The Fashion Folk S01 ep17 : Dana Buchman, Buchman Fashion, [New York]
Interview with Dana Buchman
In 1976 I remember being down on 7th Avenue and looking up at the skyscrapers and thinking how do I get in. I had never really had a real job in the fashion industry and there are unwritten rules that I did not know - this was hippy times and I remember coming to work in hiking boots with a rag wrapped around my head and I don't want to tell you the name of the company but it is a very respectable company still working and it was like "Oh my God" ...
Dana Buchman is a collection of clothing for real women, women like me, they
don't look like me but they live like me. They might be a mother, they have a
career, they might not have a career, they are involved in charity work - active,
regular women. Not runways, not 18 year olds.
KM: In the couture sense in terms of the fashion world how would you
Well, America doesn't really call it pret-a-porter. We have no couture here but this
is sort of as far from couture as you can get. What it has in common with couture
it has beautiful quality. This is not fine art, it is not runway sculpture, it is not
entertainment for fashion magazines. It is clothes that regular women who run
business who run families want to put on and wear.
It is different from couture, because with couture you have the perfect hand, you
have the most beautiful fabrics in the world and money is no object and you are
designing for the individual person. What I am trying to do is design for almost an
I work with a team of designers but the aesthetics come from me, so that is where
the consistency and the vision is the same and that is why I don't do dominatrix
outfits and I don't do gypsy
KM: Wow really?
I would like to actually as a sideline, maybe a diffusion label.
KM: I saw the leather pants.
You can tell...
KM: I thought I can see you with a cat of nine tails.
KM: Why Fashion?
It started when I was eleven years old and my father took me to Sears
Roebuck in Memphis Tennessee to buy a sewing machine.
KM: So you wanted to
...it is visual, it is artistic but it is not as intimidating as fine art - I am not making
art I am just making clothes. So this was the 60's and the style was very simple -
shift dresses - I know you weren't around then. Mary Quant kind of very
sculptural, I sewed a lot of shift dresses in my time.
I went to Brown University and studied Victorian Literature and loved it for 4
KM: Victorian Literature?
English Literature actually.
I went to Rhode Island school and designed for a year and then I went to St.
Martins in England
KM: In England, what years were these?
KM: But why St. Martins then?
My brother is a sculptor and he knew of St. Martins having such a fine reputation
in the art world and then I thought it would be fun to be in England.
Sandra Rhodes and Bruce Oldfield were the big London designers; I think
Vivienne Westwood was cooking around.
KM: Yes of course.
Sloan Street was happening and what was great about St. Martins was that they
were practical and they said - You have to learn to draw. But that was the only
practical thing and everything else was totally based on art. We would go to the
Victoria and Albert Museum, we would do projects based on porcelain vases or
motorcycle wear, dominatrix wear
KM Yes, I knew that it had to be somewhere.
It was there
KM: If you have been to London that was it, you realize now I know your real
Well when I moved back to New York and started to go to the mud club that is
when it really....
KM: the Mud Club?
I had my punk rock stage too.
KM: Get out of here, are you serious?
Yeah, you probably weren't around then
KM: Gee Dana stop doing that to me, I feel so young now. Can you change my
nappy? And it is leather I can assure you.
And then in 1976 I got my first job in New York and I remember it being down on
7th Avenue out there and looking up at the skyscrapers and thinking how do I get
in. I had never really had a real job in the industry like the fashion industry and
there are unwritten rules that I did not know - this was hippy times and I
remember coming to work on 7th Avenue in hiking boots with a rag wrapped
around my head and I don't want to tell you the name of the company but it is a
very respectable company still working and it was like "Oh my God"
KM: You're kidding?
But they cut me a break, the designer was a woman who I guess remembered
being in my shoes and after about 6 months I picked up how you should behave.
I was hired to make patterns. I didn't know how to make, I mean I kind of knew
what they looked like and the sample rooms there and the sample room has a life
of its own. Women from all over the world have been sewing together for years
and a new comer comes in with the rag on the head and the hiking boots and my
first pattern, one of my first, was a pleated skirt - you know knife pleat, a million
pleats. It took the sample maker a whole day to sew it and when she finished it,
she held it up and it was that big in the hips and she knew I had made the pattern
wrong and taken too much seam allowance and the skirt didn't fit and she wasted
here whole day deliberately.
KM: Just to give you the willies.
KM: Just to show you ...
Just to show me how little I knew.
KM What is the difference between a jacket that is utility
KM: and sex goddess??
OK Here is what the difference is. My jacket is designed to fit a woman who could
be anywhere, from 25 yrs to whatever, and she could be any size from a 2 petite
to a bigger sized person. Whereas some of my friends in the higher, what is called
high fashion, only design for size 2. Where some manufacturers I am a 2 in my
clothes, but it would be like a 14 for them. They don't really acknowledge that
women have curves, women have different stances, women can be older, women
don't have perfect skin.
KM: Today's concept of beauty is obviously very different to the time of Botticelli
and all these sorts of people
And it is very narrow.
KM: Well this is why...
It is to the point of "snoring". I find that I am not interested.
KM: Well this is the thing that kills me, why and how did we get, and this has only
been the last say 20 years, the notion of models today are very angular, very thin,
and yet the concept of a Marilyn Monroe for example, was totally opposite to that.
It was opposite, but it was also very narrow. It meant none of these model
concept has ever been very broad, It changes. I remember when I was in High
School I was "Twiggy" and I liked that, 'cause she and I had a lot in common at
the time, but it is always been very narrow and I think what has happened is now
with the monoliths of advertising it is just.... you never see images of anyone who
is not that, all the models and actors in Hollywood, the female actors want to be
that, they try to be that. There is no variety, there are no hooked noses, there are
no gaunt cheeks.. no
KM: But this is the thing...
there are no really full figures.
No body works in a vacuum in any area, and especially fashion where the global
marketing and the Internet and the news - we are one world definitely. But what
has changed when I first came to the fashion industry there was much more of
looking up to the more expensive designers and having it filter down and now it is
more like a level playing field and of course I pay attention to what goes on at the
shows. Sometimes for a fashion don't as much as much as a fashion do. But also
have to pay attention to what is happening on the streets, the kids, even my
daughters who are 13 and 15 - a lot of things are bubbling up from them up to the
big designers as well. In fact some of the most famous designers with the most
outlandish runway shows I think it has kind of spun out of relevance on any front. I
mean it is more spectacle.
It has almost left the world of fashion.
KM: Do you still hang out with some fashion people? I mean do you bump into
Oh yes I do, I have a few fashion people, there is not really that many people in
the fashion industry and you are always hearing "Oh she went there!" " Oh my
God that ..." It is like ... the whole American Fashion industry is like in this two
This building there are four others – so yes definitely I have friends but I have
never been on the big PR circuit and the whole... I am not part of the "in" crowd.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Dana Buchman, Buchman Fashion, New York