7.28.2009

Q&A: Francisco Hernandez

I know it's summer, but I can't help but think about fall! Some of the coziest pieces that epitomize autumn can be found in a Capitol Hill studio in Seattle. Francisco Hernandez came to Seattle to design a line called Built for Man. Ladies, don't run away yet -- Built for Man means built for mankind. Francisco is all about creating pieces that have purpose across the board. Using fibers like pima cotton and baby alpaca, you'll never want to take his clothes off! That might get interpreted the wrong way, but that just means your head's in the gutter. I tried on his infamous "Unku" and I can only imagine that's what heaven feels like. Not only does Francisco have valuable insight into the fashion industry, but we had the most amazing conversation. When you're able to view fashion as art, it too can be philosophical. I didn't realize how long my photographer and I were in his studio, until we walked outside and it was dark! I hope you all love his work as much as I do.





Darrah: So, what's the story behind Built for Man?

Francisco:
For me, it is really simple. I think about how I would like to dress myself, or my family and friends. How can I create one garment that will give you so much design and function in one piece? It's about making it practical, comfortable, and layered.


Darrah:
I'm completely in love with your fabric choice. How did you find it?


Francisco:
I buy my own yarn in mills.
In this industry, you can go into the mill and you can choose the yarn depending on what colors they're going to be dying that year. I made sure that the dyes were environmentally friendly. To be honest, when I wanted to do Built for Man, I wanted to do it to put people to work. What better way of feeding someone than to put them to work? You're not giving them money -- you're giving them industry. Being from Peru, I wanted to use baby alpaca. All the alpacas are free range. What I like about using these threads is that everything pima and baby alpaca starts from the yarn up.

Darrah: Could you explain the process behind your workers?

Francisco:
We started with 5 weavers, and by the end of the year, there will be 65. They're based out of small communities in Peru, sustaining the local economy. The way their community works is like this -- they work for us, and they are able to pay for the loom. Once they pay for the loom, they will take it back to their home. Once they do that, they don't have to walk to work. It is very far. All they have to do is work from home, and bring back the garment when it's completed. These are extremely remote places of the Andes. It's all Fair Trade and Free Trade. We're not paying them like sweatshops. We're paying them the actual price for the garment. I'm hoping to set up a non-profit called The Loom Project. The concept is building from the ground up.

Darrah: What's your favorite piece in this collection?

Francisco:
As a designer, they all have something special about them. When I think of design, I think of practicality. The one that I'm really looking forward to seeing how it develops is the Unku. I like the idea, and I want it to succeed. It's so practical. I got the idea from the loom. I told the loomers I wanted to make something very simple like a poncho. I told a friend of mine, and he said, "Why not do an Unku?" He told me it was a traditional royal Incan garment, and I liked the idea, so I went with it. The Unku is like the 21st century version of the poncho, and it reflects how humanity has progressed.

Darrah:
Do you think you'll ever make a denim collection?


Francisco:
I love the idea of denim. Just look at how many people wear jeans. However, it seems like the denim has become a little bit stale. Just a little bit. You can do colors, but the idea is to find the right moment, and this is not the right moment. It is very expensive. To do the right product, it goes into this whole dying process, and it is a vacuum of toxins. If I'm not a 100% sure that it's environmentally friendly, I'm not going to do it. I'm just trying to find the right place, and the right moment in time.


Darrah:
Are you picky about your own clothing?


Francisco:
I am. The last time I went shopping and bought something, I thought about the practicality of the product, and how it was made. Is the fabric synthetic or natural? Sometimes I will sway -- if you get a raincoat, you have to get some synthetic into it. Personally, there is a lot of that already out there. I don't need to pile up on that.


I like the idea that I want my product to rot. I know that sounds a little weird, but I would like my garments to see the process of time -- that each piece can wear, and when it goes into the ground, it is going to be gone. I hate the idea of my clothes ending up in a big pile. We are going to disintegrate, and I would like to make a product like that. I love that you can wear fashion to death.


Darrah:
Do all your family members love your clothes?


Francisco:
When it comes to my family, I get very modest. If I go home and start talking about everything that I'm doing, I feel disrespectful. I just want to be normal. My family really enjoys my products, but
I'll go home and we'll just talk about the family. When I go to see them, my mission is to make them laugh. I think, "What do they want? What can I do to make them happier?"

Darrah:
Has Seattle been accepting of your brand?


Francisco:
I hear a lot of people calling it "Built." I didn't do anything with that, but I like that people are branding it. I hope that it has a grassroots effect, like kids at UW just spreading the word. I had a few students model at my last fashion show in the studio. I want it to be very undercover, like the best kept secret.


Darrah:
What do you think about the future economy and fashion?


Francisco:
I love what's happening right now. I'm having my best year ever! I'm sorry for the people having a hard time, and all the employees getting laid off. The only reason I like what's happening is because it's helping us re-evaluate how we see fashion. I hope this doesn't come out like a love/hate thing because it's not. It's just about rethinking design.
Designers always need a social agenda. What would be really great is if the consumer would start looking at the designer, and see what they're supporting.

Darrah:
Does this mean you'll never sell in a place like the mall?

Francisco: That's a hard question. If you go to the mall, you see brand boutique after brand boutique. I've been getting my support from that. I love the little boutique -- I really do. However, the market is tough, and they have to battle it out. I would love to do both, and grow. It only comes from sales -- you know this. The bottom line is -- if you are not able to create sales, you are not able to do anything.

Darrah:
What tips would you give to a designer out of college?


Francisco:
The best thing about designing is having a conceptual idea, and being able to orchestrate it. It's hard to tell someone how to do things, since we have to discover that for ourselves. It's important to make sure there's thought behind every piece.


Darrah:
Do you think Seattle will have a boomin' fashion scene one day?


Francisco:
I wish I had the Rosetta stone to decipher how this is going to be. What I'd like to do is meet more local designers. I don't know any. This is my fault though. I haven't been out there to see where they are. I'd like to help initiate a fashion scene in Seattle; there's so much potential.

Darrah:
Any upcoming shows?


Francisco:
Bellevue Square for Fashion Week, on October 2nd.


Darrah:
Anything new to look forward to from Built?

Francisco:
I'll most likely be doing 100% cotton, some silk, and super simple, fresh, and awesome. I might be able to do socks and underwear too. I've actually been toying with the idea of doing underwear for a long time.

Darrah:
Is that a big market?


Francisco:
Oh yes. The thing with underwear is that it's a little complex if you want to create a great underwear. I want to do a supima, the best cotton, an elastic band, and implement designer elements. I know it's ambitious, but I know I'll be able to do it. When you go to a lingerie store, you can see so many different creative things for girls, but it's so boring for men.


When a woman gets married, her lingerie is beautiful. When a guy gets married, he only has a boxer or a brief. So, I am going to try to make him feel great when he drops his pants.


Darrah:
(Laughing) You're funny.

5 comments:

lydia said...

My fingers remember how soft those knits were... they were SO soft and cozy. I think they would feel like wearing a warm embrace all day long.

Kym said...

they loook sooooo soft!!! i can't wait for fall either, its so much more fun dressing up for fall! hehe!

KIRAFASHION said...

Here is still winter, so I love the post!

I love winter, the best season for me :)))

Kat said...

Hi there! lovely blog you got!

fashion collection said...

i love his clothing i have worn them from japan to new york to vancouver keep up the good work love you designs Arid