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Stefanie Lynen, the designer and co-founder of one of our customer’s favorite organic baby & toddler clothing lines, Winter Water Factory, was kind enough to answer some questions we had on the boutique brand’s fall/winter 2014 collection! Enjoy…
1. How did you decide to get into fashion? Did you happen upon it serendipitously?
I’ve been fascinated with making things and mass production since I was in Kindergarten. I moved to New York in 1999 from Germany immediately after completing medical school, intending to change careers and find work in the design industry. Working first as a freelance crafter, I started selling knitted hats and felt bags to a small boutique on the Lower East Side.
When I rented a silk-screen studio with my friend Margaret, we learned how to screen-print, and were excited to explore the possibilities of textile design. That’s when I knew that I had found what I wanted to do. We made women’s clothing, bags, pillows, and children’s clothing. Eventually, we began to focus on designing for kids since it gave us the room to be whimsical and playful. We ended up being very successful with our baby and children’s lines, but I have to admit that it’s always been about the prints for me. I love the process of designing a new pattern and then seeing stacks and stacks of clothing made from that print!
2. What adjectives would you use to describe Winter Water Factory?
Whimsical, fresh, fun, organic, American-made.
3. You’re based in Brooklyn; does the borough influence your designs in any way?
I don’t know if I’d say that Brooklyn really influences my designs, but it provides an incredible support network of amazing, inspiring people that are committed to quality manufacturing.
4. Winter Water Factory’s prints are unlike any others out there. Where does the inspiration for these bright and bold graphics come from?
I’ve been inspired by a broad range of sources: children’s books, envelope liners, vintage wallpaper. I’ve always been drawn to designs that appeal equally to a three year old and a graphic designer. I look at a lot of graphic designers that have done work meant to appeal to children rather than looking at fashion designers. The right balance of whimsy and intelligent design.
5. Is there a print or style that you are particularly fond of? Why?
I’ve always been a big fan of Polar Bears so I’m very excited that we’re introducing a Polar Bear print this fall. The High Seas and Outer Space are two more of my all time favorites which are also popular with the staff and our customers.
6. Take us through the silk-screen processes. Is it still all done by hand in Brooklyn?
Screen printing is an old printing technique where ink is pushed through mesh to create a design.
All of our fabrics used to be screen printed by hand in a print shop in California, but we’ve since outgrown their faciities and all of our production prints are printed by machine in Los Angeles. We continue to print samples and the occasional limited edition item in our Brooklyn studio which keeps us in touch with the process. It allows us to experiment with print and color until each one is perfect.
7. How far in advance do you work on your collections? And how does the design process start each season?
Design work for future seasons starts about nine months before the collection will be released, which usually means that I’m designing for next spring before the fall collection comes out, and vice-versa. I always keep a notebook handy to sketch whenever I have some time, usually on the subway. Some prints have been on my mind for years and just take more time to fully develop.
8. Do you have a particular philosophy on how children should dress?
Above all, children should wear clothes that are easy and comfortable. Kids like to run around and play, so their clothes should allow them to do so! I know they sometimes like to mimic their parents but I feel like kids should dress like kids, not like mini adults. When else in your life are you going to wear a dress covered in polar bears or a tee shirt covered in UFOs! Parents tell us all the time that our clothes make it easier to get their kids dressed in the morning, they actually want to put them on.
9. You recently launched a collection of dresses for women using your signature prints. Is there anything you’d like to design but have been unable to do so yet?
We’ve got a few new products hopefully coming soon – we’ve been working on backpacks and children’s bedding. I have so many ideas it’s hard to find the time to do them all. The biggest challenge is sourcing fabric that’s organic and made in the USA, but we’re always searching.
10. Are there any upcoming projects in the works that you can tell our readers about?
I’m very excited that we’re setting up a printing table this fall in our studio. We’ll be able to hand-print fabric ourselves at a much larger scale than ever before. There are very few facilities like this left in the US – it will allow us to print yardage for home decor. We’ll also be able to add home goods such as napkins, aprons, tablecloths etc. to our line. Customers have been asking for many years if they could buy our fabric by the yard and soon they’ll be able to. So stay tuned!