NEW YORK — Fur stoles may be back for fall, but not everyone is willing to go that route. And yet, fashionistas are looking for something beyond the pashmina. Designer Hope Newman thinks she has just the thing with her new accessories collection,...
NEW YORK — Fur stoles may be back for fall, but not everyone is willing to go that route. And yet, fashionistas are looking for something beyond the pashmina. Designer Hope Newman thinks she has just the thing with her new accessories collection, Yomo, a line of scarves and bags made from hand-pressed wool and silk, a material for which Newman has a patent pending.
A former graphic designer, Newman began her business when freelance work slowed down. With no fashion background, she researched art techniques and began working with raw wool and silk. After six months working in her studio on New York’s Lower East Side, Newman developed a process that allowed her to press the wool and silk to create a thin, light, and soft new material (“yomo” is Japanese for “wool”).
Though she claims to be the first to make the fabric thin and lightweight, she’s not the first to have discovered the material. A handful of more experienced designers who Newman has found on the Internet use the same combination of wool and silk. But Newman thinks their training worked against them.
“I had no preconceptions about what this material could do. I have no textile degree, I knew nothing,” said the 34-year-old Boston native. “But I think that helped, because everybody else was thinking, no, this isn’t possible.”
Newman has named the process of creating the textile “kemuri,” which is Japanese for featherlight (if it sounds like she has an obsession with Japan, she insists she just believes the best design, graphic and otherwise, originates there). With her assistants, she lays out layer upon layer of combed and dyed wool and silk. After soaking and pressing it so the liquid penetrates the fibers, she rolls it up in a bamboo mat much like a giant sushi roll until it’s dry. Because it’s made with water, she said, the fabric can’t be ruined in rain, sleet or snow.
The colorful silk appears like paint streaks on the wool when it’s finished. Because of her strong use of color, Newman said her scarves, which wholesale from $30 to $140, and bags, $140, sell to all ages. Younger customers, she said, go for lighter, brighter colors, whereas older customers want something more subdued. While the broad range may be good for business, it was hard for Newman to grasp. “I found out [my customer] was everybody, which sort of threw me off. With my background [in graphic design], I’ve been taught to know the demographic.”Yomo sells in about 100 stores nationwide, from contemporary art museums to specialty shops such as Swallow in Brooklyn, and is expected to bring in $600,000 at wholesale next year, Newman said.
Next on her agenda is continuing her work in lighting fixtures. She’s made a handful of lamps, available at Sublime in TriBeCa, using her material and steel bases. “When I’m playing with the stuff, the fabric is so thin that it looks so cool with the light shining through it.”
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