Men’s – Forever Timeless. Bode AW21

Autumn-winter 2021 marks the first collection Bode has shown since lockdown, though it’s technically spring (arriving in stores this month) and autumn rolled together. For the occasion, Emily Bode invited New York-based editors into what appeared to be a teenage boy’s 1960s bedroom, preserved in all its clutter. Newspapers and LIFE magazines were scattered on the tables; a vintage Monopoly set was splayed on the floor; desks were pinned with comic strips and old photos; and, of course, there were clothes everywhere: spilling out of a hamper, piled on the floor, dangling from coat hooks, draped over the bed. Each item was painstakingly arranged by Bode and her team, but it was a convincing replica of her uncle Bill’s college dorm room at the University of Vermont (or at least Bode’s impression of it, based on his recollection). In 1969, he tricked his parents into thinking he was back at school when in fact he was taking a year off to explore the East Coast, race cars, and play games. Bode explained it was also the last year before Bill’s wife, Mahri, came into the picture; they met in 1970, married, and were together up until 2019, when Mahri passed away. Suddenly, 2020 was Bill’s first “year off” from the life he knew, and he found himself reminiscing about 1969 again. Bode related his story of love, loss, and reflection to our own “year off” during the pandemic. Sifting through the piles, you could find all the familiar Bode-isms: silk button-downs with prints lifted from vintage postcards and handkerchiefs; embroidered camp shirts that are the expert work of Indian artisans; patchworked merino suits, an evolution of her quilted jackets; and her most refined knits yet, from a space-dyed pullover to a stunning hand-crocheted cardigan. A few pieces nodded to Bill and Mahri, like a souvenir jacket with a pug embroidered on the back, while others seemed happily arbitrary: an intarsia’d camel sweater, a pair of shorts chain-stitched with line drawings and funny phrases, a sweater crocheted with 3-D grapes. A small group of tailored pieces trimmed with rows of real pearl buttons spoke to Bode’s particular passion for preserving crafts and techniques. She bought them in bulk from a closed-down button factory in the Midwest, and pointed out how each was individually hand-carved, hand-sanded, and one-of-a-kind. They may have been thrown away or relegated to some dusty warehouse if Bode hadn’t purchased them; the same could be said of the quilts, table cloths, and scraps of fabric piling up in her Brooklyn studio.

If it’s tempting to lump Bode in with other “sustainable” or “upcycled” brands, it’s actually more of a coincidence that some of her materials – not all – were already made. Bode cares about sustaining traditions and stories, not just reducing her carbon footprint, and she understands her role as an employer. She couldn’t have scaled her business to its current size if she hadn’t found a pragmatic, sustainable way to mass-produce certain garments with new materials, like her camp shirts and chore jackets, nor would she have been able to hire her teams of craftspeople in India, Peru, and New York (many designers canceled their orders in Garment District factories during the pandemic, but Bode made it a point to support them.) Bode’s brand-new tailoring shop, located next to her flagship in the formerly-turquoise Classic Coffee Shop, is a more apt reflection of her sustainability ethos. Her tailors will alter your brand-new Bode suit or mend an old quilted jacket. Even if you just picked up your first Bode shirt next door, there’s a comfort in knowing you don’t have to be precious about wearing it; when the time comes, someone will be there to fix it up. On the long list of things that separate Bode from her peers (and her many imitators) is that she absolutely intends for her clothes to be worn – and would rather fix the hole in your shirt than sell you a new one.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Whimsy. Bode AW20

One of New York’s biggest menswear talents, Emily Bode, charmed the Paris audience with her autumn-winter 2020 line-up. The Education Of Benjamin Bloomstein sounds like a title straight out of a Wes Anderson film; and in aesthetic terms the director and Bode’s designer create similarly winsome worlds. Years before Bloomstein and the designer became friends and collaborators (through his design studio, Green River Project LLC), he had an idiosyncratic upbringing that made him an obvious protagonist for the ongoing Bode narrative. Briefly, as related in the collection text, he attended schools in a former Shaker village and on a biodynamic farm; he wrote poetry and immersed himself in agriculture; and perhaps most pertinent, he figured out how to alter his school clothes so that they would feel more comfortable. In adapting Bloomstein’s memories to her exploration of craft methods and sustainable values, Bode delivered a beautiful and whimsy collection. Her sentimental nods to the past included a quilted jacket and matching mittens that signaled outerwear from pre-duvet times; outfits covered in deadstock souvenir and achievement patches; shirts embroidered with farm animals and vintage athletic jerseys; delicate seed bead ornaments and necklaces strung with hand-blown marbles. Four years into her brand, Emily navigates the trap of historical costume by shaking up how she presents her repurposed and reproduced textiles and trims (be it the equine blankets that were the basis for the opening tailored look or the golden Appenzeller Gurt charms adorning various looks as well as the label’s new line of slip-ons). Big love.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Telling A Narrative. Bode SS20

Two weeks after winning the CFDA Award for Emerging Designer of the Year, Emily Adams Bode has another major achievement behind her belt: her first-ever Bode runway show, in Paris, not in New York. That’s a smart move. Men’s New York fashion week has an extremely low visibility, while Bode, a brand that possibly has the brightest, sustainability-forward concept behind it in the entire industry, needs a fair spotlight. The label’s off-kilter pieces reinterpret antique quilts and domestic textiles in a workwear context to create new narratives. Each collection harmonises disparate elements, repairing and preserving materials that would otherwise be lost, thrown away. The designer produces modern heirlooms that nod to folkloric craftsmanship with hand-stitched accents and panelled constructions. For spring-summer 2020, Bode focuses on the same idea, but with a different background. As she explained backstage, ever since launching her menswear label three years ago, she has been waiting for the right moment to present a collection inspired by her familial ties to a bygone wagon workshop based in Cincinnati that produced ornate creations for Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brothers. “It’s about being able to tell that narrative of the historical techniques and fabrications and then [figuring out] how we can bring this to market in larger way,” she added. An intricately embroidered coat or a suede jacket with hand-stitched florals might have been the nods to her season’s reference. The clothes that impress with detailing were put together with Bode’s classics – vintage-y, short-sleeved shirts, striped, cropped pants, over-sized overalls. I’m a huge fan of Bode and its philosophy, and it’s not the first time when I’m saying this. Big hopes for winning the LVMH Prize in a couple of days!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Collector. Bode AW19

It’s official: I want to wear Bode for the rest of my life. Taking home one of the two CFDA runner-up prizes in 2018 let Emily Bode expand her truly amazing menswear brand. But still, she keeps it true to her slow fashion philosophy. Bode is actually the only brand I’m looking forward to each season during the sleepy men’s New York fashion week. She knows what the boys want, plus, the designer is praised for her sustainable practices and focus on beautifully curated craftsmanship. The autumn-winter 2019 collection is dedicated to all the collectors, who just love gathering paraphernalia (basically, me). The band of long-haired boys played soft rock tunes during the presentation, while the venue (a garage/warehouse) was filled with tour posters and hand-picked vintage furniture. Bode can make wonders out of anything.  PVC raincoats embedded with pennies and milk bottle caps. Velvet suiting made out of patchwork, each piece completely different. Hand-illustrated corduroy jackets. By styling those unique clothes with fluffy mittens, Himalayan caps and furry baboosh slippers, the overall mood is somewhere between a chic nomad and a cozy guy with a soft spot for handicraft. Big yes.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.