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How Teen Vogue’s Generation Next Finalists Femail Forever Are Changing Fashion

It’s for all these reasons and more that Femail has been chosen as one of five brands to participate in Teen Vogue’s first-ever Generation Next, a mentorship initiative to identify and champion voices meant to push the fashion industry forward.

Below, Teen Vogue speaks with Camilla and Janelle about their vision and the future of the Femail brand — used gym socks and all.

Editor’s note: This interview has been condensed for clarity and brevity.

TV: How did you start Femail?

C.C.: After graduating, Janelle and I started a pen-pal correspondence to stay in touch. We quickly decided to add art into the mix with our letter writing. We started with collages and it naturally progressed into making clothing. After making a small body of work we remembered the name Femail. This was the name of a collective that Janelle had started in school that never really caught on. Femail was the perfect name for our mail-based art practice. It almost felt destined. We showed our first set of garments and collages at an [experimental] art gallery in Oakland, California called B4beL4b that I used to work in. A year or so later our friend Ty saw our work and thought we should turn the project into a clothing brand. So we started to hustle a little bit in the fashion world and found a community to interact with the objects we had made.

J.A.: Technically, Femail started in 2011—the first iteration of Femail at least. I was working at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in the Cotton Candy Cove during the summer of 2011 and my coworker and I needed to call our boss for some reason. My phone was dead so he handed me his, and when I found our boss’ number it was listed under “femail boss”; so not only did he not know her name, but he didn’t know how to spell female correctly. When I went back to school that fall, I rounded up a group of five or so of my friends and tried to organize an art collective where we would each add onto a piece of art while it was in our possession then pass it onto the next collaborator. It didn’t work out because not everyone was invested — except Camilla. Camilla was the only one who after graduation was game to continue to pursue this concept. Our Femail correspondence began as a series of 8.5 X 11 collages that we mailed back and forth in the same envelope for almost two years. But in early 2013, I made a series of oversize jumpsuits by sewing large, button-down, collared shirts together with equally large pants and sent those down to Camilla so they could adjust them and send them back. So both the clothing collages and paper collages were passed back and forth up to 15 times until we had our first show.

TV: What was the first piece of clothing you designed together? Tell me a bit about the process.

C.C.: The first clothing items we made together was a series of jumpsuits. They all started with some suits Janelle had made. She took a bunch of large, button-down shirts and found pants that had a waist width that matched the width of the shirts’ bottoms and sewed the two garments together to make one garment. Each garment had a different patterned textile, and within this collection my immediate reaction to Janelle’s work derived from the textiles used. It is always a balancing act. We keep passing things, evening out each other’s work, whether that be with silhouette, color, texture or imagery.

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