Although Bode founder Emily Adams Bode Aujla has now designed her first womenswear line (debuting Saturday at the menswear shows in Paris), it’s not the first time she’s designed womenswear. Those studying Bode’s short but wildly successful history will note that Emily and her roommate routinely designed their own outfits for the upcoming weekend while in school—simultaneously studying fashion at Parsons School of Design and philosophy at Eugene Lang College. “We’d stay up late on Fridays and make a crushed velvet skirt or something,” Emily remembers. Making women’s clothing, it seems, was not so much a challenge as a natural occurrence. “It just came so naturally to me that it didn’t inspire me that much.”
Other factors also guided her early direction: At Parsons, after one design assignment (“Astronauts, maybe?”), a professor suggested she had a flair for menswear. And then there is the prevailing teaching about fashion at the time (and women’s fashion in particular), which may have emphasized design over material. Emily, however, was fascinated by fabrics and fabrics, particularly textiles that were less inventive than historically pragmatic—textiles that were worn people, or many people. “I was more obsessed,” she says, “with something steeped in history and coming from someone’s closet.”
It all led to that day in 2016 when Emily made her first fit pattern for Bode, reshaping a favorite vintage quilt top into high-waisted pants, kicking off what has become her trademark game-changer: clothes that supposedly for men, although practically for any body. In our hyper-charged culture, Bode’s pieces stand out for their quiet politics, for drawing their energy from the thrill of a bargain—and, in a largely virtual world, for the charge of the handmade. Her first menswear show, in a loft in Tribeca, evoked deep emotions, with pieces that managed to deeply reflect the loss of the old family home. “My theory is that if you have an emotional connection to something, other people will too,” she says.
Now, seven years later, she has finally arrived with what her fans have been waiting for: dresses and skirts, silk tops and her version of underwear. There’s everything from a fitted floor-length dress studded with emerald green sequins to a berry-patterned chiffon day dress, loose and light, from a summer picnic in the past. Cardigans are like Bode in their quiet, complicated textures and patterns, colors that seem straight out of a 1970s movie: olives and browns and strong reds. There are bolero jackets, blazers and a black satin camisole, buttoned and fitted. On a sheer dress, beaded flowers flow along vines; the slanted window dress is accented with frills and fringes. Like Bode mens, these are not rehashed old pieces – they are excellent ideas reimagined for the present, in fabrics that communicate different pasts.
LA-based singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams—her debut album, Good afternoon, comes out this month—she was among the first people to not only see, but experience the new women’s line when Bode asked her to sit down for the shoot. “There’s such a confidence, a certainty and a stillness in Emily’s pieces,” says Abrams, who was already a fan of Bode. When the singer met the designer, Emily didn’t talk so much about fashion as about life. “She gave me a history lesson about the women in her family,” Abrams says. Then she tried things on. “When I saw and felt the clothes, they really are…and the woman I want to be – in dressing.”