The Glass House: a Chat With Fashion Designer Abbey Glass
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Where Atlanta.
Abbey Glass’ road to fashion design began when she was only 10 years old. “I’m very intrigued by machinery and engineering, and turning two-dimensional things into three-dimensional things, how they work with gravity and how they fit on the body,” said the budding designer, whose eponymous line has become a local standout only two years after its inception.
From making her own prom dresses in high school to flaunting her modern, minimalist aesthetic on runways today, the young designer’s rapid growth may reflect the “less is more” mindset gaining ground in the American mainstream. We sat down with Glass to learn more about her aesthetic, the Abbey Glass Spring 2017 collection and which trends she’s anticipating for 2017.
How do you define your aesthetic?
Atlanta is not a huge high-fashion city. There’s a lot of people trying to do bohemian stuff, trendy stuff. It’s not very materials-focused, it’s more look-focused. People aren’t focusing on fit or fabrication or things like timelessness. We don’t want to define ourselves as Southern style. We want to define ourselves in the South as classic style that could go anywhere, that could take a person anywhere in the world and they would feel like they fit in.
I think that’s what good design is. It means that you can use the product that you’re creating in a lot of different contexts. It’s not just solving one problem, it’s solving a lifestyle problem. The functionality of [my] designs needs to translate to a 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s woman and also into different cultures and into different contexts.
Is that multipurpose functionality a new trend?
Even in the first part of the 20th century, that’s where we were—not because of trend but because of finances or material restrictions or other reasons that people had to pare down their wardrobe and make things that were functional and classic and timeless. Right now, I think it’s because people are more aware of their carbon footprint. Minimalism is becoming popular, rather than just being a hipster thing. People are like, “I don’t need 500 different black shirts, I can just buy three.”
I do think it’s becoming two-pronged, because I see those really special, standout, statement art pieces becoming more important and on the other end your everyday simple, classic pieces.
How have your designs evolved in the past two years?
I couldn’t really pinpoint what my aesthetic was two years ago. I think I just had it in my mind. Some things I designed were within my aesthetic and some weren’t. Some designs I couldn’t explain and I just wanted to test it out. The evolution of the line has been honing in on why I like things and what I want to achieve from them.
I’m less of a fine artist and more of a designer now, because I’m trying to design things for a purpose rather than just to make something look pretty. I’ve maintained similar sensibilities about proportions and lines and structure, but I’ve allowed myself to get more complex—to add without subtracting. I’m still getting the same type of structure that I want and the same shapes and the same ideas, but they’re way more sophisticated and they’ve got more detail that makes them valuable. I think my sense of color has gotten more sophisticated. The line as a whole has become more cohesive.
What are some fashion trends you see for 2017?
This year might be a big year for people getting all the clutter out of their lives and really sure that everything you have is something you need. We need to be more deliberate about what we buy. Editing your closet and editing your lifestyle.
How does fashion tie into this resurgence of minimalism?
People are going to buy or wear things that are multipurpose. Separates are going to become really important—buying evening separates, so like an evening shirt you can wear with pants or with the matching skirt to have it as a black-tie look. I’ve been designing a lot of things for that because I feel like people can get a little more bang for their buck, but it’s still interesting and not stuffy. I also think occasion wear is going in a more minimal direction.
In general, color will play a huge role in determining where the balance is. So, if the color is wild then the balance is that the silhouette is very reserved; and if the color is very reserved and a more traditional then you can really dig into the texture and the cut and do something a little more wild.
Tell us about your newest line.
For our Spring 2017 line, we did a lot of navy and white, but then I was less scared to use bright colors. The whole line is about adventure and vacation and it’s the Italian Riviera and Grace Kelly. It’s very unapologetically feminine, but it’s super clean lines. So you’re wearing this amazing garden on your body but it’s a ‘90s sheath dress that’s silk and easy breezy. With the navy and white, which is more demure and traditional, we really played up the fabrication. Every time we hit a more traditional color, we made sure the fabrication was super exciting or that the use of color was something really new and different.
It’s about creating the dream of what inspires the line and seeing it through to the end. I know that Cinque Terra and Grace Kelly and the Italian Riviera will never not be intriguing to me, and that all ties back to the ethos of the clothes, which is that they shouldn’t go out of style.
What are some essential pieces for a minimalist wardrobe?
I’m a more realistic minimalist. You need a classic party dress—a middle ground that could go black tie, could go cocktail, could go New Year’s Eve party. Make sure you have that and you feel amazing in it. I think a leather jacket is super important to have, and that will help you edge up any of the dressier or more feminine pieces that you have. Shirt dresses are worth investing in—a very unique, cool shirt dress. They’re a really versatile, key part of a woman’s wardrobe. A classic pair of trousers that can be dressed up and dressed down is important. Every woman has their jeans and their denim, but a more tailored pant is a crucial thing to have.