The best designs come from collaborations with a strong purpose, clear vision and a meaningful story. So when the time came for Oiselle Lead Designer Kami to sit down with Alison Mariella Désir to design her second collection with us, everyone new it was gonna be FIRE before the first sketch hit paper.
BEHIND THE SCENES: THE FALL 2022 AMD COLLECTION
Kami: Hi Alison! I first want to start off by saying what an honor it was to work with you on your collection! This whole process has been such a great experience and I'm really excited with how everything turned out. As we get ready to launch this, I'd love to get your thoughts on how it all went and any insights or details that you'd be willing to share.
Alison: Would love to, Kami! I loved collaborating together on this collection. I appreciated the way you wanted to understand my hopes for the collection and translating the ideas into what is an incredible assortment.
Kami: Wow, thanks Alison! Back at you. Let’s talk about it! So, this is your second collection with Oiselle. How do you see the difference between the two?
Alison: With this collection, I had the opportunity to tell more of a story - from what my inspiration was to who I wanted to be part of bringing the collection to life. Also, designing multiple pieces where fit and cut mattered - vs the looser fit of my first collection - gave me an opportunity to be really intentional about what I was looking for. The jacket, for example, I was able to use my body as the fit model - helping to ensure that folks in larger bodies would be better represented in fit.
There’s power in showing up
as your full self - particularly for those of us who defy and disrupt expectations.
Kami: What was your inspiration behind the line?
Alison: There were two big inspirations for me. The first - being an athlete in high school and the feeling of wearing a varsity jacket and what it meant to me. My freshman year, I played varsity soccer, winter track and spring track; I bought a varsity jacket as a point of pride and to celebrate what playing sports and being part of a team meant to me. I remember a sophomore boy seeing me in my jacket one day and telling me that I didn’t deserve to wear it because I was a girl. His comment didn’t deter me - but it has stayed with me all of this time. So many of us find ourselves in spaces where we face adversity because of who we are - whether it be sexism like in this instance or transphobic laws intended to prevent athletes from competing and even existing. There’s power in showing up as your full self - particularly for those of us who defy and disrupt expectations.
The second inspiration for me are the Tigerbelles - the electric yet overlooked performances and careers of athletes like Wyomia Tyus, Edith McGuire and Wilma Rudolph in the 1960s and 70s. They epitomized Black excellence on and off of the field. I wanted a collection that recalled the style and power of the women of this period who dared to take up space and fight for the rights of all people, despite their own rights being so limited. I cannot believe my luck that I can call Wyomia Tyus a friend now - she is the GOAT and I hope that when folks wear my collection, some of that fire rubs off on them.
Wilma Rudolph at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Kami: What were you hoping to achieve with this collection, in terms of fit, fabric, overall feel
Alison: This collection had to be comfortable, size inclusive, stylish - pieces you could wear day to night - during warm ups at track practice and hanging out later with friends. The obvious choice was Lux. The pants in my collection include what I believe is a wonderful update to my otherwise favorite Lux pants - zipper pockets!
I wanted a collection that recalled the style and power of the women athletes of the 1960s and 70s who dared to take up space and fight for the rights of all people, despite their own rights being so limited.
Kami: Can you speak to the design process, and what it was like seeing it come to life?
Alison: I was so excited by how much control I had in the process - like, everything I said, happened! You were so good at taking my feedback and incorporating it into the process. It was pretty magical to have something from my imagination materialize.
Kami: Among the pieces, do you have any favorites? If so, which ones?
Alison: What I’m calling the varsity jackets are my favorite. They have so much of my personality in them - they feel like a truly authentic version of me, visible for the world.
Kami: You know we are super fans of your son, Kouri. Has he approved of this collection? What do you think he'll like?
Alison: Kouri loves it all! Just like his mama, Lux fabric is his favorite. I anticipate lots of cuddles when I’m dressed head to toe in the collection, which is an added bonus for those with kids or animals, lol.
Kami: How about thoughts on the launch, the campaign, and what you want to communicate?
Alison: Many people consider history to live only in the past - but history is around us and alive in the present with us. In fact the importance of history can be felt by the powerful forces in our government committed to erasing and sanitizing particular histories that may cause white people discomfort. The intense focus on erasing history communicates just how powerful it is. With that in mind, I wanted this collection to embody Black history, Black present, and Black futures.
I’m really proud of the concept shoot that we did. I asked that we have an all Black cast - from models, to hair and make up artist, photographer - for a few reasons. One, to affirm that we are here in the PNW. While there are fewer Black people here than when I lived in Harlem/the Bronx - we are here and I wanted my collection to be a celebration of that. And two, I wanted to make sure that Black people knew that this collection is for everyone, but was built with us in mind.
On the shoot, we recreated the famous moment where Smith and Carlos raised their fists in protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. This was a full circle moment - as it recalls the piece that I wrote a year ago here about making the most of our “podium moment.” I’m really proud of that.
Kami: The book! Please share anything about the upcoming release of Running While Black. There is a lot of buzz out there about it. Where can people buy it? Will we see you during your tour?
Alison: Ahh I can’t believe how close we are to launch! The book is now available for pre-order everywhere - wherever you buy books!
The pre-order period is actually the most critical period for authors; it helps the publisher forecast how many books to print. So if you intend to buy the book and want to support me, I ask that you do it now thru 10/17 (launch date is 10/18).
I’ll be doing a special Volée only virtual Bird Talk on 10/3 and then an event on 10/26 at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle and 10/27 at Island Books on Mercer Island. I hope to see everyone local at these events!
Kami: That’s so exciting! And so much work went into the writing of it. This is going to be a busy fall for you - your book and the AMD Collection! I’ve enjoyed working on this together, and seeing it out in the community. Thanks again, Alison, for your time and creating something cool together!
Alison: Thank YOU, Kami, and to Oiselle for this opportunity. If there’s a chance in the future for us to collaborate together on something like this, count me in!
The AMD Collection Photoshoot Team (from L to R): Michelle (hair and makeup), Martha (model), Alison (creative vision and vibe), Ayan (model), Laila (hair and makeup assistant), and down in front, Brandon (Ill Will Media founder and photographer).