New York sustainable fashion and jewellery designer Alice Waese

 I chat to New York fashion designer Alice Waese about her latest collection, working sustainably and working with naturally hand-dyed fabrics.

Hi Alice, and welcome to Om Pom Happy.  I love your work and that you don’t confine yourself to one field…

Hi Caroline,

Thank you, yes, I love to work across a variety of mediums, it keeps me on my toes, having to adapt to different materials, and they all inspire each other.


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Sustainability is THE word in fashion at the moment and I’m a great supporter of this, but am often disappointed that it frequently equates with losing a sense of fun and style.  Happily this is not the case with your work…

Working locally and focusing on small runs of production and using materials that do not harm or detract from the environment is really important to me.  We do all our dying naturally and keep everything local and sustainable.  I always like to maintain a sense of whimsy in my work, I want to make special things that are produced ethically, I want them to be made well and with integrity but to be treasured in a playful way.


The ‘smile’ series is based on a painting of mine, the kimono is embroidered onto a hand dyed concoction of walnut hulls, iron and rust.


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Above: SMILE BACK BUTTON UP with embroidered painting and sterling buttons


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Above: SMILE T in linen with embroidered painting


I love your Shibori collection…

Thank you!  Being a small company it is extremely difficult to get interesting fabrics with no minimums, because of this the surface treatments are really important.  The shibori is a process based on folding the fabric to create the geometry of the print.  The colour comes from a mixture of oak apples, iron and rust.  The buttons and the findings are sterling silver to incorporate the jewellery element of the collection.


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Above: THE BIG DRESS shibori linen hand dyed naturally with oak apples, iron and rust


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Above: SHIBORI COAT shibori linen hand dyed naturally with oak apples, iron and rust


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Above: SHIBORI OVERALLS shibori linen hand dyed naturally with oak apples, iron and rust. Sterling silver closures


What drew you to hand dying, especially the use of natural ingredients?  And what’s involved in the process?

I started off hand dying lab coats in my bathtub.  I was really interested in the way the dye changes the hand of the fabric.  Later I met my assistant who is really a master of natural dye.  We work together to develop interesting colours out of natural ingredients like oak apples, flower petals, walnut hulls, mallow blossoms, iron and rust.


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Above: AVIATOR 100% winter linen naturally hand dyed with mallow blossoms, soda ash and iron salts


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Above: DOLMAN COAT with sterling silver safety pin closure and hand dyed naturally with walnut hulls


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Above: CHRISTIE TROUSERS hand dyed naturally with walnut hulls


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Above: FRENCH SEAM RIBBON DRESS hand dyed naturally with walnut hulls


I love extra long sleeves!  There is a sense of real ‘sloppy Joe’ when wearing them, yet you feel wonderfully dressed up at the same time. Your beautiful long sleeved big dress is just a dream for me…

Thank you!  The long sleeved big dress is made of a linen / cotton which is woven in India, we then hand dye it with a mixture of mallow blossoms, iron and rust.  The big shirt is another example of this, based on a Victorian men’s sleep shirt it is made of Italian linen and closes with a sterling silver safety pin.  Also the lab coat which I have made in cotton as well as linen and has deep patch pockets and raw edges.  All of these pieces are extremely comfortable but elegant, that’s an important combination when making clothing.


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Above: LONG SLEEVED BIG DRESS 100% winter linen naturally hand dyed with mallow blossoms, soda ash and iron salts


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Above: THE BIG SHIRT linen with silver pin closure


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Above: LAB COAT in raw undyed linen


And you knit!

I do knit, but I love to crochet too.  I learned to crochet while sailing on a tall ship as a teenager; I guess it’s a sailor’s way of passing time.  I love how sculptural it is, I never learned to follow any kind of a pattern.  It’s a very intuitive process.  My first knit collection was all hand knit with super large needles to make it full of holes and texture.  This season I will be working on a tighter chunky crochet.


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Above: LONG HAND KNIT DRESS in alpaca


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Above: Photo by Aileen Son


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Above: HAND KNIT CARDIGAN in alpaca


One of the joys of working in so many fields – fashion, jewellery and art – must be that no two days are ever the same…

Yes, working across different mediums keeps it interesting.  A typical day involves dealing with the business side in the morning, answering emails, press, orders etc and then afternoon could be carving wax, knitting, working on dyes with my assistant, fabric cutting, pattern making, drawing etc.  I also try to do some yoga and cooking.


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Above: Alice in her studio (photo by Kimisa H. courtesy of BrunchWith)


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Above: MOTH KNIT HOODIE AND LEGGINGS in merino or alpaca


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Above: KNIT COAT with detachable scarf in alpaca


And some of Alice’s paintings…




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And jewellery…

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Above: LION RING 14K gold or sterling silver ring with black diamond eyes and mouth

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Above: STACKING RINGS sterling silver, rose gold, yellow gold


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Alice, the very best of luck with all your future creations and thank you so much for joining us.  Let’s sign out with one of your favourite tunes, P.J. Harvey and Nick Cave singing the hauntingly beautiful Henry Lee…


Images: ALICE WAESE and KIMISA H. courtesy of BrunchWith