A project that holds a truly special place in my heart is the Leather Moto Jacket I helped to develop for Abercrombie & Fitch’s women’s line in 2010. In my senior thesis at DAAP, I researched sustainable ways to use leather in my collection, and I learned a great deal about the difficulty of sewing and handling leather for apparel. So when I was presented with the opportunity to work with leather at my first job, I couldn’t wait to learn how professionals did it. On top of that, this Leather Jacket afforded me my very first opportunity to travel for work, which is something I’ve enjoyed ever since.
At the factory in Istanbul, we had the opportunity to watch every single piece of our sample garment be cut by hand. They used intricate tools that not only kept the leather from stretching during cutting, but also helped to skive the seam allowances for easier sewing. Skiving is a process of shaving off a layer or two of the unfinished side of the leather. It makes the leather thinner, which ultimately makes it much easier to move through a sewing machine. After suffering through so many broken needles and investments into special leather sewing needles at school, this would have been so key to figure out for my project!
The treating and dying of leather is another special process that was fascinating to see and learn about. And since this was my first vendor visit, gaining an understanding of how trims, fabrics and packaging were organized became another new experience. Once you start to see these practices in person and meet your overseas partners in person, so much more comes together about process and product. If you know how the sewing machines are set up to create a specific assembly line of each jacket, you can better understand why a design might not be easy to sew. I’ve seen many times where a seemingly simple construction detail caused a vendor to have to transport each garment from one building to another, just to execute a specific finishing detail. It’s those small understandings that make someone a better partner, developer and designer.
Travelling to Istanbul also gifted me the opportunity to see the amazing city, experience its food, culture, architecture and art. I flew home with Turkish Delights and souvenirs stuffed into my luggage, as if I’d never get the chance to travel across the ocean ever again! I was also so lucky to be travelling with a friend, mentor and amazing manager. We had so much fun together, and our hosts made sure we had a memorable experience.
One of those Leather Jackets still hangs in my closet today and I still wear it often. Its design is classic and simple, while being one of the best fitting jackets that I own (if I do say so myself). It makes me feel like a cool kid, while also reminding me how far I’ve come in my career. It feels like it will be one of those pieces that remains in my closet forever, always getting a little softer and a little more worn in. Hopefully it will one day be a reminder to those I leave behind of some of the amazing adventures I had in my lifetime.