Eckhaus Latta Grows Up

Walter Pearce

Eckhaus Latta is a bit of an enigma. The brand, started by designer duo Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, has made an undeniable impact, and they show a younger generation that there is hope for fashion in New York. All designs are done by the pair, whose work flow is somewhat extraterrestrial—the two constantly complete each other's sentences. Although both show good humor, and aren't afraid of a little irony, it is clear from the moment you meet them—Eckhaus Latta isn't messing around.

What are plans for 2014 that you can talk about?

Mike Eckhaus: This year, we’re growing up.

Zoe Latta: We’re going bicoastal. I’m moving to LA. We’ll have two HQs.

Eckhaus: A lot of things on the business/presentation side, we're growing up a little. Doing some more “professional” things that we haven’t done in the past.

Is the space in LA going to be another office?

Latta: Well I’m looking for a lifestyle change. Also there are a lot of resources out there that right now are untapped for us. It’s not going to get any easier to move so we’re just going to do it now. And we’ll get Mike out of New York every once in a while.

Eckhaus: Also we want to keep production in the States as long as possible. Right now all production is done in New York. We want to start working production facilities out there (LA).

Have you considered moving overseas?

Eckhaus: Well we have, but it’s something that we don’t want to do.

Latta: We’re working on shoes right now in Spain.

Where is your presentation in February going to be? Are there any other presentations you're looking forward to?

Eckhaus: We’re having the presentation at The Standard with Milk Made.

Latta: Fashion week is such a bummer for people in fashion. If you have your own thing to do you’re mega stressed out until that moment and then you’re so fucking exhausted afterward. And you have this postpardum depression.

Eckhaus: It's hard to make it to other shows. There's all this followup work you have to do. It’s always a really weird feeling the day after the show. I always want to go shopping, a craving to buy something.

Latta: Last show, I went and saw Amore directly after and sobbed more than I’d ever cried in my life. It was so amazing.

Eckhaus: It’s always really nice to be able to go to peer’s work, but its also that challenge where you’re so busy and want to go to shows but you can’t. I love going to shows, especially if it’s someone in your world.

All of your collections so far seemed to have focused on consistent few materials, almost like a focus on one or two fabrics. What materials have you been into lately?

Latta: Lately we’ve been using a lot of materials that we’ve used in the past but in a completely new way. We used to be so excited about something that we were kind of ADD about it, and would just drop it before we completely realized what we could do. We’re also working with a palette this season thats really tight and strong, but is more dynamic color than we’ve used in the past.

Eckhaus: We’re also using more materials than we’ve ever used.

Do you guys have any literary or musical influences?

Latta: Definitely, but I think we both think that once a mood or sensation is coined, we kind of run. If we have words for it [an influence] other than just that it’s a visceral sensation, we usually drop it.

Eckhaus: I feel like collections are very often thematically structured.

Latta: And that’s necessary when you have a big team.

Eckhaus: If you have a big team you have to relay that information to everyone. But it’s just us, and then some interns, and then at the show, hair, makeup people and a stylist. For us it’s a very intimate dialogue.

Latta: We’re using words less and less.

Eckhaus: And we’re shying away from visual reference as a starting point, even more than we have in the past. We joke that we’re kind of tumbling but without any images.

Latta: Since the end product is a tangible thing, all the ideas that we have are dots that we throw out, and when we make the collection, we're connecting them. What’s so crazy about fashion is that you see the collection for the first time when everyone else does. We were just joking around that every season we have a female ballad that we play on loop when working, and we were just recapping each season and what that ballad was. This season we're discovering that . . .

Eckhaus: It’s a Mariah song.

Latta: H.A.T.E. U. We’re always like “Can we listen to it again?” The first collection was Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”—I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a song that many times.

Eckhaus: We play it on loop. It becomes this droning trance.

Is Eckhaus Latta full time?

Latta: I have two other jobs. I work for other companies doing their print direction, and I teach at RISD.

Eckhaus: I’m doing this full time right now, holding down the fort. I want a teaching job. I don’t know what I would teach though.

That reminds me, how did you guys get the skill sets you needed since neither of you studied fashion at school? Do you think that this effects the way you work?

Latta: We both did textile stuff at RISD. I was in printmaking and then I went into textiles. Mike also took a pattern making class at FIT.

Eckhaus: Yeah, I took a night class at FIT, it was helpful for certain foundation. I don’t have the time but I should educate myself more. A lot of things are just us figuring it out as we go along.

Latta: Our first collection we hardly used the sewing machine. A lot of stuff was finished with hand sewing because we didn’t know any other options. But through making those mistakes it’s relieving to have learning be an answer to a problem. We’re both really applied learners and can learn quickly if we need to solve something.

Eckhaus: We started working with production facilities to make the clothes for retail and stuff. If we did absolutely everything by hand we would have to be on speed or something. Our lives would be horrible. All development is done by us. We do all of the patterning and the initial samples, and all the knits are done in house. One day it would be nice to have like, a pattern maker, and those types of resources, but right now its just us exploring. I also feel so much understanding to what we’re doing because yes, you can sketch something, but the act of actually making completely reshapes what you’re doing.

Latta: A lot of the time we'll sketch something and show each other and think we completely understand what the other person is set out to do but then halfway through well get tired of it or think it's wrong and stop what we're doing, but one hundred percent of the time, it's a conversation. RISD gave us that skillset of problem solving, regardless of the problem.

Eckhaus: A lot that came out of our education at RISD. It was that if some sort of problem arises or there’s something you want to do, you’re going to figure out how to do it.

Latta: We said yesterday that our collection is like, birds vomiting in each other's mouths. Like both vomiting on the floor and sorting what’s nourishing.

Do you have anyone helping you with the business side of things?

Eckhaus: That’s definitely the biggest learning curve.

Latta: I mean, the first two seasons we were making invoices with the brush tool in Photoshop.

Eckhaus: Don’t ever do any paperwork in Photoshop.

@walterpearce

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