A Nice Studio Visit With Rachel Weisberg
I met Rachel Weisberg because the universe works in mysterious ways and drops people into your orbit right when you should meet them. Or something like that. Mostly, I met her because I saw these amazing, super nice dip dyed shirts that she worked on for Coconut Grove to promote their new logo and I saw them on Instagram - and I knew I had to meet her. We scheduled a time for me to go by her studio and later that week, I had a coffee meeting where someone casually dropped into conversation that I had to meet his friend Rachel Weisberg. Good thing we already had a time to meet the next day, because the suspense was killing me.
Rachel is just the kind of person we're always looking for to feature on MIAMI NICE. She's a local who studied elsewhere (ahem, Parsons to be exact) and come back to spread her magical seed around Miami and enjoy the extra square footage of her sunny studio. She has an infectious creative energy and a window sill garden.
The hand-dyed, mostly linen and cotton designs are perfect for a more laid back Miami look, especially as we move into summer.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, tye-dyed goodness, who are you and what do you do?
I am Rachel Weisberg and I am fine artist fashion designer. I have been working on my own label underneath my name for the last 2 years; it consists of sustainable chic womanswear, home and accessories. I studied at Parsons in NYC and built my own major of fine art, fashion design and sustainable design. I began experimenting with the process of dyeing and fell in love. It is a beautiful way of recreating new and old or basic organic cotton into something with almost a whimsical quality that is truly one of a kind. I moved back to Miami in 2012 and have been inspired by the sunshine that always is leaking into my SPACIOUS studio (not like in NYC), There is something about year round sunshine, greenery and the opportunity to just go jump in the ocean, that you really cant beat.
Where do you fall on the "locally made, green, organic, close-sourced, non-GMO, farm raised, Portlandia" scale?
Haha. Well I guess I fall somewhere in between reality and Portlandia. I understand that there is no perfect way of defining "sustainability". So, instead of being an eco-nut, I do the best I can do and what makes me feel comfortable. All the fabrics I use are either grown in the USA and certified organic, vintage, sheets from a thrift store, old clothing taken apart, fabric from a store that are dead stock..... you get the picture. I use all my scraps to make pillows or blankets and new textiles. I try and make "season less" clothing or not overly trendy things, I am a strong believer in that a woman's closet shouldn't be overstuffed with things they will only wear once but more specially curated with clothing that means something and are special to them.
Explain a bit about your dying process....
Ahhh my secrets, but ok!!! I love dying clothing, fabric, pretty much anything that is cotton and will pick up color. It almost feels like making a painting. Right now I am obsessed with blues, grays and yellows. I buy organic turmeric spice from the market and it makes the most pure yellows, in a broad range depending on the amount of spice and time the fabric soaks. Indigo is a very special dye as the color is depicted as the oxidation process begins, the more air and then back to dye the deeper the color gets. At Parsons, I received a grant from Union Square Parks and set up my own dye garden filled, with madder root and other exotic plant dyes. It was amazing until the rats and the birds decided that was their dinner. I dye in my kitchen and every apartment I have lived in is a little bit stained from my work and most of the time you can catch me with indigo dyed hands.
So, what's the difference between your dye process and, say, picking up an off-the-rack dress at Nordstroms from whatever brand?
I have a strong connection with the pieces I make, because I am literally cutting, sewing and dyeing each garment. I am not comfortable with the disconnect that many designers have with their clothing once it goes into production, I feel a lot is lost there.
You showed me a couple of little two piece bathing suits that are rather, unconventional, they aren't really what we think of as swimwear, but at the same time, they'd be so perfect on a boat! Can you talk a bit about those pieces?
Yup, I love those two pieces they are very 1920s sexy to me. I am very drawn to a woman that isn't the typical model; to me nothing is more beautiful than a thin curvy woman with a nice ass. I never will have a stick thin model walk down the runway or for a photoshoot. Those pieces are a homage to that woman. High cut high waist bottoms that show a little butt cheek but still are mostly covered, and a super cute bra top not the classic triangles without any structure.
How does Miami influence your designs? And what else influences you?
The colors and nature, hands down are an unreal part of Miami and my favorite aspect to working and living here. My last collection was inspired by the different saturations of blues, grays and greens that are found in the ocean with the suns reflections. I am also influenced by the everyday, I find a lot of beautiful quiet moments that are quite whimsical exist when you just sit still.
What's the best look you can recommend in anticipation of the dripping sweat summer we know is around the corner?
I am in love with rompers. They are always my go to, so easy throw it on and you don't have to think.
One of my favorite things about visiting your studio was getting to see the other little projects you have going on. Tell me all about the bedding and pillows that you make. They are so, so lovely. I want to build a tent out of the dyed sheets and have a picnic in the tent (oh! Potential future collaboration?!) and sleep in there.
YES PLEASE!! I have a home collection that is made from a lot of my scraps or small pieces of fabric that I can longer make a garment with. I have always been very inspired by the idea of your bedroom being a true representation of who you are. It's where you sleep, dress, love and sometimes disappear for a day or two. My thesis at Parsons was just that. I made an installation in a gallery of a bedroom, clothing bedding, dreamcatchers, etc. My friend Alex Parkin collaborated with me and we had a tea ceremony and then dyed some textiles using early gray tea.
You live and work in the Grove and can walk right into the Downtown Grove area. Tell me all your secret spots. Favorite place to grab a drink? Lunch? Meet a friend? Find a last minute gift? Get lost? Soak in some nature? Spill.
Yes, Coconut Grove is my favorite part of Miami. I am still a New Yorker in the sense I love the walk ability and don't own a car. So, for Happy Hour you must go to TKs and the bartender there David makes the best mojitos ever!! So nice for a hot day and it is a very beautiful restaurant, perfect for a date or a quick meeting. I also love the Taurus and my favorite times to go are when the ladies are bartending, Jahanne and Aimmee are some kick ass woman. Lately Aimee has been buying my Triangle series brass jewelry right off of me and Jehane is all over my social media as she models for me from time to time. Last minute gift has to be Design Bar (I sell there as well) Leslie the owner has an amazing eye for beautiful little things, its great store but dangerous I want EVERYTHING!!! Key Biscayne is where I go to picnic and for a quick dip. I love it, the nature and quietness has lead to a lot of sketches and dresses.
And last but not least, where can we buy your work?
IT'S A TRILLION DEGREES OUTSIDE