October 27, 2016
Love Stories - Saya Russell
Where do you reside?
Design Assistant at Clare V.
You were born in Tokyo. Would you ever consider living in Tokyo?
Definitely, I’d love to. Japan feels kind of like this uncanny, alien home to me whenever I go back. I feel both deeply comfortable and consumed with wonder when I’m there. I’ve spent some time in the village of Omori-cho in Shimane Prefecture, where the community is working to bring a more traditional, slow culture back to everyday life. They are doing things like restoring old buildings, creating goods using more traditional techniques, and enjoying hours-long meals prepared with time and care. I love the juxtaposition of areas like this versus Tokyo, which has such an accelerated, electric atmosphere. Does Japanese aesthetics play some role in how you approach design?
Not consciously, but I have noticed myself drawn to Japanese design more and more over the years. I love the humble attention to detail and appreciation of nature that is steeped in Japanese daily life and aesthetics. I definitely believe in finding beauty in imperfection and approaching everything from a place of authenticity and mindfulness, which is part of the wabi-sabi philosophy. I think that you can, of course, find these concepts and actualizations in all parts of the world, but I am probably especially drawn to the Japanese aesthetic because I was raised around it.
You grew up in between very varied cultures, is this something that has molded your nature?
For sure, you take a little bit from everywhere you go. I mostly grew up in New Jersey and that is definitely a huge part of my identity. I have so much love for New Jersey and New York, where my brother and some of my best friends live now. However, moving around before and afterwards makes me love how different we all are in that we all have such varied life experiences. Inversely, it makes me crazy when people speak or act in ways that are intolerant, close-minded, or controlling. It’s interesting how the world shrinks as you get older and politics become so much more personal.What do you love about living and working in LA?
I love the diversity of LA and the ease of living. It’s amazing how LA has so many ethnic communities — and not just a couple-blocks here and there but vast regions where you feel a real sense of ethnic pride and community (accordingly, so much great food!). I love how I had a glossy, “Hollywood” image of LA before I moved here and how the city has proven to be so unpretentious and so rewarding to everyone I know with drive and a creative vision. And then, of course, the weather is great and I love driving around with friends and listening to music in the car.
What has been inspiring you recently?
Friends working on inspiring projects; really long walks; “The Keeper” exhibition at the New Museum; a visit to Tail of the Yak in Berkeley; the Walter Van Beirendonck for Ikea rugs; decorating my new apartment.You have a beautiful collection of baskets, and other curios. Is this reference for your design process?
Thanks! I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder of tchotchkes and decorative things. I especially love the craftsmanship and practicality of baskets. I just got a wicker teapot on Etsy that I am kind of in love with, although I guess that one isn’t actually practical. At Clare V., I work more on the technical side of the design process (mocking-up bags, organizing information on the linesheets, laying out the lookbooks, etc.), so I’m not necessarily a part of the bag design process, although I try to contribute to the conversation. I mostly just love objects. My friend Dana and I are working on an online reliquary-of-sorts called These Favorite Things, where we collect stories about the objects that we love and our friends love.
Where do you tend to source?
I’m constantly trolling Etsy and Pinterest — dozens of tabs open, each one spawning exponentially more tabs. Beyond that, I window-shop around LA a lot and like to go to flea markets.
Always more than one book at a time. Currently: Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”, Oliver Sacks’ “Hallucinations” and R. Jay Magill’s “Sincerity.” I recently read Daniel Clowes’ latest graphic novel, “Patience” in one sitting. It really stuck in my head.
It's so hard for me to pick favorites for anything. A couple artists sitting on the top of my head are Mayumi Oda, Mogu Takahashi, Claude Viallat, Ik-Joong Kang, Ray Johnson, Jim Nutt, and David Hockney. At Clare V. we are researching Georgia O’Keeffe for our Pre-Fall ’17 collection, and it has been lovely looking through her watercolors and the photographs of her Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu homes. I also just saw a Ken Price drawings exhibition over the weekend, which made me really happy.
Delicate or costume jewelry? Artisan or fashion?
I love it all. I tend to gravitate toward things that are visually louder, but I do love delicate jewelry with a twist. My grandma, Fumi, was a jewelry designer, so I grew up looking through her incredible and extensive collection of beads and necklaces. I want to learn how to macramé like she did so that I can string the many necklaces, which she arranged but never finished. What qualities do you aim for in your design process?
I try to consider the given thing as both very universal (how would this look on the friend with minimal style, the friend with crazy style, and the random person driving by? Is it timeless? Can it be worn by all ages and genders and why or why not?) And as very specific (what makes this thing interesting and different? Why would I want this over something that already exists in the world?) If something is too clean, I want to mess it up and vice versa.
Is it personal, are you thinking about a market, or both?
It’s always personal, for sure, because at the end of the day you want to create something that resonates with your own tastes. But it is fun and challenging to channel your sensibilities into the world of whomever you’re working with. I’m constantly consuming and trying to understand as many visual styles as possible. It’s kind of mind-melting to me when someone is able to commit to one style their entire life.Gold or silver?
Any family heirlooms?
My grandma’s necklaces. They are beautiful and full of love.