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Who is Emily Bode, CFDA’s menswear designer of the year

The designer's curatorial approach creates clothing able to tell more stories

Who is Emily Bode, CFDA’s menswear designer of the year  The designer's curatorial approach creates clothing able to tell more stories

The Council of Fashion Designers of America celebrated American fashion and its talents by awarding the most interesting names of the year, those who stood out for their creations and sense of style. Lenny Kravitz was voted Fashion Icon, Kim Kardashian was given Amazon Fashion's first award dedicated to innovation for her work with SKIMS, and Virgil Abloh was remembered with the Board of Trustees Award, but the most coveted title, that of American Menswear Designer of the Year, was brought home by Emily Adams Bode Aujla of Bode.

Born and raised in Georgia, Emily Adams Bode spent much of her childhood following her family, hunting for memorabilia and treasures hidden among flea markets and antique stores, developing a love of fashion and objects with a past, with a story to tell. Obtaining a double major from Parsons School of Design in New York, in design and philosophy, she turned her collection of antique quilts, 1920s linens, lace tablecloths, and vintage saris into the foundation on which to build Bode (pronounced Boh-dee), her clothing brand founded in 2016. The concept of the project is quite revolutionary for the fashion scene: reusing vintage fabrics and transforming them into beautiful ready-made Frankenstein-style creations. Emily Bode collects them, documents their history, their memory, then turns them into clothes. The garments are made in limited numbers (one-of-a-kind pieces account for 30 to 40 percent of the brand's sales), made-to-order only, in New York, with local tailors cutting and assembling each piece by hand. While fabrics are sourced from around the world. Emily buys along her travels, stopping at every antique fair and event she encounters, but most of the raw material comes from her global network of vintage dealers. Quilts come from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. France, England, and Italy, however, are the countries where she scouts for linens and wools. Other materials travel to Bode's atelier from India, Mali or the Ivory Coast.

It is circular fashion in the truest sense of the word. "I want people to use fabrics that would otherwise be discarded. I want people to appreciate them. I want people to wear Bode and understand the life cycle of clothes, and I want to invest in expanding the longevity of their clothes." Sustainability is important to Bode, but even more so is "creating objects that hold memories, that recall old ways of living, family traditions, past eras." Each piece tells a story, an emotion. A patchwork jacket can speak of its journey from the former French colonies to Africa, an organza shirt evokes the Edwardian era, a pair of pants an embroidered coat revives the traditions of 15th-century Indians, a tricot tank top outlines the joyful hippie mood of the 1960s, ... The result is a collection of luxurious, eccentric and precious, almost poetic treasures that seem to come straight out of a Wes Anderson film like Moonlight Kingdom or The Darjeeling Limited. It's not hard to imagine clones of Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman going around the world in dry suits, rumpled shirts, naive prints, lucky charm necklaces, a huge bag under the arm, and maybe a small scarf knotted around the neck as in the brand's early collections.

Sustainable ethics, originality, and an eye-catching aesthetic (yet one that does not bend to passing trends) have enabled Bode and her founder to collect fans, from Harry Styles to Jay-Z, and one success after another. Emily became the first female designer to show at New York Fashion Week: Men's; Forbes listed her as one of 30 young people under 30 to watch out for among the new names working in the art and style world; in 2019 she received the prestigious Karl Lagerfeld Innovation Award from The Woolmark Company; she was CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year 2019; and now she has gone on to win the coveted title of American Menswear Designer of the Year.