October 14, 2010

Brooklyn's One to Watch: Titania Inglis

photo via: Titania Inglis

A designer for the modern woman, Brooklyn-based fashion designer Titania Inglis creates clothes that are experimental yet functional, perfect for strong, stylish women on-the-go. And now after three seasons, Ms. Inglis has established her signature style of effortless, essential, and cutting edge designs.
But what makes her collection a particular stand-out is her underlying element of sustainability. Using minimal waste and sourcing only organic fabrics and vegetable-tanned leathers, all of her pieces are conscientiously sourced and sewn in limited quantities in New York's garment district.

So last week, we caught Ms. Inglis for an interview to get an inside scoop on what life has been like for this rising talent.  

1. Please share a little bit about your background:

I grew up in Ithaca, New York, and started out as a journalist after college before going into design. I studied at Design Academy Eindhoven and FIT, and learned the ropes of running an independent fashion line by interning for Jean Yu, Three As Four, and Stærk before launching my own line.

2. Were you always eco-conscious?

In a word, yes. In elementary school, I won a prize for dreaming up a wide-mouthed monster that would live in the ground and solve the landfill problem by eating garbage and digesting it into dirt. These days, I’m trying to counteract disposable culture by making clothes conceived for a smaller wardrobe: versatile pieces to wear day or night, with silhouettes that are of the moment, but with classic proportions and quality designed to stand the test of time.

3. Which designers are you most influenced by and why? 

Ann Demeulemeester, for her androgynous classics with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. Stella McCartney, who’s helping to lead the industry in a more environmentally conscious direction, and who designs lovely yet practical clothes that women really want to wear. Maria Cornejo, for her pared-down aesthetic and interesting shapes. Phoebe Philo, whose latest clothes for Céline are simply, unquestionably perfect. The product designers Naoto Fukusawa and Dieter Rams, who distill form down to its most basic elements. 

4. How do find inspirations for your collections? 

One thing I learned as a reporter was that inspiration is everywhere; the hard part is recognizing it when you see it. I draw mine from all kinds of sources: old movies, new architecture, vintage electronics, all the stylish girls pedaling around Brooklyn... and especially from my fabrics. With a sustainable collection, there’s a very limited range of organic fabrics available, so each season I’ll pick about 3 of the best I’ve found, and design my collection around those. For SS11, it was an organic cotton denim from Japan and an organic cotton-silk blend twill from Italy, both of which lent themselves to a sculptural, origami effect. I also try to incorporate at least one new natural fabric treatment technique into each collection; for the first, I experimented with rust dyeing, for the second, it was beeswaxing, and for the third, natural dyeing.

photo via: Titania Inglis

5. Please describe your typical work day. 

As a small designer, I support myself by freelancing at an apparel company in Midtown, so I have to squeeze in moments throughout the week to work on my own projects. First thing in the morning, I’ll get up and dash off some emails over breakfast before biking into the city for work. After I leave the office, I’ll run errands: some days I’ll stop by the factory in the Garment District that produces my clothes, other days I’ll pick up the latest print job from the little print shop that produces my lookbooks and hangtags. And before bed, I’ll be back on the computer, updating my website, working on lookbooks or press releases, updating my Facebook page. 

One thing I’ve learned about being a one-woman company is that the work never ends. Except for the sewing and printing that I outsource, it’s all me: sales, marketing, accounting, shipping, sourcing, production, even bike courier... And all the while, I’m constantly keeping my eyes open for inspiration for the next collection.

6. After three seasons, what has been the greatest challenge as an independent NY eco-
   conscious designer? What are the advantages?

The advantage is being in New York, with such a thriving cultural scene around me. I’m friends with quite a few other young designers, and we help each other out with advice and sometimes even late-night sewing marathons! The garment district is also a wonderful resource; it’s incredibly convenient to be able to buy fabric and zippers and get my patterns graded and clothes sewn all within a few-block radius. As a sustainable designer, I’m thrilled to have access to so many slow-fashion-minded organizations; for example, Earth Pledge has compiled a library of sustainable fabrics, while the new Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn is helping to revive hand-weaving, natural dyeing, and other traditional techniques.

The downside is that there’s a lot of competition here, so without a big PR budget, it can be tough to get your work out there. It’s really a matter of building the business step by step, season by season, relationship by relationship, and proving to buyers and editors one by one that I’m serious, I have staying power, and most importantly, that the clothes are worth their while.

7. Who would you love to see wearing your clothes?

Just to name one, Tilda Swinton. She’s already a muse to so many designers, but there’s a reason for that: she’s an independent spirit with a stellar fashion sense, and she’s so poised and intelligent, and beautiful in a tomboyish sort of way.

8. What is your favorite piece in your most recent SS11 collection and why?

The Reverse Dress, because it really epitomizes the values of my collection. I based it on the idea of an artist’s smock; I own a vintage one that only gets better the more it’s splattered in paint and dye. The dress is super versatile, since it can be worn front or back, day or night, layered or alone; it’s practical and easy to wear, with a simple closure and two pockets; the fabric (the Italian silk-organic cotton blend twill I mentioned before) is both gorgeous and eco-friendly; and it has a look that’s beautiful and tough at the same time.

photo via: Titania Inglis

9. Favorite places to shop:

Project No. 8 has a fantastically curated selection of avant-garde clothing. Tokio 7 is a great source of used clothing from major labels and local designers alike. The Chelsea Garage Market and Hell’s Kitchen flea market for vintage finds, including the cool botanical prints I spotted last week for my apartment. The Future Perfect in Williamsburg, which has a fascinatingly quirky selection of current furniture design.

10. Favorite places to dine:

As a slow fashion adherent, I love slow food, too. When it’s time for a real treat, my boyfriend and I head to the General Greene in Fort Greene, Westville East in the East Village, or Diner in Williamsburg, which all have incredibly delicious menus based around local, seasonal ingredients.


  1. This young woman has the dedication, drive, and discipline to succeed. She is very talented and creative. I wish her the best.

  2. I found it a bit confusing the interchange of sustainable, eco-friendly, and eco-conscious because each term means something quite different. While I applaud the designer’s attempts to be eco-conscious, I have to question how eco-conscious is it to source fabrics for small runs produced in NY from Japan and Italy (esp when I doubt the mills that produced them are in-country). We need to remember that organic is not always the most eco-conscious option and not get swept away in a whirl of greenwashing. All the best to her as a one woman production, hopefully more will follow suit.


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