First published by T Magazine on 3 October 2016
“What I’m really interested in is actually being defiant,” says Amy Revier, a Texan artist who has made north London her home for the last five years. She is sitting by a rack of the muted clothes that she weaves by hand, at the London concept store Hostem — and yet, she doesn’t see herself as a fashion designer at all.
Revier’s coats, jackets and skirts — in a palette predominantly of cream, blue, charcoal and black — are woven from a host of unconventional yarns, which she orders from Japan. “What I’m looking for is sculptural building material,” she says. The garments in stock right now (she doesn’t care for the tradition of dividing clothing into seasonal collections) are made of fine stainless steel, paper and bamboo, as well as silk and wool. The results are surprising, but still very wearable: her bamboo coat feels light and neatly structured, while a heavy coat woven from cypress bark and wool is engulfing. She tries on a gauzy, stainless-steel jacket over her own crisp white tunic, and demonstrates how the fabric can be manipulated in the hand.
Revier grew up on her grandfather’s ranch in Dallas, where she and her entrepreneur parents were always makers, she says. After studying art and art history near home, she won a Fulbright fellowship that took her to Iceland. There, she worked on sculpture, performance and video, but “kept weaving in my back pocket”: Her ideas focused on cocoons and hibernation places, and often featured her own handmade textiles. When her grant came to an end, she and her partner, the American philosopher Clayton Littlejohn, moved to London and set up their home and her studio in Hampstead. “We both had this idea: ‘Let’s not move back to the States ever, if we can help it,’” she says, with a laugh.
In early 2013, she began to make garments because she wanted to give life to the textiles — “I had to make a decision within myself to say, ‘Just leap into it and make these things for the body and see how it works, but think in a sculptural way,’” she says. Every piece is entirely unique; they are “one size fits most,” and although she originally made them as women’s wear, she soon found that men were buying them, too.
For Revier, the time and work that goes into the materials imbues the clothes with meaning. Her process is slow and deliberate: Even threading her loom before she begins is a contemplative ritual. As she weaves, she thinks about comfort and protection: “After that, I look at the textile as a sort of remnant of this thing that’s happened.” She works with two tailors to transform the material into clothing, but keeps the shapes simple and the interventions to a minimum. “These things don’t need a lot added to them, and when you cut into a textile it’s very invasive,” she says. “There’s so much clothing in the world, that the last thing I need to do is make something that’s sort of harnessed, like a normal coat.”
Hostem, her exclusive stockist (though she also works with private clients), treats her as an exhibiting artist rather than a commercial supplier: She delivers her work to the store as and when it is ready, and makes her own decisions about what to produce. “You can’t guarantee these things — each one is so unpredictable,” she explains. “It is a blind process until it’s ready.” Over the next few years, she intends to play with other forms again, perhaps incorporating the garments into performance or sculptural work. Her plan is not so much to expand, but rather to go deeper into the process. “I might even make less,” she says thoughtfully, “but make them more … just exquisite.”