Brady Lange — An Interview

Fashion
Photographs and interview by Nicholas Peter Wilson — Introduction by Ryan Fish

Growing up in Columbia Falls, MT, and intending from a young age to design his own clothing line, Brady Lange attended the Art Institute of Portland and graduated in 2008. But, after deciding he wasn’t quite ready to start his own line, he spent time working at a clothing boutique in the Pearl. Then he met Adam Arnold, who took him on as an intern and then assistant, teaching Brady the tailoring techniques—like hand finishing and pattern making—that were needed to create a clothing collection.

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After Brady finished fitting a highlighter yellow dress on model Helena Morse for the upcoming Portland Fashion Week, but before he filled a kiddie pool with water and hopped in wearing orange camouflage swim trunks, he discussed his Spring/Summer 2014 collection with Nicholas Peter Wilson:

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Nicholas Peter Wilson: What inspired you for this collection?

Brady Lange: I pull a lot of inspiration from my muse Ethel, who always finds her way into things. Ethel is a woman in a photograph I found at a thrift store. When I came across her I felt a connection so I bought the photo immediately. She just has this way about her. She’s this old woman in a fancy suit and she looks hard as nails but she’s wearing pearls and looks really put together. She might kick someone’s ass. This woman defines what my brand is about. She’s definitely seen some stuff.

NPW: She’s been around the block but she has a softness to her.

BL: She’s not going to call you bitch but she’ll probably call you bitch. She probably hunts and goes fishing but she also has her afternoon tea, so she’s the perfect blend of two contradictions and that’s what Brady Lange is too. Like when I put black and floral together, or the neon and camouflage, or just putting any two contradictions together and making them work.

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NPW: And is that the Brady Lange girl?

BL: Well sort of. The Brady Lange girl is probably in her late 20s or early 30s. She’s a bit of a tom boy and she’s not girly, but she loves being a girl. She would wear a musky perfume instead of a floral. She owns a gun but it’s a pink gun. She drinks whiskey and high fives her buddies, but she’s in a perfect pair of heels. She’s that bitch who’s wearing a little short skirt and doesn’t even realize guys are into that. She isn’t trying to be sexy but she has a sexiness about her. She probably owned a lot of Lisa Frank when she was a kid. She’s not sassy and rude, but she’s very upfront and real. I feel like my customers aren’t in-your-face and obvious. They’re subtle in their fashion choices.

NPW: Where does she live?

BL: I feel like if I said she was a Portland girl or a New York girl that would be a very specific person. But the Brady Lange girl is just a city girl. She could be in any country, just as long as she’s in a city.

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NPW: You’ve done a lot of floral in the past, right? But there’s no floral in this collection.

BL: I love floral. It’s like my fave thing. My 3 favorite things are black, floral, and pink. But there’s almost no pink in these latest pieces. There’s no black. And there’s absolutely no floral. Actually though, camouflage is a sort of floral. It’s like floral in disguise.

NPW: It’s the gateway to floral.

BL: Yeah! People wearing camouflage jackets are two steps away from wearing a full floral outfits.

NPW: There’s also neon and screen printing in this collection. What’s going on with all that?

BL: I had a lot of elements, like the bold stripes, that I wanted to incorporate. Piece work was an option, but that can look bulky, so I decided that screen printing it myself was the best way to get the aspects I wanted. There’s some hand dying too so I could make the colors I wanted. One of the camo pieces wasn’t the right color so I dyed it, and the yellow denim was dyed. And in the end I was really happy with all the colors

In some ways the collection feels like my take on active wear or casual wear. It’s clean and simple, but polished. You wouldn’t feel guilty wearing the sweat pants out into the world. It’s the kind of sweat that you’re not going to sweat in. I paid a great attention to fit, too, especially on the men’s pieces.

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NPW: And this is your second collection, right?

BL: It’s sort of my third. I did a separate spring and summer collection for 2013. And then I skipped fall for time reasons. I’m playing catch up right now, so this will be my third full collection.

NPW: What have you learned from being a young designer in Portland and then becoming a designer with several collections under your belt.

BL: What have I learned? Definitely that the fabric you want is never there. I always try to find something but end up making it or altering it. You have to be flexible and be able to change your plans as your undertake the creation of the collection. And asking for help and trusting other people! I was very bull headed before, and I never asked for help. Recently in the last couple collections I’ve opened myself up to criticism. If you do it all by yourself then it’s not as well rounded and polished.

NPW: Also I wanted to mention that I applaud you for making jeans.

BL: I worked hard to figure this pattern out.

NPW: Could you make a custom pair of jeans?

BL: I could, but I don’t think I will. I try to stay away of custom because I think it gets in the way. I feel like you have to choose to do custom or ready to wear, and I’ve chosen to do ready to wear. Ideally my items would fit everybody, but it’s not going to and that sucks but I feel like a lot of my stuff fits a really wide range of people.

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NPW: And what’s the future of the line?

BL: Oh I think I’m just starting out so it’s hard to say. I’m one of those people who plans, but I don’t want to lock myself into what the line will be a year from now.

I also pull stuff from my past. I love telling stories and I live in the past. There are elements from my past that I want to recreate and bring into the collection. I’m already thinking about next spring and I’m going to have the collection based around my favorite memory. One item I was wearing was a purple mesh tank top, and it’s from my favorite childhood memory: I’m playing football with my dad and two sisters in the backyard and it’s summer at dusk and crazy gorgeous and my mom is drinking lemonade on the porch. It’s kinda disgusting how perfect American family it is, but I was wearing this purple mesh tank top playing football and that’s really stayed with me and I want to recreate it in my line.

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NPW: Is that going to be  continuation of your athletic theme cause you have some of that in this upcoming line too.

BL: No I don’t think athletic wear will be a continuous theme, but when I design I tend to just do what I want to do at the moment and if it’s athletic then it’s athletic.

NPW: It’s a moment in the time line.

BL: Exactly it’s a moment in the timeline of Brady Lange. In my last collection I used 90% chambray, but I’m not making New England clothing from now on, but chambray was what I liked so I went with it.

NPW: And that keeps the clothes fresh.

BL: Yes fresh and my customers are always looking forward to what is coming next. It might be confusing, but the changes in direction is fun and it’s way more fun than confusing. It’s just clothes people, and you should enjoy wearing them. It should help define you but it shouldn’t define you. It should be a part of you. It should help form your entire whole. I feel like sometimes fashion is too serious and people need to lighten up a bit.

NPW: True!

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BL: After all it’s clothing. Actually that reminds that, well, personally, when I get dressed there’s this idea in my back of my head: If the end of the world happens today, will you be able to survive wearing this clothing? Am I going to be able to survive in the clothes I’m designing. And I guess that’s the first time I’ve really thought about it but that’s what’s going through my heads.

NPW: Hahah yeah I could easily wear a pair of your jeans for 6 months straight and they’d last!

BL: And I love Rick Owens, but the guy wearing his stuff is dead. The guy with that drapey cotton? He’s going to get sucked into a pit or something. So I just couldn’t wear his stuff because if it’s not end-of-the-world-wear. You can’t be wearing a full man dress with a high collar when you’re running away from lava.

NPW: Well you could and it would look great running away from lava.

BL: Yeah I guess you’re right it would be so amazing.

NPW: But it would just be a beautiful death. Anyway that’s my over practical side.

BL: “Beautiful Death, a new line from Rick Owens.”

Visit Brady’s website to see the official lookbooks.

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