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Fort Makers

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From left: Nana Spears, Naomi Clark, Noah James Spencer and Elizabeth Whitcomb. Images by Kate Owen.

Sure, sure: John, Paul, George and Ringo made some pretty great music in their time. But did they also craft candlesticks? Quilt blankets? Design clothing? Mount roving art installations? Host readings? Engineer retail events? I think not.

Meet Nana, Naomi, Noah and Elizabeth. Better known as Fort Makers (or, as I like to call them, the New Fab Four). This artistically inclined quartet resides in Brooklyn (naturally) and specialize in primitive, nature-inspired interdisciplinary pieces that you may have seen without even realizing it.

Since May of this year, Fort Makers has (deep breath): 1) designed bedding for Anthroplogie 2) created Line Lights wooden light sculptures for the Modern Craft Show at New York City’s 19th century Merchant House 3) mounted their outdoor Action Painting series throughout Richmond, Virginia (including an 80-foot canvas hung on a cliff face) 4) hosted a poetry reading by Dominique Townsend at their Clinton Hill studio 5) unveiled Free Space, a floor-to-ceiling abstract psychedelic mural in a former Victoria’s Secret store at South Street Seaport, where they also 6) collaborated with Baggu on limited-edition, site-specific scarves, totes and pouches at a two-week pop-up shop) 7) designed a stage set for the MoMA PS1 Warm Up series 8) are set to debut a new Lawn Quilt series for the Dumbo Arts Festival later this week and 9) are launching their first e-com shop in October, featuring their fashion, accessories and home creations. And…exhale.

Nine projects in four months? It’s enough to make James Franco feel like a slacker.

“We think that four brains are better than one brain,” said Fort Makers creative director Nana Spears this past summer when I stopped by their sprawling workspace, located on an industrial block in the shadow of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. Nana, a Hopewell, New Jersey native, met painter Naomi Clark and her artist husband Noah James Spencer (both Boulder, Colorado transplants) at a wine bar near her apartment, where Noah’s best friend was the bartender. “He introduced me to all these great people from Boulder, including Naomi, and we very quickly started talking about collaborating.”

The year was 2008. Naomi was graduating from Pratt Institute and wanted an extra set of eyes for her thesis show. Nana, who had just left her job as an assistant buyer at Barneys New York, stepped in as curator and—voila!—an art collective (or “artists collaborative,” as they prefer to call it) was born.

“Naomi used to collect a lot of stuff off the street for her art and paint everything,” interjected Noah with a laugh. “We were just talking about how she doesn’t do that anymore.”

“That’s part of why I asked Nana to help me out,” replied Naomi, who sat between her co-conspirators on a small metal stool in front of one of her abstract, wildly colorful creations. “In school I made a lot of stuff and not all of it was successful. It’s not like I want to show all of it but to go through the artistic process, I have to do it physically. To bring something in and make something [out of it] is like the sketch; it’s not necessarily the final piece. I had this closet in the Pratt studio that [was used for] storage. You’d open the door and it was like these crazy bars and a tree limb that had nails on it that was super dangerous. Just too much stuff.” She shook her head ruefully.

“It was like clowns coming out of the car,” recalled Nana. “It was like more, more, more!”

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Boys Don’t Cry

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Left: Sweater, Club Monaco. Jacket and belt, Sportmax. Leather collar, Sonja Bishur. Boots, Véronique Leroy. Socks, Falke. Necklace, PP from Longwy. Bracelet, Bernard Delettrez. Ring, Maison Martin Margiela. Right: Coat, Barbara Bui.

Photography by Spela Kasal
Styling by Mari David
Hair by Morgane Degouvestz
Makeup by Vera Dierckx for Laura Mercier
Model: Rijntje at IMG Models
Photographer’s Assistant: Remy Desclaux

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Left: Shirt, 22/4_Hommes_Femmes. Jacket and belt, Sportmax. Jeans, BLK Denim. Necklace, PP from Longwy. Right: Shirt, Viktor & Rolf. Jacket, Each X Other. Pants, Julien David.

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Wild at Heart

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Drawing upon denim’s long-running liaison with music, Courtshop has unveiled a series of rock’n'roll-inspired pieces. Paying homage to seminal artists, each item boasts a handcrafted feel that cuts straight to the raw heart of the genre that inspired them, including the above Wild at Heart jacket, an ode to Stevie Nicks and her song “Wild Heart.” Created in collaboration with the New York-based artist Charlotte Doherty, the jacket was produced in a limited edition, with each piece hand-painted by Charlotte. Here, exclusively to Dossier, she reveals her motivation and method.

Erin Dixon: Tell us a little about your work and background.

Charlotte Doherty: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and that has always been my material of choice. I started by looking in the mirror and drawing myself. My mother is an incredibly talented artist, so I used to trace her drawings from the ’60s and ’70s. That’s what really taught me how to draw people. Now, I work primarily with pencil and fine-tip pens, and I’m an avid doodler.

Erin: Tell us about your creative process when designing the jacket.

Charlotte: This project was challenging in a really positive way, since I’m used to drawing rather than painting. Painting the negative space on the jacket made me look at the piece in a totally different way. I had to transfer a drawing in black pen on white paper to a painting on black denim in white paint. Let’s just say, there were chalk drawings on scrap denim everywhere.

Erin: What about Stevie Nicks and “Wild Heart” most inspired you while creating the jacket?

Charlotte: I think Stevie Nicks perfectly epitomizes the “Wild Heart” portrayed in the song. [She is] a female who can’t be tamed, especially as a woman who made a name for herself in a predominantly male industry. In doing so, she pioneered the now-ubiquitous trend of female lead singers. You’ve got to be pretty wild to make moves like that.

Erin: Do you have an archetype woman you envision in the jacket?

Charlotte: As I honed my original drawing for the jacket, I always had in mind the type of gal who would eventually be wearing it. I’m so inspired by our customers and I think there’s always a certain boldness in a Courtshop girl. She’s the girl who’s not afraid to wear a sundress with combat boots. Independent and unpredictable, she’s only herself. She’s in all of us and I think it’s our destination as women to find her.

A Draught Of Sunshine

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Left: Top, Ashish. Pants, Issey Miyake. Hat, Burton. Right: Sweater, Piece D’Anarchive. Shorts, Yang Li at LN-CC. Hat, Reef.

Photography by Sohrab Vahdat
Styling by Ksenia Dubenska
Hair by Alexander Soltermann
Makeup by Kenny Leung at Era Management
Model: Hollie-May at Models1
Stylist’s Assistant: Marta Guglielmini

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Left: Top and Coat, Miu Miu. Pants, Ashish. Shoes, Dr. Martens. Right: Bra and top, David Koma.

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A Moment with Alexandra Grecco

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Images by Agnes Thor. All clothing, Alexandra Grecco F/W13.

Brooklyn-based womenswear designer Alexandra Grecco draws from the past to create clothes for the present. She does this both in terms of inspiration and production; she sews all of her feminine, often ethereal designs in New York City’s Garment District, where years of history have endowed its factories with a difficult-to-find expertise and integrity. Here she reveals a little about her own past, present and future.

Erin Dixon: Tell us about your design background.

Alexandra Grecco: My mom taught me how to sew when I was younger. I would make costumes for plays my friends and sister would perform in our backyard. Years later, I went to FIT and studied design.

Erin: What were some of your inspirations?

Alexandra: For this FW13 collection, I was inspired by botanical gardens, mirrors and insects. We used a lot of heavy velvets and rich floral prints with unexpected bugs mixed in.

Erin: Describe your creative process.

Alexandra: At the start of each collection, I gather inspiration and paint with watercolors to create a color story. Then it’s back and forth sketching and draping for many weeks.

Erin: What are some challenges and rewards of designing in New York?

Alexandra: The pace of New York is quite fast and is always keeping me on my toes. Sometimes it feels like the city is kicking my butt though, so I try to escape it and slow down a bit when I can. The rewards of designing and producing in New York are working closely with the husband and wife team who run my factory. They’ve become like family, as I speak with them almost every day. It’s important to me to know where my pieces are being made and under what conditions, so I’m grateful to have peace of mind about that.

Erin: What are your future plans?

Alexandra: I’m working on a collection of vintage-inspired gowns for a bridal line I’ll be debuting soon. I’ve been doing that while planning my own wedding, which has been a little nuts, but I’m very excited for both.

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