There is a lot to be thankful for this Mothers Day, and we are excited to celebrate a day dedicated to nurturing both the fabric of families as well as the health of the planet. It is also a time for simply being together and remembering those who we think are special in our lives and have helped to shape who we are as thinkers, dreamers, and designers of the future.
With this in mind, we wanted to highlight a great mother/daughter tale that I came across while attending the D&A show here in NYC. Anne Novotny of Frei Designs is a talented and innovative star on the Chicago eco fashion scene, and I was inspired to learn about how her views on sustainability and fashion did not come from design school or eco study exclusively, but from her own mother who taught her about first-rate quality, true integrity, and digging in locally to make a lasting difference. This Mother’s Day we wanted to take a closer look at why Frei Designs typifies the best of the future in green fashion and the connection that comes from mothers who pass along their wisdom and guidance in order to make the world a sweeter place for all.
I loved Anne Novotny’s energy when we chatted at her booth at the D&A show here in NY. She was totally approachable, down to earth, though extremely worldly and eloquent about her gorgeously crafted pieces and sustainable (Chicago-made) collections. A graduate of the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago’s design program, Anne (or ‘Annie’ as she upgraded herself to during our fun conversation) also studied and traveled in Antwerp and around Europe in order to understand how fashion could effectively take root in a given community and in turn, provide economic stimuli. Annie’s eye for impeccable construction and tailoring was informed by her time in Antwerp (Dries Van Noten is a shared favorite of ours, we soon discovered), but the designer also credits her mother (who works in the medical field) for helping to develop her scrutinizing eye towards garment production and what ‘passes the grade and what does not’. Annie proceeded to tell me about how her mother would take her aside during weekend shopping outings to inspect the hems and seams of garments on racks as a jumping off point for discussions about sustainability and lasting value in clothing design. We subsequently laughed about how Moms are really good at instilling the ‘acceptability standards’ for what we choose to produce, and how this is often far more of a driving force than any reviews or industry feedback.
Frei Designs obviously owes a chunk of credit to Annie’s Mom for making their pieces as loveable and covetable as they are. Annie uses sustainable fabrics (hemp and bamboo woven into wool), vegetable-based dyes, and recycled materials in her totally fresh collections – even her garment tags are made with old office paper! Her sweet and feminine Spring 2008 collection is inspired by the Greek goddess Persephone and the changing seasons. We love the floaty Persephone dress (featured at top), as the little wrap skirt peeking out underneath the hem of the dress is dyed with pomegranate juice in a nod to the myth! The dress itself is made of soft Swiss cotton voile.
We think that Frei Designs is definitely one to watch on the sustainable design frontier, and with Anne Novotny working hard to honor both high standards in eco fashion as well as her Mom’s loving insight, this is hardly a fashion fairy tale but an example of lasting ideas that can live on for seasons and generations to come!
Go, Annie and Go, Annie’s Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day to all!