Amy Bond: Behind the Seams
A conversation with fashion designer and producer, Amy Bond and her perspectives on what is to be next in fashion.
By: KYLE HAFFERMANN
Amy Bond on competing on Project Runway Season 16 in 2017.
The name is Bond, Amy Bond – an ambitious and steadfast designer, entrepreneur, producer, and professor. A strong will paired with her innate eye for design has made Bond an inspiration in the field of fashion, as she rallies her students and those around her to think big and dream bigger.
As a producer on the successful Netflix series, Next in Fashion, co-hosted by Queer Eye’s Tan France, Bond had the opportunity to collaborate with fellow producers, designers, and creatives to create a one of a kind experience that celebrated up and coming design talent. Having previously been a contestant on Project Runway, Bond understood the need for exposure as a budding designer and she worked tirelessly to ensure the contestants had the very best experience. With Bond’s next venture, currently in its planning stages, she hopes to teach her fashion expertise to people from their own home. Bond’s natural talent and knowledge about her industry inform the unique perspective that is reflected in her designs.
Designs by Amy Bond. Photography by Keitaro Cloward.
Where are you from?
AMY BOND: I was born in Idaho, both of my parents were academics so we moved every 2-4 years after that. I lived in Idaho, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, then Missouri. I really don’t anchor myself except where I am at the moment, so as far as I am concerned I am from LA.
How did you get your start in fashion?
It was always something that was inside of me. I was not the kid that made clothes for their Barbie dolls. I started sewing when I was 13 years old. My parents bought me a sewing machine because I had an interest and I began making very horrible things for myself. I just loved doing it and kept making things. My parents were academics so when it came to choosing a college I didn’t see fashion as a real career. When I went to college I was an english major with a minor in philosophy. I ended up at my mother's alma mater, Stevens College, which actually happens to have one of the oldest fashion programs in the country. I took fashion as an elective during my first semester and that is what made me switch. I haven't worked in any other industry except fashion education.
What were some of your initial feelings when starting out in fashion?
I got out in ‘92 which was pre-internet. Fashion was still a very underground industry which is a very hard thing to picture now, but fashion designers were not celebrities, with the exception of a few rare birds: Roy Halston, Giorgio Armani, and some of those out there characters. Clothes were designed and made with people not thinking much about it. I knew more of the mechanics of the industry more than anything else and it never occurred to me to want to become a celebrity designer with any sort of name recognition. I actually started out in bridal with Arnold Scaasi. I knew it was a very narrow category but I was able to learn about overseas manufacturing, hiring seamstresses, how to run a cutting room, so I really cut my teeth in the industry that way. In 1999 I packed up and moved to LA with a UHaul truck and started a business.
"Mother of Pearl" outfit designed by Amy Bond and worn by model/songwriter Shaun Ross at the 62nd annual Grammys in January 2020.
Shaun Ross at the Spotify Best New Artist party. Dress designed by Amy Bond.
So you have been an independent designer since?
Yes, I have done some gig work for some other designers as well as some ghost designing and some free-lance and creative direction.
How would you describe your individual style?
I would say classic contemporary which to me means a black grey palette with maybe an emerald thrown in. Very clean shapes with intricate patterns that look simple.
As an independent designer you compete everyday with large brands that are able to commercialize creative ideas quicker. How do you balance your creative expression as a designer with your need for sales?
This is a battle that many designers go through especially when they come from a creative perspective first. There are lots of brands that are super smart and savvy that say “okay I am looking at this from a marketing perspective first.” Finding out all the information on their potential customers and finding out what will sell to them. Finding a need than creating it. So when you come from a creative perspective it is like you are creating something and trying to convince people to buy them which is a much more difficult process. You may find the beauty in something but you have not found the audience that appreciates or understands why you do what you do. Personally, I have so much trouble with doing something more than once. I had a retail store and a wholesale business and we would just struggle to find the right boutiques that had the right customers. Sometimes we would have to adapt to fulfill their needs because maybe the climate is different or they want this color or that color. You are constantly having to monkey around and the whole fun of the thing goes right out the window. I pulled out of wholesale manufacturing in the early 2000s and that was really my response to all this. It was more important to me to keep fashion as an artform and do whatever I had to do to pay the bills versus having to constantly change and adapt to the needs of the marketplace in order to scale up.
A behind the scenes view of the final runway for the Netflix show, Next in Fashion. | Amy Bond and her team of former students outside the set of Next in Fashion.
In the past five years there has been an increased push back to fast fashion. Where do you think the industry is headed especially with the onset of Coronavirus putting a halt to the fashion calendar and many labels rejecting the current system?
It’s disastrous that it takes a disaster to fix a disaster. The system was turned into a behemoth that needed to be brought down. For that there are a lot of positives to come out of this. It was no longer a fashion week here and there it was 16 collections at minimum a year and these designers are exhausted. In the case of Alexander McQueen it literally killed him because it is way too much and has accelerated at a pace that is untenable. Now that we are at a point in which we are able to rethink things I am glad that the big anchors of the high end industry are putting their foot down saying they are going to release work when they feel their customers are ready for it. Brands like Gucci are working with textile companies to find out ways to use recycled plastic, sustainable fabrics, and changing their focus from “let’s make it as expensive as possible so we have a larger problem at hand.” The fact that the customer has a different focus on what it means to consume then they are having to pivot to match that. I think it is also good for smaller brands as they have never been able to keep up with the fashion calendar and get to participate in a fashion week. I think it leaves a lot of entry points open for smaller brands. Now that everything has gone to an online format it has allowed many of these smaller brands to find a footing to get noticed. It has democratized things.
What is your perspective on the fashion industry working to make systemic changes to racial and gender biases in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and do you think these changes will be permanent?
Yes, I think they will be permanent because transparency is demanded by today’s world. Everyone wants to know what is behind the scenes to every industry. These things have become important to everyone. Of course, large companies with large structures will take awhile to adapt an entire culture, Vogue being a good example. It is not just a racist police or not-racist policy, it's what is aspirational. What is aspirational to Vogue to create a feeling in society that the only way to be gorgeous is to be tall, thin, and white. As long as that is seen as an ideal and as long as everything the magazine does consciously or unconsciously points its viewers towards that direction it's going to be that way. Models like Tyra Banks stood out not just because of her personality or beauty, but because of the color of her skin. She was an anomaly that was not accepted by the system as she stood out. She of course had to be embraced after that. At the time she was not a part of the Vogue aspirational ideal that did not fit the overall company culture.
Designs by Amy Bond. Photography by Keitaro Cloward.
As a design producer for the Netflix show, Next in Fashion, how has your experience been going from the traditional design and sales side of fashion to the entertainment industry?
Having been on Project Runway, I was able to understand the contestant side of things. As everything, starting something new is always a big undertaking as you are always learning and building it at the same time while also trying to complete it, you have to think in the full circle at all times because you do not have a model to follow. Next in Fashion was very ambitious in that they wanted the designers to have the top of everything. My job was everything down to the last pin on the design side which was a massive undertaking fueled by all the experience I had fortunately with equipment and textiles. I would help write the challenges then choose which fabrics would be appropriate for the challenges. I loved it so much because it was teaching, designing, and creating. I was able to assemble a team of 15 people all of whom were ex-students of mine. I think these shows certainly have a place in our landscape as they democratize the system and show people at home how things are made while shining light on the upcoming designers.
Would you ever partake in this experience again in the entertainment side of fashion?
Yes, I would because it was such a unique experience and so rewarding. It is a thumbprint on a moment in time of getting those particular people together at that particular place at that particular time that will never recur. It is that particular thumbprint of experience that you can not repeat, so the opportunity to do it again and create a new little world for that amount of time is immensely appealing.
What are your goals for the next few years?
Six months ago I would have said, having done Next in Fashion, I want to be a producer and I want to keep this TV thing up and constantly be in that room and create new shows and ideas. I would happily step back into that world, but with the current climate, pandemic, and restructuring of life as we know it, I am looking into other business ventures and projects that are not a matter of if, but a matter of when they will be successful.
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