Art Culture

HECHA / 做: One Step Towards Decolonizing Fashion

Luz Fernandez and Ting Ding discuss how their new clothing line re-imagines apparel for all.

Capitalism and consumerism have undoubtedly shaped the way we shop, and it can often feel impossible to reimagine a world where the environment, gender, and care are truly valued in fashion. But Luz Fernandez and Ting Ding, the two dynamic minds behind HECHA / 做, hope to do just that. 

HECHA / 做  is a new clothing brand aimed at creating sustainably made and gender flexible apparel for all. With their families, heritages, identities, and communities in mind, they’ve built a new concept that dismantles and decolonizes fashion. This Saturday, September 8, they will be celebrating their launch.

We spoke with with Fernandez and Ding about their inspirations, goals, and what exactly the fashion world has been missing.

What made you want to create this brand?

F: For me on the most fundamental level, it all started with my mom. I have always said that my mother can make anything out of anything. She works in the fashion world, is largely self taught and has reached a level of skill and expertise in sewing and design that I have admired for a long time. I grew up surrounded by creative materials, closets full of fabric of every kind imaginable, sewing supplies, fine art supplies, craft supplies, etc. My mom dressed me in home sewn clothing since the moment I was born. I had always been her model, and once I was old enough I began to work on small projects here and there with her, altering clothing we already had or experimenting with designs I wanted to wear myself. Having been raised in an apartment full of home-sewn furnishings and objects, I intuitively understood that if there was something specific that I wanted to have, I could choose to spend the time to learn how to make it myself. Making my own clothing was always something I had fantasized about doing and had known I would arrive at when the time came.

I ended up studying and focusing on art and left my interest in fashion on the back-burner for a while. After getting really into abstract painting in the last few years I came to believe that grad school was the answer and that if I wanted to become a successful artist I needed the network and academic clout a MFA degree could offer. After being accepted into the Parsons MFA program in 2015, I had to admit to myself that their financial aid package wasn’t going to cut it and that I couldn’t justify going into debt for a degree in an indeterminate / ambiguous field that doesn’t really guarantee anything other than access to networking opportunities. So I was like ok thanks, but nah I’m going to go my own way for now.

I began toying with the idea of designing my own line of painted patterned fabrics for a while and eventually realized that naturally my next step should be to combine painting and clothing. It was actually because I chose not to go to grad school that I decided to take that plan more seriously. Although I don’t have a fashion education background, I figured that everything I needed to know I could learn from working with my mother and my community. After presenting the idea to her and resolving to make it happen together it started to feel more real. I had been getting more and more excited about this plan to make clothing out of painted patterned fabric that I started telling friends about it, one of whom was Ting.

Ting and I met briefly for the first time when we were both living in Berlin in 2013 through our dear mutual friend Monika Martinez. I moved back to NYC shortly after that and a year or so later when Ting moved to Brooklyn, Monika put us in contact. We started going to Bossa Nova Civic Club together and that was it—we realized we were on the same page about a lot of things and effortlessly became close friends. Sometime around the beginning of 2016 I explained to Ting what I had been wanting to do and she immediately replied I’m in, let’s do this, let’s do this together.

D:  I came into this thing from a totally different perspective. Growing up as a “good” (read: obedient) Asian daughter, exploring the Arts was never an option for me and I was firmly nudged into business school instead. As a result, I have been working as an online marketer for several years, but found myself quickly becoming disillusioned with my “career trajectory” and consumerist culture. My day job puts me at the forefront of capitalism and defines me as a “good little capitalist;” it also allows me to view things through a more critical lens, exposing the flaws from within the system. Fashion was always my creative outlet when it came to self expression, but I found myself hitting a wall when it came to the rising fast fashion trend. I realized that products were being rapidly pumped out at a far greater rate than the market is able to consume and absorb. This level of waste and excess is the exact reason why the fashion industry is the second largest pollutant outside of crude oil. Over the years, I have worked to slow down my personal consumption of fast fashion and am an avid advocate for buying used clothing. However, the expectation to have everyone only ever purchase second hand clothing is unrealistic and intangible. By changing one’s mentality and relationship with clothing and making items less disposable in nature, we have a chance to address the root of people’s dissatisfaction. The theory is to slow down the rapid cycling fashion seasons by creating items that are made sustainably, with added value to increase the item’s longevity.

When Luz shared her idea for the label with me, I knew that this could be a good opportunity to make an impact. Us collaborating allows Luz to focus on the more creative aspects of the brand and for me to apply years of earned business acumen skills. We were both nervous since neither came from a fashion background and it definitely hasn’t been an easy journey, but we have gained invaluable knowledge from the process of doing the work. Our inexperience or “fresh set of eyes” also allowed us to think and do things outside of pre-established systems. Our long term goal is to incite some progress on both a micro and macro level. We are trying to create clothing which envisions an utopia of the not yet here futurity; a world that is sustainable, non-binary, and queer.

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What is missing from the fashion world that your brand will bring to the table?

F & D: Context and care. Our collection re-contextualizes artwork by bringing paintings into the physical experience of everyday life. By transforming a painting into a utilitarian object, HECHA / 做 allows the body to live within a work of art rather than around it. HECHA / 做 also seeks to create pieces ethically and slowly that can suit a wide variety of body types and personalities. Our brand offers an alternative for consumers who may not immediately relate to the ethos and trend cycles of dominant fashion brands.

We also acknowledge that the fashion world is still lacking in true diversity that is free of tokenism. Part of our motivation is to cultivate teamwork and support our local community. We intend to visually celebrate and promote the success of our peers regardless of age, size, class, gender, or sexual orientation. HECHA / 做 collaborators are treated as individuals with agency over their own representation and not just as live mannequins.  

What was your inspiration for creating this brand?

F: I recently realized that subconsciously, I was first inspired to paint on fabric in a large scale by this old bedspread that used to belong to my dad. It’s visually part of my oldest memories as something that he had left behind when he moved out and an item that I have held on to (and still have in my own apartment to this day). It has these large long abstract brushstrokes and ink splatters all over it in earth tones and when I look at it now, I see the similarities between my work and this decades old duvet cover. As it turns out, my mother recently told me that she had actually been the one who found that fabric, liked it, and decided to make a duvet cover out of it.

The painted fabric murals that I have worked on for this line have been aesthetically inspired by naturally occurring patterns and textures in all sorts of landscapes, snow, sand, pavement, tar, wet cement, etc.

F & D: In terms of construction and design, we have drawn a lot of inspiration from workwear and through the experience of personally wearing what would be considered men’s clothing. We have also largely been inspired by people in our community and our collective needs as ravers. A lot of our design choices have been made with sportiness and utility in mind.

Why did you want to name the brand HECHA / 做 ?

F & D: The word HECHA is the feminine form of “made” or “created” in Spanish, while 做 is the Chinese character of “to make,” or “to produce.” HECHA / 做 is a literal representation of both of us and the first languages each of us learned to speak; tying us to our origins and cultural backgrounds. We feel that the name gives further context to who we are and where the product comes from. Using HECHA / 做 also places an emphasis on the act of laboring and the physicality of making something. Since much of fashion disassociates itself from the less glamorous aspect of the actual production process, we felt that it was important to link the labour of production to the brand.

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We’re excited for your launch – tell us more about what’ll be happening there!

F & D: We’re really excited too! Our launch event on September 8th is is a multi-channel, behind-the-scenes look into HECHA / 做’s creative process: a single day exhibition of our first capsule collection at Holyrad Studio. Part photo and video shoot, installation, performance and “gallery viewing;” the project explores the intersection between design, art, and technology/media.

HECHA / 做’s Launch Event – Part One (11am – 6pm): The space will be closed to the public but viewable via the live-stream. The left side of the studio will be dedicated to a performative lookbook shoot of the garments as modeled by Aarron Ricks, Paul Bui, and Pauli Cakes. The right side of the studio will feature a time-based creation of a mural-sized fabric painting by Luz. Two stationary surveillance cameras will be angled to provide fixed perspectives of the activities happening on either side of the room, as well as a third moving POV camera to break the dimensional wall. The studio, crew, and performing talent will be filmed and broadcasted in a live-stream on the our website (hechanyc.com) throughout the entire day.

HECHA / 做’s Launch Event – Part Two (7pm – 11pm): Starting at 7pm, the studio will open to the public for the after party. The party will deviate from the usual New York Fashion Week show. The pageantry and etiquette associated with the catwalk and the after party will be reformatted into a “happening.” Throughout the night, clothing from the collection will be worn by performers, as opposed to being on display on a static model. The deviation from the fashion show format is a conscious decision made by us to demonstrate the clothing line as an actionable tool for everyday living. The “happening” will feature DJ performances by local talents: Beta Librae, NK Badtz Maru, and vveiss. We’ll also have sponsored finger foods by Mission Chinese Food and an open bar with mixed drinks by White Label Yerba Mate, so come early!

 

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