With a small yet versatile collection, presenting impeccable cuts, plenty of strategic pockets and natural soft materials, a new local clothing brand is making waves. All We Remember was created last year by Jacob Victorine and Noah Zagor with the intention of ethically producing highly functional and gender-neutral designs. Now a collective that includes Victorine (a part-time faculty member in the Fashion Studies and English and Creative Writing departments at Columbia College Chicago), Zagor (who used to own Meyvn menswear boutique in Logan Square), Rob Johnson, Alex van Dorp and Kiyoshi Martinez, AWR offers three designs: a four-pocket drawstring jacket, a one-pocket knit T-shirt, and a six-pocket drawstring pant. They come in three colors (undyed, or light or medium indigo), and cost between $150 to $410. This fall they will add more colors and designs to the line—but always taking a studied approach to their production. Victorine and van Dorp explain what goes into each piece they make.
What is the main concept behind All We Remember?
Jacob Victorine: AWR is centered around three words: future, nature, forms. To us, that means using only natural, organic and biodegradable materials and traditional techniques—such as botanical dyeing—to produce functionally and aesthetically forward-thinking clothing: silhouettes that fit an array of bodies and genders, lots of functional pockets.
What do you think makes AWR special? What innovations are you bringing to market?
JV: There are many things that make AWR special, which doesn’t mean we’re the only brand doing them; we are, however, one of a select group of brands doing many or all of them at once. In terms of design, we strive to genuinely innovate, which is especially hard as a small company working with limited resources and only natural materials. In addition, we are one of a small number of brands that use only natural, organic and biodegradable materials, even down to our sewing thread and packaging. While there is an increasing number of brands that use organic fabrics, unfortunately, most clothing brands still use polyester, nylon or rayon thread to sew their clothes.
Outside of design, I believe our ethos is special within the current makeup of the fashion industry; to be honest, I wish it were less unique, since I’d like to see more brands, especially the big ones, prioritizing fair wages, transparency, natural materials and dyes, inclusivity, and locality in holistic, structurally driven ways. This is not to say we are perfect; we would love to source even more things locally to reduce the environmental impact of shipping and have a better sense of our supply chain, and our collective would benefit from greater diversity.
Could you describe the aesthetic of AWR?
JV: Most of our garments draw inspiration from elements of workwear, sportswear or military clothing, but feature the soft drape and hand feel that comes from our use of organic textiles. We are big on functional in-seam pockets and adjustable details, such as our lichenized drawstring, which allows people of various body shapes and sizes to wear our clothing or for one person to wear multiple sizes of the same garment.
Our clothing is meant to look and feel comfortable, while offering the structure and functionality of workwear. Most of our garments are made using medium-to-heavyweight fabrics, but have the drape and hand of pajamas, almost like someone has woken up and decided to wear their favorite blanket for the day. So, while our designs and patterns are highly technical, our materials feel more like bedding than they do workwear. In fact, one of our vendors for our fall collection mainly produces fabrics for blankets and sheets!
It’s also important to note that many of our aesthetic decisions are driven by the ethical framework we’ve established around the brand; while I wouldn’t call us an inclusive brand, since we currently only make six sizes, we think a lot about body shapes when designing. For example, our tops feature large pockets at the ribs, instead of traditional chest pockets, so as to be more functional for people with larger chests; our outerwear features a center back box pleat to create space for a wider range of hip sizes; our sleeves are constructed as a kimono-raglan hybrid with a dropped armhole so as to offer a wide range of motion for various chest and arm sizes.
Alex van Dorp: Personally, I’m deeply influenced by the aesthetics of what I’ll call “future-positive” science-fiction, particularly “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Instead of deeply unhelpful cynicism about the future, it’s fun to think about what the aesthetics of a world would be in which some of our more pressing social issues are alleviated, and I think that comes through in the clothes and branding. Accessible fits, diverse casting for photo shoots, environmentally-friendly materials, and equitable production processes, but without ever sacrificing inventive design and details. Dress for the world you want, y’know?
What do you keep in mind when designing the garments?
JV: We think of fit, form, feel and function. As I mentioned before, we want our garments to be highly functional, with lots of pockets and freedom of movement, and we also want our garments to fit a range of bodies. It’s also important that our garments don’t look overwrought. I like to think of our clothes as being similar to poems in that they may look simple at first glance, but they are deeply complex in both craft and meaning when you engage with them again and again.
While I’m not sure anyone is going to do construction work in our clothing, we envision people truly living in it: gardening, hiking, walking, painting, dancing, writing, making dinner, lounging—most of which I already do or plan to do in the clothes.
Why did you decide to be based in Chicago? Do you intend to stay that way?
JV: All of the current members of our collective are based in Chicago and, as a collective, we believe in keeping things local whenever possible, both for ethics and convenience. Our cut-and-sew partner, Blue Tin Production, is also based here, as is our natural dyer, Amy Taylor and our pattern grader, On Point Patterns. Keeping things local lets us make adjustments faster and more easily, and it also allows us to develop relationships with the people we work with. In the way that local food movements help support and develop local farms, suppliers, grocers and restaurants while reducing the environmental impact that comes with shipping, we hope to see a growing local clothing movement that prioritizes local sourcing and production; while we are nowhere near perfect according to this criteria, we hope to be able to work with more and more local partners over time.
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.