Sterling Ruby Weighs In on His Fashion Week Film, Building a Brand, and His ‘More Fears Than Hopes’ for the U.S.A.

What do you see as the benefits of participating in an organized Fashion Week and speaking to the fashion world?

I see the fashion world as somewhat parallel to the art world. This isn’t a complete or definitive statement, of course. Both art and fashion have hollow, empty aspects, but they also share brilliant, thoughtful moments. Some of my best friends operate within fashion, and more often than not, our interests and projects run through both worlds—conceptually, formally, politically, etc. As I continue to make work between genres, increasingly it’s about deciding what medium best serves the current iteration of an idea and how to maintain a sense of fluidity through these areas. Participating in an organized Fashion Week is an opportunity to commit to a specific context, one that is tied to wearability and the body. I appreciate the sense of occasion—it’s a moment for many different designers to make a statement at once.

When did you make the piece shown in the video? What are some of the processes used to create it?

I have been exploring the form and meaning of flags in my artwork for over 15 years. These motifs have appeared in collages, soft sculptures, paintings, and textile works. This wearable version, Veil Flag, was developed over the past month—cut and sewn in house and treated at our trusted local washhouse. In regard to the production of the film, I shot it last week with my iPhone in the back lot of my studio and worked with my editor to bring all of the elements together.  

You’ve operated your fashion collection for more than one year. What have you learned about both yourself and about fashion in this past year?

It’s difficult—I sometimes think that we are a brand in name only.  Our distribution is small and most successful with our niche stores. A large portion of our garments is produced in the studio, and the factories that we work with do so out of wanting to facilitate and participate in something creative, not because we give them big volumes of work. That’s really my challenge—to be able to create something that keeps the feeling of the studio but can be made more commercial.  With this comes broader distribution and greater accessibility. That being said, I am continually surprised by how we manage with so few people and on such a small budget to make what we make and to do what we do.

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