The 2012 winner of the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation's coveted award in Sustainable Design, Brooklyn-based fashion designer Titania Inglis uses smartly sourced fabrics as the foundation for her thoughtful collections. Half Chinese, half Scottish, Inglis grew up in upstate New York before studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven—a school known for teaching innovation through sustainable materials—and then at NYC's Fashion Institute of Technology. Inglis explains, "As I see it, designing sustainably means trying to make those choices with the minimum possible impact on the environment and the maximum possible benefit to society."
Inglis' impeccable craftsmanship is the upshot of both extensive training and innate perfectionism. "In the end the collection was seamless," says her Fall/Winter 2012 collection stylist, Christian Stroble. "I was very impressed with her dedication and fine eye for detail. I loved the blend of '90s grunge with an updated minimal edge."
In a collection that calls to mind episodes of "My So Called Life," plaid skirts made from a recycled Japanese cotton and linen blend and vegetable-tanned leather jackets offered up a sophisticated punk aesthetic, which were accented by knee-high combat boots and jewelry designer Bliss Lau's beautifully constructed shoulder holsters and belts.
We checked in with the designer after her runway show at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in NYC last week.
What are some of the challenges involved in using sustainable textiles?
The biggest challenge is finding high-quality textiles that are sustainably manufactured. I've scoured the New York garment district and traveled to Tokyo and London in search of the most beautiful, low-impact materials, and when I find something I like, I'll base an entire collection around it. This season, the collection came from the plaid I used, which is a recycled cotton and linen blend from Japan with a tiny herringbone texture, and the leather, which is a vegetable-tanned leather from France. I've already squirreled away my key fabrics for Spring 2013, but those are still top secret!
How would you describe your approach to design?
I like to approach sustainable design as a challenge rather than an obstacle, so my process each season starts with an assignment I give myself. For Fall/Winter 2012, I thought back to my high school years in the '90s, when I was the only girl at my school who refused to wear a plaid flannel shirt, and combined that era's slouchy nonchalance with structures inspired by medieval armor to create a clean, tough, sophisticated evolution of the grunge look.
What attracted you to Bliss Lau's work?
It was the utterly innovative nature of Bliss' work that attracted me, in combination with her dark, elegant aesthetic and minute attention to detail. It's very hard to design something entirely new, and yet she's created a body of work so unique and so incredibly beautiful that the vocabulary doesn't yet exist to describe it—her body pieces fall somewhere between clothing and jewelry, and wearing them is a transformative experience.
What kind of person do you see wearing your clothes?
I like that you said "person"; I definitely see my clothes as androgynous, and a lot of guys have been asking for a men's version of the plaid button-down in the new collection. I'd love to add menswear to my line once I have the resources to expand a bit.
The woman who wears Titania Inglis clothes is elegant, independent-minded, and practical; she chooses them for the interesting design lines, balanced proportions, and subtle details, and because they're versatile and easy to look sharp in. When my clothes are sexy, it's with a tough edge; and the same goes for their wearer.
Photos by Ruediger Glatz