The Sport is Wearing Clothes
Photographs: Carlos Jaramillo
Story: Kara Marcinkoski
The seasonal output of a brand is often representative of a whole wealth of experiences, influences, and inspirations that come forth during development. What we encounter in the store setting is emblematic of a whole team of actors working together to produce a collection each season. For Lady White Co. the owners Phillip and Sarah have established natural connections between what they design and the community and team around them. Deeply observant, they find much of the feeling and direction for the brand from their interests, like photography. Alongside actively compiling a vintage archive and holding close collaborative relationships with artists, photographers, and designers, Lady White Co. utilizes this diversity of influences to their advantage, distilling it down into a concentrated, accessible, sportswear-based form that is effortlessly down-to-earth. Catching them just as AW20 was shipping out, we got a chance to chat with them about the unique elements that make up Lady White Co.’s team, process and future.
Feeling and Perspective
Photography is our biggest source of inspiration. Influencing us directly in terms of colors or specific clothing references; but also indirectly in terms of a feeling or perspective. It just happens to be another big interest of mine and naturally gets intertwined with the brand. That's why we started offering a little photo book section in our stores/website. 2020 helped us take a step back and figure out how we can work more with artists and others in the industry; collaborations etc. We converted the storefront into a contactless gallery for a couple months which featured works by David Horvitz, Theo Chin, and Hamish Pearch. It's not so much an approach, but tends to come naturally with our community/friend group surrounding Lady White. As a brand, retailer, or any business for that matter, there is always that sales burden, and sometimes these art projects give us a sense of relief from that and keep us inspired or grounded.
For the most part, our production happens within a 15 kilometer radius. Basically I can visit every aspect of the manufacturing in one day, from fabric milling to final dye processes. We are constantly learning from people like Peter who have been making products for over 40 years. Having a close relationship is how I end up learning the most. After a while it becomes a friendship and these makers open up a bit - more willing to experiment with development. Then it's just like feeding off each other in order to create new things. The design helps challenge the makers, and the processes inspire the designs. I've even had sewers pass me little scraps of construction methods they've been working on - and they are stoked to show me. Sometimes I'll even take them up on the idea or expand on it. Actually knowing the people that produce our clothes is the most important layer to all this.
Instead of importing fabrics we develop and produce it all in Los Angeles. Occasionally, yes, we will import a specialty knit from Japan - but 95% of our goods are made here. For instance, we will source a specific nylon yarn and combine it with a sturdy cotton yarn to make a jersey that feels foreign to the touch. Making the fabric from scratch takes extra time and development, and that's why our collections are on the smaller side. We want to focus on the fabric first and then build from that - usually only working with jerseys and fleece. Sometimes it works the other way too, I'll have a sketch or vintage garment I want to reference and then build the fabric choices around that. It's honestly a different approach every single time - but usually the fabric is the catalyst. We hope to make really familiar products feel less ordinary.
Ironically we are so removed from "sport/athletics" but all we make is sportswear haha. I like to say the sport is wearing clothes. Modern day sportswear/activewear is a bit depressing. To us, "sportswear" as a term, means comfort, functionality, and has a humbleness to it - a sense of casualness. An actual "sport" is usually the furthest thing on my mind when designing a piece of clothing. But as far as eras that matter to us, it's usually anything from 40's-90's. We have a small room dedicated to my vintage archive, it's sort of an addiction.
Everyone is super close here. It's fully a family operation. Literally and figuratively, Sarah and I are married and Taylor I've known since I was 5 years old. Carlos, who shoots all of our photos, we've known since high school. Much of our work overlaps so naturally we all tend to work very closely together on all things here.