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Bode’s New E-Store Is a Window Into Her Magical Lockdown Greenhouse Studio


Back at the beginning of March, as orders to shelter in place began being issued in cities around the world, Emily Bode was one of the lucky few who managed to be one step ahead. With her father working as a doctor, she had something of a heads-up on just how devastating the COVID-19 crisis was likely to be for New York City, and had already begun implementing the changes necessary to prepare herself and her team for an uncertain few months. “We shut down the store and got everyone situated to work from home, and then we flew to my fiancée’s family home in Vancouver Island for the foreseeable future,” she explains over the phone. “I’ve set up a studio here in his backyard greenhouse—although it’s not really like any ordinary greenhouse.”

That it certainly isn’t. With its charming mish-mash of antique objects hanging on the walls and shelves stuffed with books, it’s not only a dreamy creative set up, but one that holds strong sentimental value for Bode and her brand. For her fall 2018 show, which paid tribute to an ethnobotanist on Long Island she became friends with as a teenager thanks to his side hustle as a quilt dealer, there was a set featuring a full-scale recreation of this very greenhouse. “It’s a funny privilege to work in the greenhouse that inspired the show from such a pivotal point in the brand’s evolution,” she adds.

While Bode only launched her namesake label in 2016, her imaginative reworkings of heritage and antique textiles into hotly desirable jackets, shirts, and trousers have seen her become one of New York’s most talked-about menswear brands, tapping into fashion’s increasing prioritization of both ethical production and craft. Last year, she was awarded the CFDA Award for Emerging Designer of the Year, and she now counts stockists across 15 countries.

However, like many of her peers, Bode has been largely reliant on her own website and e-store, which is relaunching today with a limited-run summer collection to accompany it, to navigate the uncharted territory of the current pandemic.

The collection is inspired by her family’s ties to a 19th-century wagon-building workshop in Cincinnati, while the website itself, designed in collaboration with Eric Wrenn, neatly reflects Bode’s instinct for storytelling and is intended as something of a digital recreation of the greenhouse Bode is currently working out of.

Bodes New EStore Is a Window Into Her Magical Lockdown Greenhouse Studio

Photo: Courtesy of Bode

“We spoke all together about coming up with a website that could capture the essence of the space, and we're also putting up unique items specific to this greenhouse that are one-of-a-kind,” Bode explains. “Then there’s the summer collection that is currently shipping to the stores who are allowing it, with the rest on hold until places reopen. So I've been shooting the collection on the wall using an old hanger we found in Aaron's childhood home, and it’s all been quite experimental.”

Bodes New EStore Is a Window Into Her Magical Lockdown Greenhouse Studio

Photo: Courtesy of Bode

One of the more fortunate aspects of Bode’s business model is her mix of producing bespoke pieces and selling wholesale, allowing her more room to be nimble and adapt to the dramatic shift the industry has undergone over the past few months. While her list of stockists has rapidly grown over the past year, many of her pieces are still one-offs—all of her pants are made to order, for example, and she still creates custom pieces for clients using their own deadstock or vintage textiles. “Aside from the commerce aspect, it’s always been really important for me to be quite simply just making clothing, and preserving someone’s familial history. I'm never trying to produce a collection for the sake of making a collection.”

It’s something that has become especially interesting during this period of lockdown. As many find themselves with time on their hands to sort through their closets, or back home with their families, they’re discovering everything from heritage quilts to their grandmother’s table linens, just the kind of personality-rich textiles that can be repurposed by Bode’s team into garments. “I think people are taking a moment of reflection on their personal histories, and seeing how they can partake in preserving them and making heirlooms, not just for themselves, but also to share with their families,” Bode adds. “It’s been amazing to see.”

So too are many of the pieces Bode is launching on her new website. “In some ways it’s like stepping back a few years, to when I was first making clothes for friends in my apartment,” Bode explains. “I’m steaming the clothes, I’m mending them, I’m sewing labels on them. You know, things that I haven't done in a few years as the business has grown bigger. It feels like coming full circle, in a way.”

And while Bode is pleased to see the spirit of generations past revived during the lockdown, her general belief is that we have to be looking beyond fashion for solutions to find a way out of the current crisis. “I think about people that I care about and I love and their traumatic situations every day, and it’s hard to not feel a sense of shame almost at being healthy right now,” Bode adds. “But then you realize everyone’s going through the same thing. Even my friends who work in completely different industries who are school teachers or working more actively in dealing with the crisis. We all have to remind each other not to be ashamed of feeling vulnerable, or not to be ashamed of not always feeling optimistic. It’s a hard situation right now, but things will get better.”

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