Dream A Little Dream Of Me. Bode AW23

For autumn-winter 2023, Bode is back on the runway, and back in Paris. But there’s also a debut coming from Emily Adams Bode Aujla: a gorgeous womenswear line. At the Theatre du Chatelet, her American family storytelling took place. The models came out of the house and walked stage left, close enough so that every detail of the embroidery and embellishment could be appraised close up. There was a lot of it, and it looked great, from edging men’s suits to decorated with gold and green beads flapper dresses. The Bode program notes spoke about how the designer looked for inspiration to her mother’s side of the family – the four Rice sisters. Janet, her mom, had a college job in the 1970s on the Crane Estate at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, with a 90-year-old lady who kept to the old social formalities of her class, and would descend for dinner in dresses which went back to the 1890s through the 1940s. Somehow, that story got mixed up with Emily’s memories of family life, from every day dressing to celebrations over the years. By the time a dress came out that was clearly a Christmas tree, hung with baubles, the Parisian crowd was won over. Most of all, the success of the show was to prove what a range Bode has as a brand. The gliterry shimmy dresses apart, she also pulled out some drop-dead American-glamour 1930s/‘40s evening dresses in emerald green sequins or red velvet. On top of that, her all-gendered, novelty-type knits are already real stand-outs in stores. If Ralph Lauren is looking for a successor, Emily Bode Aujla is the right person to reach out to.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Personal. Bode SS23

For spring-summer 2023, Emily Adams Bode Aujla continued to explore 29 Clinton Street – the apartment in the Lower East Side where she founded her brand. But whereas last season she had sought inspiration in the memories of the space, the things she collected, and the parties she threw, this time she focused on something more abstract: the feeling of home itself. “We really honed in on more of the concept of the interior, the feeling of comfort from the old apartment,” she said on a frigid morning in her studio in Brooklyn. “There’s a lot more knits, crochets, and pajamas.” Not actually meant to be worn while sleeping, the pajama sets have become something of a staple for the designer for a few seasons. “I have always made pajamas, but I feel like people really started gravitating towards them after the wedding collection,” she said. A set in cream came adorned with white piping cord embroidery detail, and was worn with a white and cream crochet vest over it. Other versions in lavender (worn with a purple striped crochet polo) and a white-on-black windowpane check (worn with Bode’s take on a souvenir shirt, emblazoned with a map print) showed the versatility of the idea. Another set in the form of a hunter green velvet track-style jacket and matching trousers had the same ease as pajamas, but was made for those who may need to actually dress up for work. It was worn with a shirt and tie underneath. Adams Bode Aujla’s knitwear was a standout this season, especially the floral intarsia cardigans with latticed edges, and the breezy open crochet navy polo with red and white stripes, and another crochet cardigan in orange with white crochet appliqué flowers. Many of these were inspired by pieces from the designer’s vintage archive, but remade with comfortable, breathable yarns, “so they won’t itch and won’t combust.” She embraced her love of novelty items with a sweater that read EVERYONE NEEDS SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN RIGHT NOW I BELIEVE I’LL HAVE ANOTHER BEER, alongside a variety of horse-themed items: a short-sleeve button-down shirt with red piping, and an intarsia knit sweater and pants set in royal blue with yellow stripes. It makes sense that she is indulging in all the things that are so close and personal to her; next season she will return to Paris to stage a show, her first one since 2020.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Affection. Bode AW22

For autumn-wineter 2022, Emily Adams Bode-Aujla pushes her signature style even further, delivering a collection that showed a more daring and experimental side of her blooming menswear brand. Each Bode collection is like a lesson in history of both, America’s culture, and the designer’s personal one. Last season, the she sought inspiration in her wedding to her longtime partner Aaron Aujla, so it’s not surprising that this season the designer was thinking back to where it all began: the former apartment-studio on Clinton Street in the Lower East Side. “I lived there over seven years, and it was the place in which I started Bode,” the designer recalled. “A lot of my friends called it ‘the treehouse’ because it was seven flights up, and then it had another staircase up even further, and then this funny little makeshift roof deck also had another level.” The most obvious way that youthful inspiration was reflected in the collection was the skeleton suit onesie, which was a nod to the costume parties she threw at the apartment back in the day. But what Adams Bode-Aujla does best is capture history through objects, and for this collection, she revisited her archive as well as things she had done as one-offs for her first collection. “There were pieces that I had collected that I felt I couldn’t reproduce in the way that I have always wanted to do until now,” she explained. Out of all the collections she has done until now, this is the richest one in materials, embroidery, techniques, borne of supreme confidence in one’s abilities and an innate love of craft. A shirt embroidered with teeny beads in bold colors in a mid-century modern floral pattern seemed precious enough to live underneath glass in a museum, but here it was worn casually underneath a patchworked blue and white suit. Delicate openwork crocheted lace was used in long sleeve button down blouses in cream or in a multi-color offering that would be finely suited for any number of formal occasions. It’s this season’s outerwear that made the strongest initial impression: a cream “teddy bear” coat with three buttons and a beaded rope tied around the waist was based on a children’s coat Adams Bode-Aujla kept along with the rest of the childrenswear in her special collection, in an aluminum box possibly used during WWII to store film. A boxy jacket covered in shiny black sequins with long fringe detail at the bottom had origins as part of a woman’s evening skirt suit from the 1970s or ’80s that the designer often wore around the apartment. Two red fringed jackets, one short and one long, were the poster children for the sort of circularity that only exists in Bode’s collections. “I had this 1920s-ish dress with fringe, but it was actually made from upholstery fringe, like someone had made the dress as a costume in the 1960s,” she explained. In her hands it became an elegant take on a duster coat in 2022. It’s this wonderful circle of life that keeps Adams Bode-Aujla – and her loyal fans – excited.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Imbued With Meaning. Bode Pre-Fall 2022

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.

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