a love letter to bode
(and maybe a review of her SS20 collection)
Talk to the people that know me and you’ll quickly learn that my wardrobe is a smorgasbord of off-kilter designs from Japanese, American, and British designers. Internet strangers are quick to make interesting comments when I release my ensembles into the vast, eternal plane called the internet. Alas, I cannot please everyone so I’ve made it my personal mission to buck the notion of wearability and embrace my own interpretation of organized chaos. If there is one designer that I’ve followed intently since her namesake brand’s inception, it is Emily Bode of New York City. I might sound like another droning follower when I call her pieces works of art. But it’s true! You have to look at her pieces up close and feel how much love and soul she puts into each one of them. It’s something of a relic of the past: cozy, warm, and familiar. These are three things that I, a Cancer sun, am drawn to. But before my gushing of Bode’s designs start to sound incomprehensible, I must quickly talk about the Northeast.
I went to a small liberal arts college in Connecticut. I think I remember choosing Wesleyan simply because of its name and that it had been founded in 1831. The name conjured images of fall foliage, crisp wintry winds, and overgrown ivy on original university buildings. These were naive daydreams I held close, as one-by-one my high school friends departed for their respective academic institutions. So when my time came and my dad and I were in the process of unloading our rental car, I quickly learned that the lush, forested state was somewhat akin to Dorothy’s magical land of Oz that barely resembled her cozy Kansas home. The foreignness of my new habitat: overgrown trees, abandoned (sometimes haunted) homes, cemeteries, and running rivers came as a shock. This place was hauntingly beautiful but unlike anything I had ever seen. It was my home for the next four years. So being the Cancer that I am, I strived to make my life as cozy as it could be.
Emily Bode, on the other hand, has been stomping around New England for much of her life. Her brand of comfort really shines through her social media posts: candle-lit dinner parties, summer-time lobster rolls on the cape, and scarves layered upon barn coats in the winter. It’s like that fluffy blanket that my parents got me when I was born and they still keep it around the house when I visit them.
She doesn’t get caught up in the social media trap like some of her other peers, she just lives as she has always lived. That is refreshing and inspiring in this day and age. Having lived in California for four years since my graduation, I long for the changing seasons and the unique challenges each one brings. I envy how my friends in New York can experience those climates every couple of months (okay, let’s not make summertime on the East Coast a thing, especially July to August in New York City). In her pieces, I have reconnected with my personal history...those stories that I left behind in Connecticut. When I purchased one of her quilted coats from Grailed, I not only formally initiated myself into Tavis + Sarah’s secret Bode club, but I held onto something that I knew I would hold on and maybe one day pass onto my children. Oh! I completely forgot that I was supposed to talk about her debut show at PFW.
Emily Bode’s first runway show garnered quite a lot of attention. The grandiose act of showing a collection at Paris Fashion Week can be likened to what I’d call a “debut” in the Philippines: an adolescent woman comes out as a lady of society by celebrating her 18th birthday with her closest family and relatives in a grand celebration. But... there was magic infused in her debut. I normally wait for Vogue’s convenient recaps of current runway shows because I feel for all those editors, influencers, and what-have-you who have to sit through a show and have to walk out with minor neck tightness from that punk show whiplash. To that, Emily said “Heck No!” and asked her models to walk slowly. Can’t we have more of that in the fashion industry? Intentional—no, meditative—consumption. I imagine the front rowers were hastily scrolling through their phones updating their followers on how awkward it was to stare at the folks opposite of them with each model elapsing 30 seconds down the hall until the next one could offer reprieve.
Not only that, but Emily Bode infused her kooky designs into familiar silhouettes such as varsity sweaters, jumpsuits, welding jackets, and matching sets. In fact, this collection was inspired by the circus - I believe she traced her lineage back to her great-grandfather’s great great uncle who was a famed owner of the Bode Wagon Company. It was evident that she meticulously researched her source material and presented a buffet of mouth-watering pieces that are making me question why I purchased a motorcycle.
And the topping on the cake? Her models all wore ballet flats. Side-note: Dries Van Noten’s models also donned ballet flats. I wish I had been there to scream “Thank god that’s the end of chunky dad shoes” in the current fashion zeitgeist. The beauty in Bode’s debut collection was in the familiarity of it. You didn’t even have to consider purchasing them, but you’re reminded of the days when people had fewer, better things. Things that had infinite stories through their wear marks. Maybe, people can re-evaluate and hold onto their things more. Because “Why did you purchase it in the first place?” is the first question I always ask myself when I get bored with what I own.
Coming full circle, we are all witnesses to Emily Bode’s astronomical rise to notoriety in the menswear design scene. She just took home the CFDA’s Emerging Designer of the Year award and shows no signs of slowing down. There will always be a new theme, new fabrics, and new silhouettes to experiment with, but I highly doubt that she will ever stray from her approach to design. She has demonstrated that history and intention matter. The proliferation of online shopping has made keeping up with the Joneses so much easier. Amidst all the voices and fashion riffraff, Emily Bode has successfully provided something intangible for me. Something to believe...which is best sung by one of my favorite musicians: Weyes Blood. It’s similar to looking at our own reflection in the mirror. The wear and tear of life will undoubtedly leave its marks, but the beauty that resides in you is like an undiscovered quilt from the 1960s: just waiting to have new life breathed into it and to be shared with others as a joy-sparker.