Finding quality, comfortable, hand-made lingerie is trickier said than done. Luckily for you and me, Brook There is here to fill that hole in your underpinnings/basics drawer. Founder and designer (and dear friend) Brook DeLorme chatted with me recently about what inspired her to start the line, what it’s like to run a business in Maine, and what peaks her interest – outside of fashion and textiles that is.
Q. You launched Brook There in 2007, what was your background in textiles/fashion that led you to start your own lingerie brand?
A. My background was mostly just love and fascination for fashion and fabrics. I started making clothing for myself when I was twelve, and was generally obsessed with sewing as a teenager. But, I never tried to enter the conventional fashion world. I did a couple of semesters at Savannah College of Art and Design (thinking I would enter their fashion program as a major) but transferred back to Maine College of Art where I studied sculpture and photography, and met Daniel, my husband and business partner (We also run Seawall http://www.seawallshop.com together). Having a background in art is liberating, but perhaps not terribly practical.
During the years after college, prior to starting the brand, I worked in a family business in the technology industry – which was a great way to become very familiar with web-stuff and more general aspects of business.
Q. You use incredibly soft organic cottons, silks, and wools. Where do you find your materials and why is organic important to you?
A. Our fabric suppliers and sources have been compiled over the past seven years in a very piecemeal way, for better or worse. Many of the fabrics we dye in-house, because there aren’t a wide variety of organic colors or patterns. The base of the collection is organic cottons, but we use supplementary non-organic silks, laces, and rayons to provide additional textures.
Similarly to our preferance for organic food, we source organic fabrics because we want to support organic farming practices and we’re conscious about what we put next to our skin. I grew up in the era before organic was popular – before organic certifications – but my parents still looked for organic and natural products, and we always shopped at the local health food store. Later on, family members started and worked on organic vegetable farms. We keep our studio and workshop on a piece of land that we share with an organic greenhouse operation.
There’s always been a hole in the market where organic cotton or wool clothing is concerned, because of the paucity of organic fabrics available to small designers. Designing with the self imposed constraints of using only organic fabrics can get really boring – hence, the supplementation of silks and rayons.
Q. You design, cut, and sew in your studio in the Greater Portland region of Maine. What do you value about being a business in Maine, and making your collections locally?
A. We work in a small town ten miles outside of downtown Portland, and live in the city. I feel a strong connection to the state, as my family has been here for many generations. Daniel, who grew up in Connecticut, was drawn here as a young man and managed to stay, despite the fact that most people in fashion in Maine really are earning their money in NYC. There is very little in the way of an internal economy for clothing design here, but people will figure out how to live here, and import the dollars, because of the quality of life.
Since we are very committed to producing in the USA, it only makes sense to try to make it work first within one’s local economy. We’ve several times done the exercise of “would it be better for us to produce in NYC/ Baltimore/ Fall River/ Los Angeles?” And, to date, it would not. It’s more efficient, easier, and rewarding to produce locally.
Q. Collection 5’s lookbook is absolutely stunning, who did you work with to make it a reality?
A. We found the amazing Christina Jorro (www.christinajorro.com) over Instagram – and immediately felt sympatico with her work. We started working together before even having met in person. Christina’s photos are often focused on women – I loved that her photos were sensual without being provocative – it’s always a fine line with lingerie.
What has made it even more intriguing is how, in many of the photos, Christina is in the frame, either through a tripod or a second camera. She included her good friend and photographer Dusdin Condren (www.dusdincondren.com) in the process, which has resulted in this many-layered photographer + model + self-portrait + second photographer set of pictures that we are just thrilled with.
Q. Who is the woman you have in mind when you are designing for Brook There?
A. Curious, iconoclastic. Sensual. Non-conformist. Intelligent. Question-asker. Seeker.
Q. You have an amazing personal blog as well that tackles all issues, and rarely fashion. What interests you most outside of developing Brook There?
A. Thank you, that’s very kind. It’s true, I don’t “think” very much about fashion. Daniel and I talk about the business endlessly, but beyond the practicalities of fabric sourcing and production, we don’t talk about fashion. The inspiration for making is something that is much more intuitive for us and needs no discussion.
For the past couple years I’ve been deeply involved with learning the Arabic language as a way to understand some middle-eastern cultural elements that- well- probably many Americans- find mystifying. Without immersion, learning a language which is as different from English as Arabic is quite time-consuming. Through seeking out native speakers in our area I’ve made some amazing friends, and having started another complicated book & writing project, all related to this realm. ore to come, probably in a year or two.
Otherwise, it seems I write about relationships and thought systems primarily. It’s always about trying to figure things out.