV: I didn’t have any experience with design before I started my line so I relied on sewing classic shapes in extraordinary fabrics. I do think that’s where fashion is going – classic sportswear in amazing fabrications. To throw things back to the eco conversation, I also wanted a time-enduring silhouette. My first moto jacket was a BCBG jacket that I bought in freshman year of college. It was a mushroom color that made me look sick but the idea of a leather jacket carried more cache to me than the question of whether it was flattering.
AF: What are your musical/sonic influences? Do you listen to music while you design?
MV: Actually no – I find myself too distracted by music to work while it’s on. I think of listening to music as an activity; you dance to it, you mourn to it, etc. I usually work in total silence. Fun story, I know.
AF: If your line was a soundtrack, or a score to any movie.. what would it be?
MV: Maybe Blade Runner’s ’80s futurism soundtrack or Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
AF: Any inspiration from musicians’ personal style?
MV: Haha, Rihanna? I don’t think a lot about famous people’s style because it’s just way too easy for celebrities to look incredible. Anybody doing their own legwork to find cool clothes is more interesting to me.
AF: Is it true you staged a guerrilla fashion show outside of a Marc Jacobs show at NYFW in 2017?
MV: I did! I took a group of friends and models dressed in Mia Vesper suits on a fashion crawl through the city.
AF: Did this garner buzz? Seems like the perfect opportunity to gain DIY attention from paparazzi and press.
MV: Press wasn’t allowed into that show so I was able to get the eyes of every major fashion publication that I never otherwise would have gotten to open my email. It was an amazing way to launch my first collection without going broke.
AF: What exciting endeavors are coming up in the design world of Mia Vesper?
MV: I’m working on a more accessibly priced ready to wear collection with styles for men and women in 2019 and I’m also planning to open a short term retail space in Manhattan soon!