Good taste never goes out of style…
I’m all about having a great drink, and as you all know, I live for a beautiful fashion moment. So I was thrilled to hear about the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, a marriage of great taste between Italian wines and awards for emerging fashion designers.
The EDFF and their elite panel of judges works hard to select the best of the best, and their choice of three emerging designers receive a grant to go toward their presentations at New York Fashion Week. In their 13 seasons, the EDFF has given $1.8 million to designers, many of whom now have flourishing careers such as Joseph Altuzarra and Derek Lam.
This week, we’re featuring the three winners of the EDFF award. Being able to talk to up and coming designers about all aspects of their work – personal style, inspiration, and dreams for the future – is so wonderful and eye-opening for me. As a photographer I love beautiful moments and being able to tell stories, so hearing the tales behind stunning collections makes the experience even better.
For our first interview, we got to talk to the three designers behind menswear winner Timo Weiland – Timo, Alan Eckstein, and Donna Kang. They were so lovely to talk to, it felt like friends just hanging out…which is exactly what their collection is about.
Who ideally wears Timo Weiland?
Alan: For menswear, it’s classic with a twist. It’s a very wearable collection but it has signs of care, great tailoring, and personality to it.
Timo: Everything we do is classic with a twist, I think. There’s definitely a New York feel and inspiration. And we’re constantly inspired by our circle of friends and their personalities.
How do you think winning the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award will affect your business?
A: It’s incredible. It’s pretty much our greatest honor to date. Every designer needs some sort of validation, and this is definitely a really great thing for us. It’s a great community, it’s a great award. We respect so many past winners – we look up to people like Proenza, Alexander Wang, Rag+Bone. And it’s a really good year - we love Degen and NOVIS too!
It also gives us the chance to show. We may not have been able to show men’s this year for budgetary reasons, but now we’re able to.
What’s the inspiration for this season’s collection?
T: It’s definitely interconnected, it’s not different references.
D: Hudson River Valley, upstate New York.
A: The idea is that – last fall, we were inspired by the weekend, that you’re with your friends and family on the weekend, that you’re dressing up more because you care. The three of us, plus a few other people this winter went to this beautiful restored barn in Woodstock. We spent a lot of time indoors, listening to music, cooking, playing, watching movies, just hanging out, drinking a lot.
T: The weekend is a continuing thing for us.
D: Haley Loewenthal - Alan’s girlfriend – is our mens stylist, so she’s a constant reference for us. Catherine Newell-Hanson does women’s…one of my girlfriends referenced her, and when we saw her website, we were like, yes. Her aesthetic just fit us – she dressed high-low, she dressed down when she went out…she felt more like us. We’re like, “We’re not that dressy! We want to be everyday wear.”
A: All of our friends are an inspiration for us. We’re not reclusive by any means. We’re not homebodies.
T: We also DJ.
A: Everyone that is creative draws inspiration from a lot of creative influences. We really love our surroundings, we draw inspiration from the street. We really like art. We try to go to as many museums as possible.
T: Something that comes across all of these creative spaces is that you’re creating value out of nothing. It doesn’t exist until you’ve created it.
What’s behind the decision to have two separate shows?
A: We just feel like it’s a greater story when split. If you had men and women, it’s a lot of looks, which could feel over the top. You’d be making edits you wouldn’t normally make. And then it’s also forcing the two to completely have a marriage.
D: It’s too hard, especially for fabrics.
A: Womens’ might have orange, and then mens’ won’t, and it’ll look strange. They share a lot of fabrics and ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be shown together. Also, mens’ is a presentation – it’s less directional than womens’. Mens’ is about taking it in and spending a little time with it, while womens’ has a lot of movement involved so it’s better suited for the runway.
Are there any particular pieces or themes we should look out for?
A: For the men’s collection, it’s about realism. There’s a little fantasy – there’s always a little of the ideals, whimsical world – but it’s really pieces people want to wear. We focus on individual pieces a lot. For men, outerwear is really important, so we worked on making a really luxurious version of classic fleece wear. There are a lot of accents in small subtle ways. Knitwear has to be delicious – something that has super texture, fits well, flatters the body. We’re coming up with new knitwear techniques every season. We have a popcorn stitch we twisted this season.
What are the main differences between designing for mens and womens?
A: Men don’t shop like women do. Women are wonderful shoppers, they’re on to the next thing over and over. Men want something that they can wear for the next ten years. So it’s all quality, but our designs for women are a little more forward thinking. It’s exciting, it’s new.
So the company is Timo, Alan, and Donna. What are each of your roles?
A: I’m the design director, co-founder, and more menswear based. I have a menswear background, so that’s my direction.
Donna: I’m the head designer, womenswear based. Honestly, our titles were made-up before we really knew what we were doing!
A: Donna and Timo are womenswear based.
D: Even if they’re designed separately, they definitely look similar – they’d hang out together.
A: There are lots of ideas shared…we really do design together.
Where would you like to be in the next five years?
T: We really envision it being so much more, we really eventually want to do so many other things. Eventually we’d love to become a lifestyle brand. We’re just interested in the world around us, which I think is the common link between our womens and mens collections and our customer, someone who’s just fascinated with the world around them.
D: We’ve been in talks to do wallpaper. We’re obsessed with interiors.
When did you each start working together?
A: Timo was a consultant for my first line, and Donna I met in FIT. When I started my first line, I was looking for help – I had no background in it. And then Timo had this dream of having a fashion line, so he was really the catalyst. We started off in neckwear, and then twenty days later…
T: We realized we couldn’t stick to just that. It wasn’t the full story.
So you’ve been together from the beginning…why name the company after Timo?
A: Well, there’s Donna Karan, so we couldn’t do Donna Kang…
D: Alan had a name for his line, Epic Firm, which is too urban for what we do. And then Timo had a line of wallets under his name, and frankly his name is just awesome.
T: It may have been originally, initially me, but I was never going to start a fashion line without them.
We then stopped by for Timo Weiland’s womenswear show at MILK Studios: