At the New York-based brand Bode, Emily Adams Bode Aujla’s collections have always been rooted in the persona. The lived histories of friends, family members, and even places all hold keys that unlock the fantastical trove of embroideries, embellishments, prints, and colors that have established Bode as one of the most exciting new American labels on the scene. For pre-fall 2022, now hitting the stores, however, Adams Bode Aujla turned inward, looking for inspiration to her own wedding to her longtime partner and collaborator Aaron Aujla, which took place in their newly purchased home upstate and brought together Punjabi traditions from his upbringing as well as ones from her mixed Southern/East Coast heritage. “The foundation of Bode is personal narrative and our emotional relationships to materials and material culture, so the wedding is very much an epitome of that relationship,” Adams Bode Aujla explains. “From a more pragmatic side, I love dressing people for weddings. A lot of the fabrics that we sell lend themselves really well to weddings: lace, eyelets, details like pearl buttons, working with people’s family histories and their initials and embroideries, so it kind of made perfect sense to make this a holistic idea.” She estimates she made over 250 pieces for their friends and family to wear to their nuptials, including matching tuxes for the groomsmen and dresses crafted from piano shawls for the bridesmaids, along with the various outfits she and Aaron wore throughout the four-day festivities.
The most obvious way the wedding influenced this collection is in the emphasis on formal wear, something that she has dabbled in since opening the Bode Tailor Shop next door to her Manhattan flagship. There are classic shapes like tuxedo jackets and tails done in traditional black and white that will find wide an audience, but it was the Bode-fied versions that had the most appeal: a dark brown three-piece suit embellished with gems in the shape of flowers, a linen marigold single-breasted suit with tonal fringe appliqués and vintage marbles decorating the sleeve vent. The colors she used – “depression-era” green, tobacco brown, and purple, and marigold – all held personal meaning for the designer and her husband. It’s her exploration of what formalwear silhouettes can be that is really exciting. A lightweight tropical wool wrap jacket with a gathered waist may resemble a traditional women’s blouse on a hanger, but when worn over a crisp button-down shirt and matching trousers, it transforms into a smart alternative to the structured suit, lending an air of ease and comfort. A similar feeling was evoked by matching sets of shirts and trousers, inspired by Aujla’s penchant for pajamas. “He wears pajamas even with a tux,” Adams Bode Aujla explained. “It was really important to him that he had [them], especially for morning prayer.” Here they run the gamut of materials and fabrications, from simple versions done in white cotton voile to intricately embroidered styles. The concept of “home” was also present in the collection through the use of crochet fabrics and embellishments, as in a white shirt covered with brown popcorn chenille, which is typically found in bedspreads, and a matching shirt and trouser set appliquéd with animal shapes in various prints, which was a reproduction of a baby quilt originally made from feed sack scraps. “During the Great Depression, companies were noticing that women were making clothing from feed sacks and grain sacks, so they started printing on the fabrics to encourage people to do it.” Adams Bode Aujla is keen on the importance of research and preserving history through the things that she makes, tracking down names and provenance. “When we do historical reproductions, we can tell that narrative in a much broader scale, and it got me thinking about how you can encourage people to preserve something, not just by mending o repairing things like that, but preserving it in the idea that they’re preserving culture and the techniques,” she said. It’s easy to see how Bode has found success; her customer understands that when they buy one of her designs, they are buying a little piece of history for themselves, a shirt (or pants, or a jacket) imbued with meaning and ready to be passed on to the next generation.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.