Sara Lopez launched the conceptual clothing line A Company a year ago and it already has a marked, distinctive personality – layering, asymmetric and twisted pieces, unique silhouettes and deconstruction go hand-in-hand in the game of the seen and the unseen. Growing up in Texas (United States) encouraged her to explore the natural world, and maybe that’s why her work reflects a romantic vision of the interaction between different elements and presents an intimate relationship of forms.
A Company moves between art and design. The pieces are on the borderline between conceptual and functional and blur the barriers between genders as the creative director focuses on bodies and how these interact with the garments. The fashion brand proposes an invitation to an introspective journey to wonder about the longevity of clothing and about consumerism, something that makes this collection even more attractive as it’s a limited-edition of 144 pieces. We speak with Sara about deconstruction, Roland Barthes, and new thoughtful ways of presenting a collection.
What is A Company and what is its philosophy?
The best way I can describe it is that we’re a grouping of some, many, few, but mostly you and me, and all of them. We’re a women’s leaning clothing brand that looks at the modern wardrobe with a critical lens dismantling the histories and cultural narratives of archetypal garments. The longevity of clothing is important to us as well as creating pieces that curiously alter how we move in the world. Clothing can be additive or functional, oftentimes both, but there are even more realms to explore within that dichotomy which we are always seeking.
Body and space have a strong presence in your work. Also, the lines between fashion and design are somehow blurred, as garments are more than just pieces of clothing responding to function – they’re conceptual and functional. What’s the midpoint between these variables?
I’m not sure if we’ve found the midpoint or will ever, as it’s always changing, and our bodies in time and space are also continually in flux. There are many utilitarian aspects of clothing which no longer have a purpose and have become pure aesthetics, such as epaulettes or d-rings on trench coat belts. Or button-down collars, which were initially designed for polo players so the collar wouldn’t flap, and is now worn primarily by business people in sedentary postures. Those design elements are especially interesting to us and play a large role in our design process. We aim to keep moving, twisting, bending, and overlapping those lines of separation between the cerebral and physical form.
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You presented the first collection in a delicate and original way. The 1.0 Presentation was a performance that consisted of choreographed dancers captured in film. Tell us more about the inspiration and purpose of this. What did this format offer you rather than the usual runway show?
It was actually a live one-hour performance but now continues to live on in this fractionated way through film. Always fun to try to make something fleeting permanent. Of course, the relationship between dance and clothing has a long history, but we were most taken with the inherent ephemerality and performance of the two.
We collaborated with Loni Landon to choreograph a structured improv piece with seven modern dancers interacting within a set of objects designed and collected by Sarah Burns, and had Charlotte Dos Santos, who was responding musically to the gestures of the dancers. It was an intimate dialogue between all the elements, including the audience. I think the heat (AC was down!) actually played a large role in breaking down any barriers between the dancers and audience. We were all on the same level, together, sweating, engaged in the same world for a brief time.
By the way, do you feel runways are still relevant in fashion today? We see more and more alternative ways of presenting collections.
They seem to be relevant in some ways for the industry but they’re becoming quite burdensome for all and not pushing much forward. I just don’t find traditional runways to be particularly interesting anymore. There are so many ways we haven’t explored displaying clothes and I want to see garments in new thoughtful contexts.
The second collection’s first lookbook images are a few pages from the book The Fashion System, by theorist Roland Barthes, specifically the chapter Variants of Relation, where you highlight some sentences or parts like “this suspended mixture of the seen and the unseen, which is precisely what the variant of emergence is responsible for making signify” or “it could be compared to the blush that comes across the face as a paradoxical sign of what is secret”. What is it that you find interesting in that book and how do you translate it into fashion/garments?
This being such a seminal text of fashion theory, it seemed appropriate to introduce it early on with this young brand. I mark up my books pretty instinctually, but those particular lines stuck with me as I was designing the collection. Barthes is speaking to the emergence of the unseen such as with undergarments but also ensembles which I was more attracted to – the layering of garments and how those pieces interact with one another by bringing the internal garments outward and external inward.
It also reminded me of a conversation I was having with a painter friend of mine who was talking about using tones to push and pull space when rendering a form. The combination of the two thoughts resonated and allowed me to look at the ensemble as a structural form, and I began dismantling it from there.
“We aim to keep moving, twisting, bending, and overlapping those lines of separation between the cerebral and physical form.”
The fabrics you use are from different countries and include Japanese cotton and jean or Italian virgin wool. Is this a strong concern in your work? How is your work with fabrics?
We source fabrics from countries that specialize in the specific qualities we're seeking and that have sustainable manufacturing processes, but I'm charmed by the idea of bringing together the hands, even in this very removed way, from different countries to create such intimate objects as clothing. Maybe I’m over-romanticizing it, but I love thinking about the embedded stories within objects. I make a lot of recordings on my phone when I’m in the factories as a way to encapsulate the conversations told and music listened to as the clothes are being stitched. Certainly, these sounds are carried inside the clothing and interact in some way with the lives of the wearer.
The suit was the starting point for this season collection. Because of its long history, we think of suits as classical pieces for special occasions or for office work. But here it’s shown deconstructed, layered and twisted. What was your take on such an emblematic piece?
We were looking specifically at the power suit of the ‘80s and how women were adopting this outfit as a sort of protection to navigate a largely male-dominated business world. Essentially, showing a rejection of the traditional feminine and reinforcing the idea that mimicking the conventional man meant strength and success.
We made many pieces throughout the collection to blur the gender lines of the garment even at its most functional aspects such as how it buttons or zips (men and women’s garments do this differently) and adding interior welt pockets on the jacket which are typically only given to men. We wanted to highlight both the feminine and masculine and make pieces that would allow bodies to feel equally strong and tender in them.
The All Fitting Bra Top is a really catchy piece. The empty space makes us think as if there was something you wanted to talk about or display through it.
Absolutely, notating an absence of flesh was curious to me. Some people have looked at it as a commentary on beauty standards, but mostly we were thinking about erasing the inherent functionality of the garment. I love the natural form of the body and wondered what it would look like to create a ‘bra’ to be seen that didn’t alter but allowed the chest to be as it is, through all the changes it might go through in life.
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The image of the brand has that ‘effortless chic’ look as it seems like it isn’t that over-worked. The looks of the collection shown as screenshots of your own mobile phone or the garments hanging in simple perches lined-up in a white wall. Does this come spontaneously, or it’s really thought?
I think most creative work is a bit of spontaneity and accumulated thought. I work mostly out of instinct and very much enjoy the subtleties of ordinary life. Since that’s where clothes mostly reside, embedding the collection within these frames is compelling to us.
Most useful advice someone told you?
I’ve always trusted Virginia Woolf on this, “The only advice that one person can give another is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.”
What’s on the horizon for A Company?
We’re currently working on a photo book collaboration with Jenna Westra. Looking forward to sharing soon!
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