Amanda Blake, Designer, Calder Blake
Amanda Blake has an insatiable drive to create beautiful, simple things from quality materials. Taking note of artists and designers who work with the spirit of an object, Amanda has built Calder Blake, her line of elevated basics, on the ethos of transformation. Today this multifaceted mama talks to Lisa Says Gah about finding the perfect blend of confidence and experience to start your own business. We visited Amanda in her new Los Angeles brick and mortar shop! Enjoy!
LSG: Hi Amanda! Thanks for having us! Let's jump into it! What has your career path looked like? Tell us about the inspiration behind pioneering Calder Blake?
When I was 17 years old I went to Parsons School of Design in New York City for Fashion Design. My career path has been pretty straight forward, I went to school for fashion design and have designed for many houses since I graduated. I’m from the East Coast and began my career in NYC. At the end of 2001, I wanted to shake things up for myself, so I packed myself up in a U-haul van and drove across the country to Los Angeles. I had never lived anywhere other than the East Coast, and I never thought I would be in LA for more than a year - it will be 14 years this November!
When I landed in LA I met Joie Rucker who had just launched her line “Joie” and we hit it off right away. For the next 3 years, I was her right hand. After this, I started becoming a “go to person” for launching brands, and also did consulting on refreshing established brands. When I decided to start a family, I took a break from design, in the formal sense, and took the time to enjoy being a mama to my daughter Calder.
The culmination of new-found strength I felt in being a mama, and the experience I had launching brands for other people pushed me into starting my Calder Blake. My experience with Joie is a big part of what gave me the “chops” to go out on my own. I’m a big believer in following your gut and mine was saying that it was time to launch something of my own.
I felt the market's lack of elevated knits, and I had something to say about it. I created straightforward basics with special subtle details that wash and wear well giving them the ability to live in your wardrobe season after season. When women responded positively to what I started to put out there, I knew I made the right decision.
LSG: We know there's a cute story behind it, can you tell us more about the name of your company?
When I started designing again, I was in my studio and happened to be writing my daughter’s name out and thought to myself, "hmmm… that would look nice on a label and would work well for a multifaceted brand." I decided to get some labels made up with the thought that if I scrapped the idea I could always sew them in my daughter’s clothes. I also felt that the experience of giving birth to my daughter gave me a new found confidence that inspired me. It was a transformative time for me and deciding on the name was a very organic process.
LSG: You live in Venice, how does your environment and community influence Calder?
I have lived in many areas in Los Angeles, but yes, the Westside beach communities have been the best for me. Living in that area is a constant reminder to strive for work/ life balance. Having the ocean and mountains so close allows me space to explore and I feel inspired. I need that. In Los Angeles, you spend so much time in the car but being in Venice, I can keep up my love of walking and biking. As for the community, I have found a wonderful circle of friends from all over the world, working in all different creative fields that inspire me on a day to day basis. Surfers, musicians, sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, designers, all with a very metropolitan edge softened by the California ease and sunshine.
LSG: Who is the woman who wears Calder Blake?
Calder is for a woman who is comfortable in her skin. She is smart, loves all things natural, strives for simplicity and has a discerning eye for beautiful design. She likes to feel laid back yet polished. I never have one muse in mind; I combine the best elements of many different strong and multifaceted worldly women for inspiration.
LSG: How do the materials you choose inform your work?
The materials are the foundation of the design. I always like to keep the motto "form follows function" in mind. For me, a fabric has to be natural and mostly made of cotton, all of my materials are made in the USA and the character of how they drape and wear dictates the design. There is just something so special about the entire process of my clothing - it's knitted, dyed, designed, cut, sewn so close to me. I am always inspired by the craftsman that work with the materials and their surroundings. I like to work with those limitations allowing that process to be part of the final look.
LSG: As an independent business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a fashion company?
Be smart, but take the jump. Lean on your community and be kind and appreciative to all who help you along the way. Smart partnerships with those involved in your business are the backbone of success and the key to getting off the ground. Lastly, surround yourself with family and friends that tell you “Keep going! We love it!”
LSG: What skills would you recommend mastering before becoming your own boss?
When you are your boss, you are everything from the Designer to the CEO, CFO, shipping, customer service, housekeeper, hostess, etc. Soak in all things that you strive to do and find a way to apprentice so you know first hand know what it all entails. The key things to master are the areas that scare you the most…once you tackle those, you will find the confidence you need. And lastly, patience and resilience – it will take longer to get off the ground than you think so have patience and determination to stay the course.
LSG: What's on your bucket list?!?
There is way too much to list! But lately I've been fantasizing about pulling my daughters out of school and traveling around the world with them for a year when they are teenagers. If the year turns into more, we can just keep going!!