Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ashley Watson Show and Tell: Spring Arrivals and Morning Reading

Ashley Watson Plover in Rust (SOLD OUT)

Ashley Watson Plover in Forest Green

Ashley Watson Murre in Speckled Tan

Show and tell: We just unpacked our first Spring shipment from Ashley Watson.

And for your weekend reading pleasure and courtesy of shoppingsmycardio, you can read up on a recent interview with the designer:

shoppingsmycardio: Can you start by giving us a little bit of your background? How did you get started designing bags, and how did you come up with the concept of using recycled leather?

Ashley Watson: I have an interdisciplinary degree from the Nova Scotia College of Fine Arts. Interdisciplinary basically just means that I didn’t have to choose anything specifically, so throughout my degree I did pretty much everything—painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, textiles, and then in my last year, I took a couple of sewing and fashion design courses. I then came back to Vancouver and did a fashion design program.

After that, I started making the bags by fluke. I was living at my parents at the time on an island, and I wanted a new bag for something I was going to the next day. I am a pretty impatient person, and when I have an idea, I can’t wait very long to try it! So I cut up one of my dad’s old jackets and made a bag, and I ended up really liking how it turned out: the worn quality of the leather and the already existing pockets. I started to get orders and it went from there. I tried using new leather, but it didn’t have the same interest for me. I then went to New York and did an internship with Libertine – they use old clothes, sew them and screen print on them – so, although totally different, it was in the same vein as what I was doing. I did a lot of shopping for them, so ended up knowing where a lot of the Salvation Army locations were in Manhattan. Right before I left New York, I sold my bags at the Young Designers Market in Soho. When I came home I just kept going with it.

shoppingsmycardio: I have to be honest – I’m not the most “green” girl out there. So I love that I can wear one of your bags and feel like I’m doing a good thing for the planet, without sacrificing fashion or quality (hey, anything to justify a new bag purchase!). Would you say that being environmentally conscious was the driving force behind designing your line, or did you come up with the idea to use recycled leather pieces after you started designing?

Ashley Watson: I wouldn’t claim to be a raging environmentalist, but the fact that I use recycled materials has become very important to me. I definitely would say that it started as an aesthetic choice, but then grew into something more. Throughout art school there seemed to be a lot of waste just from creative experiments: ceramics that didn’t fire properly would just be thrown out, horrible drawings on tons and tons of paper wasted. So I always did feel some guilt, since that was purely for my own artistic exploration. I really grew to love that my bags are starting from an existing material. The jacket definitely did fuel the handbag though – it wasn’t like I looked at a plain piece of leather and wanted to make a handbag. The environmental aspect has definitely fueled my business as well, which has been huge. I started doing it at the right time. Everybody wants to make sustainable choices these days.

shoppingsmycardio: Since you use such unique materials, I’m really interested to hear about your design process. I have visions of you combing through bins at Goodwill, looking for great leather jackets! How do you come up with a bag style, and how do you go about finding the leather to use for each piece? Do you use one jacket for each bag, or do you mix and match pieces?

Ashley Watson: I come up with a bag style just from random things that have accumulated in my head, and then start to make a pattern…and then, usually that pattern totally doesn’t work, but something really interesting comes out of that. In terms of picking the jackets, we pick based on a lot of different things: the details (pockets, seams, vents, gathers, pleats, etc.), color, and quality. We do rummage through thrift stores which has become really important to me. Since most thrift stores are charity-based, I love that I am contributing to something by buying my materials.

It is becoming more difficult though, as I need more and more leather. I am soon going to have to have buyers in others cities in Canada because we seem to be cleaning out a lot of Vancouver these days. We do use one jacket for each piece and then sometimes there are leftovers that we use for wallets, etc. I haven’t yet done any mix and matching, but for my new spring stuff, I will be using some old remnants for zippers tabs and other things. It’s hard to explain, but you will see when it is done!

shoppingsmycardio: Since you’re making each bag by hand, from a unique jacket, I’m guessing there is an incredible amount of work involved. Can you tell us a little about your production methods?

Ashley Watson: I was doing everything myself (except I had one person working once a week) until August and then I hired 3 people because it was so insane. So now I have a cutter and a sewer which has been amazing for me. I am slowly able to start concentrating more on design which has been great. I still do a lot of the production but it is fantastic to not be doing it alone. I was really worried to have other people make my stuff, but the girls are amazing. They do such a good job and they often bring a really different perspective to the work which has been great!

In terms of production methods, we have patterns for each style, then we look at the jackets and decide which style they are best suited for. We then take the jacket apart to make it as flat as possible and cut out the pattern. As we cut out the pattern we have to decide which way we want the details of the jacket to be – for example, what angle the pockets are at, all while making sure we don’t run out of leather. We then sew it. Each bag has quite an extensive consideration process, since they are all one-of-a-kind.

You can read more of this interview at shoppingsmycardio.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

SPRING PREVIEW: Blood is the New Black T-Shirts

So, we couldn't sleep. Let's talk about t-shirts.

The brainchild of Mitra Khayyam, Blood is the New Black is an art collective based out of Los Angeles that promotes emerging artists through a series of t-shirt collaborations. In a nutshell, Mitra characterizes the line as serving two purposes:

1. To showcase emerging artists in order to aid their careers in the arts.

2. To introduce consumers to artists they may not have the opportunity to know about otherwise.

And we would add a third--namely, to make darn good t-shirts that are super soft and very wearable. As you can probably tell, we are pretty smitten with this line (both premise and execution). For Spring, we are excited to showcase designer, Milano Chow.

And because we both have a few of these shirts ourselves and live in them (and because he felt it was wrong only to buy for the ladies), we have a few extra in the mens crewneck cut. Just email us. If the thought doesn't nauseate you, think: matching.


Thanks to Ara from Jargol, one of our favorite blogs about any and all that is indie and avante-garde (and for purchase), for writing about SOTTO's very "[a]uspicious [b]eginning." (Yay! We sure hope so.) Check it out here.

And with that, we are calling it an evening ...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

SPRING PREVIEW: Charlotte Ronson

Here's a sampling of the Charlotte Ronson stock we'll receive soon.

Blouson Top with Neckline Details - $194

High-Waisted Skirt - $195; Sleeveless Blouse with Panel Detail - $136

Lola Mini Crochet Dress - $194

Friday, January 11, 2008

Our Current Obsession




Living in the Pacific NW has its perks, not the least of which is a very strong biking community and equally strong acceptance of the biking culture (err, annual midnight naked bike ride on Hawthorne Blvd). Hailing from a lifestyle of necessary commute, we, until about 5 years ago, believed that the notion of 5-lane freeways and 2-hour commutes to work were an inescapable part of life. You can undertand, then, why we are so amused by our new found obsession with bikes. Well, at least one of us is very amused; the other one still can't ride a bike without falling into a puddle of water. In any case, this playful bearded Cap by Vik Prjónsdóttir only compounds our obsession. We came across it on Montmartre's Sketchbook.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

SPRING PREVIEW: Rachel Comey and our love for nerdy girls ...

A sneak peak of what's to come:

Ackee Sandal-Clog-Heels (whatever you call them, they are adorable) in Honey.

And for those who prefer a ladylike heel, the Wright d'orsay in Coral.

Monday, January 7, 2008

We can hardly wait!

Jenny Yuen Cleo Clutch in Brown Elephant Print - $295

Jenny Yuen Esme Bag in Elephant Print - $495

SOTTO is very excited about these Jenny Yuen bags. Don't let the whimsical prints fool you--these are substantial, classicly functional bags made of soft leather. Plus, I think the prints break up the otherwise serious tone of the bags. They go surprisingly well with everything.

Similarly, don't let the designer's age fool you. At the tender age of 26, Jenny debuted her eponymous line. Notwithstanding her age or relatively new designer status, this girl has quite an impressive resume, having worked for Twinkle by Wenlan, Jill Stuart, and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami before launching her line.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

And the hiatus must come to an end ...

We've been away for a few days, soaking in the traditional holiday celebration and eating much more than we needed to. But we're back and looking forward to spring and spring lines, which should be trickling into our little hands any moment now. That and our love affair with winter is slowly losing its luster.

Within the next few weeks, we will be getting two new Ashley Watson spring styles. While the colors and the exact details have yet to be figured out (this is, after all, vintage reconstructuring), we are no less excited with our new finds.

Ashley Watson Plover Bag - $395

Ashley Watson Murre Bag - $395