Photo by Danielle Suzanne
Ever since discovering Caroline Rose Kaufman’s Pratt Institute graduating collection, we have been completely fascinated with her designs. With a focus on the handmade (think hand drawn prints and intricate knits), Caroline’s collection is very unique. We love the bright colour palette used, and the well thought out, cohesive collection. At Zeum, we loved it so much that you will soon see Caroline’s collection in Zeum Issue 9 (sneak peek above!). Having recently released her lookbook for the collection, we thought it would be the perfect time to chat with Caroline about her designs, inspirations and more!
Why did you decide to study design/become a designer?
I grew up constantly making—sketching tree houses, molding clay, and sewing little patchwork pillows nurtured my creative spirit. I remember being 17, waking up, and just realizing that going to art school and dedicating myself to design made the most sense to pursue the creative life I was determined to live. Fashion and textile design chose me pretty instinctively. I have always had a deep respect for textiles and the stories they carry, and loved that fashion as a discipline combined many artistic and technical skillsets.
Handmade clothing can become very special to the owner. Why is handmade clothing so special for you?
I love this question. I am so captivated by the tradition that is associated with handmade clothing—the art of passing down wearable craft from generation to generation. I was born and raised in West Virginia, the quilting and craft epicenter of America and learned from a young age that clothing could be canvas for tactile exploration, and that the power of a garment made by hands celebrated ancestry, story telling, and the art of the 3-dimensional form. In my own work I love the connection that hand drawing a print or embroidering a collar gives the garment.
Where do you gather inspiration?
I am inspired by generations of craft based artisans all over the world, woman specifically, who have told stories and kept traditions alive through fiber arts. Growing up I was never very good with words but I loved creating a visual story. My designs are based on found beauty in awe-inspiring nature: revealing the extraordinary in the handmade and imperfect through intricate knits and details. I also have a deep seeded fascination with nostalgia—the moods, colors, and symbols from my childhood. My muse has a whimsical childlike perspective and a wildly effervescent heart.
Who do you look up to in the fashion/art world?
I look up to the writers and illustrators of my favorite childhood books—Elsa Beskow, Jan Brett, Shel Silverstein, Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickenson, C. S. Lewis, Jill Barklem—to name just a few. They all had a way of painting new horizons of imagination that few artists have been able to top for me. In fashion I wouldn’t mind peering into a slice of Tsumori Chisato or Rei Kawakubo’s brains, though author Elizabeth Gilbert remains my ultimate hero. Her TED talk on how to be an artist is unparalleled.
What has been your most rewarding experience since beginning your career in the fashion industry?
In mid April I had the honor of presenting my thesis collection before an established panel of critics at Canoe Studios. The overwhelmingly positive response I received trumped everything I could have dreamed of. It was so rewarding to see so many great minds be engaged, interested, and encouraging. That day I thought for the first time, ‘Wow. Ok. Maybe I can do this’. Shortly after that panel I participated in my first runway show. Watching the models get dressed and walk onto the runway, wearing garments that represented hundreds of hours of relentless work—in that moment everything came full circle and I’ve never felt more proud or infinite.
So far, what had been your favorite piece to create, from initial concept to completion?
My favorite pieces to make are the ones that start out as one thing and morph into something new as I’m making them. I worked on this collection for a year so letting my designs evolve and change was important to making the collection the best it could be. The rust woven wrap skirt was my favorite to make. Choosing the color palette and creating the plaid pattern through the athletic mesh was spontaneous and felt like I was painting with yarn.
What other areas of craft would you like to further develop your skills in? (Although, you are obviously already very skilled in a variety of mediums!)
Ha! Let me just say if anyone ever needs someone to execute 25 different art projects in different mediums under one job title…I’m your girl! I’ve loved working across mediums for many years. I would love to dedicate some time to working on my illustrations and make prints for home textiles or wallpaper.
What’s next for you?
I am so excited to be opening up my studio this fall in Brooklyn NY. I’m preparing to start producing my collection and launch my brand.