Area Studio: The Fabric-Free Fashion Label

The Area NYC studio is a corner space on Canal Street. Draft patterns are hung up along the majority of the walls and the floor to ceiling windows illuminate the room with a pristine glow.

“We found this space on Craigslist,” Piotrek Panszczyk informs me. “We’re very lucky.”

‘Lucky’ seems a little discrediting to the hard work the designers have invested. Panszczyk, together with Beckett Fogg, have moved quickly from their days as MFA students at Parsons. After Fogg’s brief foray at Calvin Klein, the two launched Area in 2013. In the short amount of time since the designers have excelled, they have recently released a second capsule collection with Opening Ceremony. Milk’s Rob Quick met up with the team to talk about their popular embossing technique, plans for future collaborations, and their nightlife habits.

Did you guys initially have the idea to start a line when you met at Parsons?

Piotrek: Well, kinda. I was helping Beckett and another friend with their pieces and that’s when we started talking about it. But I was far from graduation still, and Beckett was just graduating, so we took a tiny break from that and then later we started working on it.

Beckett: I had all this leftover leather and fabric that I asked Piotrek to make some cool stuff out of, and he made some shorts and that was kinda the beginning. It was pretty organic.

The line focuses on ‘textile manipulation’. What got you guys interested in exploring this?

Beckett: I think we were both really interested with that. Piotrek was doing a lot of hand shaving, I was doing a lot of embossing. I think both of us are interested in that as a way of making a design unique. It automatically feels like yours and it has your stamp on it as opposed to just getting a fabric. We don’t really like to use raw fabric.

Piotrek: Never, actually. We always need to do SOMETHING with it! And it can go from plain jersey and denim to festive lamé. We love those opposites.

Could you explain the actual manipulation process?

Beckett: Well Piotrek is really interested in folding and I was really interested in embossing, so we started folding and embossing and that was really the start of our capsule collection here. You get the positive and the negative effect of the embossing and the different layers depending on the fabric – it actually perpetrates and punches through. [The shirts] come packaged in plastic, so we actually keep them in the packaging and then we emboss them. Embossing is not a super permanent process, so for us it’s a way for making the product live on after the embossing is gone. It starts off kinda sterile, but then it can evolve into a cool distressed piece.

Piotrek: The thing is with a t-shirt, there’s like a cult around the t-shirt, and the vintage t-shirt, wearing a t-shirt out for years…It’s kinda cool that this machine cleans it up first, and then quickly distresses it. So you speed up the process by 20 years and end up with this destroyed t-shirt.

Beckett, you studied architecture in school. Does that have an influence on your work at Area?

Beckett: I wouldn’t say directly, like I wouldn’t look at specific buildings and be like ‘oh my gosh’ I don’t think we really work like that. My program at UVA was very conceptual and very much about teaching you how to think — it just taught me how to think critically about space in general.

Piotrek: It’s fashion also, the rules are quite similar. It’s just a different kind of object.

Piotrek, you studied fashion in Europe. How has this affected you being a designer in New York?

Piotrek: It’s a different sensibility. Here it’s way more like an industry and in Europe it’s like ‘fashion.’ But I almost feel like what we’re doing now is only possible in New York, you know? And the cool thing about New York is that it’s such a mix – it kind of reminds me of Europe, actually, it’s so mixed. Everyone here is from all over the place and that’s why I really like the energy here.

The collection is only 3 seasons young! Did you guys expect it to gain such rapid success?

Beckett: Yes actually! (laughs) We were very optimistic. Confidence is not really an issue. You have to take that risk with a lot of confidence or else. We’re definitely pleased with where we are right now.

Piotrek: We have to be or we would not do it. That’s kinda our thing. It’s a lot of work, you just have to do it and do it really well. It’s a lot of time and energy and you have to really be confident about wanting to go there.

You just collaborated with Opening Ceremony. Is there anyone else you’d be interested in collaborating with?

Beckett: We love collaborating, even from the beginning. We’re pretty much open to a lot of different people, I could see us collaborating with such a wide range of people.

Piotrek: It would definitely have to happen organically.

Music and fashion go hand-in-hand nowadays. What are you guys listening to?

Piotrek: I listen to a lot of old stuff and maybe not that cool. (laughs) I listen to No Wave a lot. It’s cool because it’s quite diverse, which we love. We like things that are kinda spacey and weird but I love old hip hop and all new southern R&B.

Beckett: I really like that band Wet.

Where do you guys like to go out in the city?

Beckett: I go out to dinner a lot. But do I go out-out? I feel like we work so much. This is a 7 day a week job so it’s kinda difficult for us to go out so much.

Piotrek: I love Canal Street in general cause, again, it’s so mixed. There’s so many different kinds of people because it’s between Chinatown, Tribeca, Soho so you have so many different people around doing a lot of different things, from drug dealers to fake retail bags. It’s just such a funny mishmash. We try to mix a lot of things together.

Photography by Charlotte Wales, styled by Clare Byrne

Designers photographed by Jerome Corpuz

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