As shoppers put more and more emphasis on the rare and unique, designers are tasked with truly surprising people—making them feel the excitement of a new discovery. That’s exactly the feeling we get from L.A.-based LONGJOURNEY, which debuted at Barneys New York for Spring 2015. Designers Alex Carapetian and Alonzo Ester launched the label in 2012 with a vision to create relevant, modern silhouettes using vintage fabrics. The result is highly wearable urban sportswear mixed with unexpected elements like patchwork, paneling, and dyeing—all executed with control and purpose.
“People don’t even need to know it’s made from vintage; the idea is just that someone will fall in love with a piece, and it will become their favorite,” explains Ester. And while people may see the pieces for the beautiful creations that they are, we can’t help but be swept up in the whole picture of Carapetian and Ester’s highly creative world. We visited their “very, very downtown” L.A. studio to learn more about their eclectic inspirations and singular process.
What is the LONGJOURNEY vision? Has it evolved in the two years since you launched?
Alonzo Ester: Despite being young in the process, the initial vision is still in place, and we’ll always return to that. The vision was to find a way to work with vintage garments and textiles in a way that we hadn’t seen. We stay true to creating this mixture of worlds—both new and old, high end and everyday.
Have you always been into vintage? What do you love about it?
Alex Carapetian: Yeah, I always have. There’s something about the wear, wash, and fit that can’t be replicated.
AE: I got a lot of exposure to vintage through previous projects I have done, and a strong appreciation developed. After years of learning how to source the garments and materials, a new question emerged: how to marry a love for vintage with a love for modern design. This began the journey of experimenting in an organic way, which eventually brought LONGJOURNEY to life.
Where do you source the vintage fabrics and textiles that you use in your collections?
AE: We mainly source in Los Angeles, where all the production is done. We’re sourcing all the time, so if something doesn’t work one season, it may be the spark for what happens next. When we see something that has potential, we’ll always check to see if there’s a large enough number to be able to go back and actually produce it for a collection.
Tell us about the process for creating the LONGJOURNEY pieces—is each piece different?
AC: First, we develop the overall concept for the season. The inspiration comes in various ways: a textile or fabric, a vintage garment, a book, or even an interesting person walking down the street. Simultaneously, we are researching treatments. We review our collection of materials, which we’re always saving and storing from our leftover scraps and trimmings. We try to recycle and repurpose as much as possible. Once we work out each style, we decide on the components that work best for the season. At some point in the process of selecting the vintage garment to deconstructing it and reassembling it, we touch every piece in the collection. Each piece within a style is both the same in terms of style and fit, but also very different with a uniqueness that shines.
How does L.A. influence the designs and the brand?
AC: It’s home. LONGJOURNEY, Alonzo and I are based here. We appreciate the lifestyle very much. There is a comfort, ease and relaxed quality mixed with a cool elegance. We hope Longjourney has some of these qualities too. The light and weather are bonuses.
AE: At the same time, we hope the brand is influenced by all the experiences and amazing places we have seen. It’s of this place—L.A.—and of many places.
Tell us about the inspiration for Spring/Summer 2015 collection.
AC: The inspiration came from a photography book we found called Rafts [by Marcia Morgado] with strong imagery of patchwork rafts. Water is another strong element in the book and inspired the color choice in using all tones of blue, which lead the indigo.
AE: The concept of rafts, as a point of inspiration, has multiple meanings to the collection and to LONGJOURNEY. The rugged ocean travel can be a metaphor for the ups and downs of bringing an idea to life and developing a new business. Rafts are a vessel used for transport. And right now this brand is one of our vessels for creative transport. The actual rafts are incredible—the mixing and repurposing of materials constructed from found elements. Creating something new from discarded items is definitely at the core of LONGJOURNEY.
Did you use any new techniques for this collection?
AC: We expanded our use of indigo in this collection. About 90% off the materials we used have been indigo dyed by hand. We brought in a shibori circle technique to create one of our tank tops; it’s a treatment where you tie off a certain portion of a garment and dye the rest by hand. Once it dries, you remove the tie and that portion has a pattern from where it resisted the dye. It’s our form of a graphic.
What’s your favorite thing about doing LONGJOURNEY?
AC: No matter how much we plan, there’s always a bit of freestlying that goes on since no two pieces are ever the same.