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19 4t

Images from 19 4t Spring 2013. Photography by Jenna Elizabeth. Hair by Nicole Blais. Makeup by Rachel Wood. Model: Chloe Norgaard.

In April 1917, the New York Times published a review of the season’s spring fashions, commenting heavily on the enduring power and prevalence of jersey and lamenting that, “It has ceased to be a novelty. It has become a standard fabric. It is so strongly, and disagreeably, like certain well-advertised brands of American woolen for men’s underwear that one feels partially undressed when wearing it… The weave that does not indicate by its appearance that it was ever intended for smart and expensive apparel is the weave that is accepted.”

The mastermind of the jersey revolution was of course Coco Chanel, who scandalized fashion by appropriating the fabric for daywear and who set the stage for the couture industry’s acceptance of the textile. Soon its wartime austerity connotations were replaced with high-fashion status, and somber references to Medieval monk robes were elevated by vibrant double-faced weaves—scarlet and white; turquoise and midnight blue—and ornate details, like Victorian belts. Since then, it has been a steady march towards jersey’s current omnipresence and predominance, through the vibrant dyes of the mid-20th century, sportswear appropriation of the ’70s and ’80s, and early naughts t-shirt, jeans and heels uniform bestowed with the lofty “off-duty model” moniker.

19 4t, the Los Angeles-based womenswear brand by Linda Monaskanian, progresses this sundry history by marrying Coco’s tailored dreams for the fabric with the comfort and utility associated with its use in American sportswear. Proposing itself as “a response to the evolving style of modern women,” the brand combines the finest Japanese textiles—primarily jersey and woven terry—with casual silhouettes. Think: clean, conscientiously cut sweatshirts, sweatpants and t-shirts with high-minded details.

The idea has been explored before—as the past decade’s proliferation of $100 t-shirts and $300 sweatshirts can attest—but Linda’s unique perspective and commitment to excellence advances 19 4t past this sea of more-conceptual-than-well-crafted wares. The young designer is self-taught, but in a characteristic attempt to hone her skills, briefly attended Otis College of Art & Design. She then…

worked in sales for contemporary brands, including Tracy Reese and Milly, because she believes is in a 360-degree approach to business, describing herself as “a bit of a perfectionist.” The confluence of these skills and traits helped Linda evolve her “disastrous” first samples into, ultimately, impeccably constructed clothing.

Working exclusively with factories in LA, Linda is hands-on in the production of each piece, wear testing and tweaking it to perfection, which often means paring down, rather than embellishing. Her diligence is also evident in her fabric sourcing process, which includes regular trips to Osaka, Japan, where cottage-industry cotton weaving dates back to the 15th century and where many of the most innovative textiles in the world debut.

While Linda’s creative inspiration often comes from these trips—she designs from draping, rather than sketches—19 4t’s broader aesthetic roots can be traced to the classic simplicity of menswear and innate elegance of elderly women. Linda herself, though inexorably feminine with her petite stature and tousled brunette bob, proclaims a penchant for dressing like a little boy. And, despite being California born and raised, she possesses a more New York than LA style. This also partially explains why 19 4t translates beyond beaches to the streets of New York, Tokyo, and Milan, and transcends traditional sportswear demographics, appealing to women aged 16 to 65. Further, it elucidates Linda’s brand mission: to create casual, comfortable pieces that women can wear out, with polish.

The primary domain of 19 4t sweatshirts and sweatpants isn’t the gym; the pieces aren’t even necessarily made to be worn together. Instead, Linda envisions women pairing the pants with heels and a cashmere sweater, or the sweatshirt with leather pants and jewelry. She has also developed the line to include chambray shirts, blazer-style silhouettes, and stripes, with further expansion promised in the near future. Beyond their opulent fabrics, the garments’ structure and modern details—which for Spring 2013 include signature accoutrement and new additions, like black piping and complementary fabric insets—give them weight in the same way that double-facing fabrics and ornate accessories did in 1917. Just like Coco Chanel’s early jersey dresses, 19 4t’s styles are quietly rebellious, encouraging women to challenge fashion conventions—and be supremely comfortable while doing it.

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