Who would not want to cuddle up in a knit piece? As the weather chills we decided it was an ideal time to spotlight Lindsay Degen, Brooklyn-based designer of what is all the rage in babywear: babyDEGEN. Lindsay’s newest line (coming on the tails of her successful adult line DEGEN), slightly over a year old itself, is chock-full with hats, separates and booties to keep those tiny head to toes toasty. Irresistible, eye-catching, beautifully detailed are just a few of the superlatives we would use to describe the clothing and accessories crafted for infants to 24 months.
As we chatted with Lindsay we discovered her collaborative style, what drives her and how her knack for keeping classic knitwear current, wearable and all the rage lead to her taking on baby apparel!
Some very exciting things are happening for you as a designer right now! Congratulations on winning the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award in January and being featured by Vogue editor, Jorden Bickham, as one of her baby-sized fashion obsessions! How has the recent transition from DEGEN to babyDEGEN been overall?
Thank you! It has been great. It’s funny how making the exact same products baby sized changes the appeal completely. I think people see DEGEN as kind of out there, not wearable. The same people have definitely been dressing there children in babyDEGEN which is just a scaled down version. I love working in the baby market. I find it a lot more fulfilling. Seeing the garments on sweet, cute babies is the best.
A lot of the other lines out there right now are very chic, minimal, and lux- in cashmere and neutral colors. That stuff is too serious for me. I prefer to dress babies in color and pattern. I think when you have an adorable baby wearing color and pattern you smile at them. Babies need to be smiled at.
What have been the most challenging and the most appealing aspects of designing for a much younger demographic?
The most challenging part is knowing what moms and dads want in apparel from a functionality standpoint. I do not have a child so I learn things from parents every day about what they want. It turns out its always more cardigans and layer-able clothes.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you learned from RISD and Central Saint Martins where you studied?
I think the most important things I’ve learned from both schools is that the personal relationships you make during school are the most helpful part of school. I work with a silk screener, web designer, fellow knitter, and hand drawn animator still to this day who I met at school. We all help each other out.
For your Spring 2013 collection of DEGEN you collaborated with Converse to create platform shoes based on children’s roller skates! How did that collaboration come about? Did that start your wheels turning for baby apparel or more specifically for the adorable knit baby booties?
I designed those Converses as a part of that collection and just reaching out to Converse to see if they wanted to do it. They were immediately really interested and easy to work with. I think all of my designs sort of have a childlike feel. It was really my mom who pushed me to go into the baby market.
We read you started knitting at any early age, after a gift of knitting needles from your grandmother! Is there a piece you created very early on that you keep today or would like to pass down someday? Do you have a piece from the most recent babyDEGEN collection that is a personal favorite?
I did! I started to knit when I was 3. I have, here in my studio, the first scarf I ever made. It still stays here as inspiration. I tend to not like anything I make but then when I look back on it I feel more proud. My favorite pieces from the season are the booties and hats. The accessories are so playful and functional. I love the idea of the shearling sole of the booties. I wish I had some slippers like that!
We wouldn’t mind a pair either!! Your studio is located in Brooklyn Navy Yard, what are some of your favorite haunts in the neighborhood you can walk to even without booties?
The Navy Yard is actually a pretty desolate place so we usually step out for lunch. My favorite spot nearby is Brooklyn Roasting Co on Flushing. We also have a great supermarket that does packed lunches and deli sandwiches called Fresh Fanatic.
Can you share any locations where you draw inspiration for some of your really bright and eye-catching designs, like the baby eyeball pants?
The most inspiring space for me is on my balcony over-looking Manhattan. We have a great view. I also get a lot of inspiration from my maker friends. We all are constantly influencing one another.
Do you have any advice for designers that are starting out or trying to transition or branch out in their own lines?
My only advice is to take it day by day, enjoy the roller coaster, and when things are going really well celebrate.
Interview by Pia Finnigan