In October 2014, Design Week Portland invited Namita Gupta Wiggers, a curator and writer, to host 5 conversations in the geodesic domes we installed as our headquarters at Pioneer Courthouse Square. In the middle of downtown, surrounded by the energy of the city, Namita spoke with 5 different design minds who were involved with events during the festival. These were meant to be the kinds of conversations that don’t happen on a main stage, but rather in an intimate setting where tangents and meanderings are encouraged.

NAMITA: So then, what happened that got you out of Kelso?

ADAM: Well we moved to the big metropolis of Vancouver, Washington when I was nine and I guess… I guess I just never felt like I actively fit anywhere—fit in anywhere. And, after numerous attempts to get out of here: One to Paris, one to New York, and I just kept getting slammed back into my parents' basement, basically, I ended up going to school in San Francisco—going to design school, which, at the time—well, I can back up that I went to PNCA right out of high school. I kind of found myself gravitating toward sculpture, which was a strange thing for me because I always thought, "Oh clay, you get your hands dirty," and I didn't like any of that kind of stuff. But, I was making clothes the entire time, and somebody said, "You should be a fashion designer." And I was like, are you kidding? I don't even, I don't know the first thing about what's popular. I mean, I know what I like and I can make my own clothes, but I don't what's popular; I don't know what people want. And they were like, "You could go. What do you think? Fashion designers—that's what they do. They come up with their own ideas and they have inspiration," and they said, "and anyway, it would get you the hell out of Vancouver/Portland area. So I was like, bonus! Because this area at that time was very… I mean, there was like no chance. There's like, no chance of me even being accepted walking down the street, let alone, you know, creating a job in fashion design in Portland, was like, ridiculous.

NAMITA: Were there fabric stores? Or resources? Or anything like that?

ADAM: There was, there was, I mean, there was Josephine's, the Mill End Store, Whole Nine Yards… I worked at Jo-Ann Fabric at Vancouver Mall.

NAMITA: I worked at Accessory Lady. [laughing]

ADAM: [laughing] Accessory Lady?

NAMITA: Accessory Lady.

ADAM: Ooh, shady Accessory Lady. [laughing] So, I tried to get jobs in all those fabric stores and they wouldn't hire me, which is kind of funny now because I'm like their biggest customers. But, yeah. I moved to San Francisco to go to design school and I found myself with all these people that look like they stepped out of Vogue Magazine.

NAMITA: So it's a fashion design school..?

ADAM: It's a fashion design school and there are like thirty people. I mean, I tried to go to FIT and I was accepted and everything and I get all the way out there and they're like, "You still owe $1,500, what are you gonna do?" And I was like, "Ah, I don't know," and I called my parents. I mean, what else—I mean, call my parents and they were still upset at me for having arranged to go there without telling them. I just did it all myself, and they were so angry about it that they said, "No, you're just gonna have to come on home." So, I was there and I was like, ready to go. And I realized through that FIT experience that that school is huge. And, I really felt like I would benefit more from a hands-on, really close contact with another person; classes were like ten people in each class.`I mean, I was… I can be this way still, but at the time I was extraordinarily cocky. And I was wearing my little sweater pants—some pants I made out of recycled sweaters, and you know I thought, "Psh, I know how to sew, I don't need to do all this stuff; I'm just basically here to get away from Portland." But like, you couldn't hide. There were teachers there who would make you cry. And did make me cry, like publicly humiliate me in front of the class, which doesn't work for everybody but it worked for me, 'cause I was like, I'm gonna show them. So I was really, like—especially the pattern-making teacher, just like, I'm gonna show her, I'm gonna stay up for seventy-two hours straight; I'm gonna have the best fitting muslin block sloper anybody's ever seen! You know, and I remember the day I walked in, she just, like, said, "Everyone stop. Right there, that is the muslin sloper. That is the most beautiful muslin sloper I've ever seen." And so I kind of learned that, really, that focus.. Because I could do it, before I went there, I could do it. I could make clothes. I was like, "Why don't I have a job? Why doesn't a theater hire me?" Well, it's because I feel like that taught me that focus, and that solid dedication to no matter what this is that I'm working on, nothing else matters right now. It just really taught me that focus that was really helpful later. And that desire for excellence and perfection and knowing that the more you are able to work on something and the more time that you give yourself to develop the better it becomes. The more faculties you use. The more parts of your life are funneled into this, the better it becomes.

NAMITA: So, thinking about that and then coming back to Portland, how did you take all of that experience and that understanding that you really needed—you needed, not that field needed you to do it, but that you needed for yourself to work to this certain level of finesse and finish—and you come back to Portland, and what year is it?

ADAM: It was '02.

NAMITA: '02. And what happened then? Were you working for yourself at that point? Or were you teaching? Or?

ADAM: Well I will have to say that I was working for a large company called Koret of California in San Francisco, right out of school. And, um, it seemed like the most tragic joke because I love making clothes, okay? I love having an idea, I like… Sometimes I don't even draw it. Sometimes I just start with a pattern. There's a fabric. I get in there and, you know, draft a fitting, do a fitting, see what it looks like, revise it. I love that. I love all of that. I love scissors, I love scissors, I love thread, I love sewing, I love machinery. It's like, I love all of it. And so here I am, right out of school, and I have a design assistant position and I'm sitting there emailing China all day, right? So it's like my soul is getting torn up. It's like, "What kind of a sick joke is this you put all of these really amazing creative people, who have so much to say and so much to give to the world, so much to express, that they should be developing their craft and developing their skills, and they're sitting at a desk, like, emailing China? About a a lab dip? Whatever? I felt my soul just crumbling away, so, I moved to Seattle, and I literally had seventy-two dollars and I just quit my damn job. And, my parents, as we just talked about, were not going to help me. So I am, basically, you have to scramble, you have to hustle. You have to learn not only how to focus, how to pull that force out from inside of you and maintain it, and pull some more out the next day. What's really amazing about love and about work is that you can become physically tired but the next day, you are so ready to climb the mountain again. It's all ready to go. So, yeah, I quit my job. When I say, "I started working for myself," it means I no longer got a paycheck and I started using my credit card to pay the rent, to pay for my live-in boyfriend's, like, you know, food and my food, and finally kicked that no-good SOB out. And, um, just, it was a daily… it was a daily process of "What am I gonna do today?" It's like turning yourself from going to work and somebody telling you what to do, to… to going to yourself and yourself telling you what you're going to do. And that took a while. That's a good two years of retraining yourself to tell yourself what to do and not give yourself a choice. So, there is no choice. I just told myself very early on, "This is what you're going to and you do not have a choice. It may hurt you; you may feel like blood is gonna come out of your eyes; you may not eat for a week, like, because you have to go buy the perfect silk channel for somebody's cape that they're gonna wear to the opera that you're charging her way too little than you should, but you have to live through that. It's a necessity. It's an investment. I told myself, "I want someone to give me a bunch of money so I can do this."

NAMITA: But you did this on your own, didn't you?

ADAM: Yeah, I did this on my own.

NAMITA: You didn't end up finding somebody; you built this up from scratch.

ADAM: No, no there was never that person. I mean, other people, yeah. It's never happened for me that way. I realized that I was going to… I wanted someone to give me a bunch of money and then I could finally do what I wanted. But what I realized very early on is money is a value and an energy inside of you, and that if you have love in there for what you're doing, it is… you have so much money. "Money" in quotations. You have more than enough money to do what you need to do. And if your physical body can live through it, eventually the time and the experience will catch up to what you are imagining. I mean, this, you know, profession, career, life, whatever is… it's all about manifesting. It's all about having an idea and bringing it, making it so other people can see it and other people can touch it. And so, you know. You have a very in-depth understanding of how the universe works. And how money is just one part of that. Money loves to be worried about because it just won't come around. So, like…

NAMITA: But with this, Adam, one of the things that I've really noticed about the way you live—and I've known you since, maybe, gosh, 2006? 2007? Something like that?

ADAM: Six? Six. Yeah.

NAMITA: I think it was about that time, right before we built the new museum.

ADAM: Yeah, yeah.

NAMITA: So that particular moment, I remember you had your storefront on Morrison and you rode your bicycle everywhere and the thing that struck me then and strikes me even now is the way you have a very systematic routine to your life. It's not rigid, but it's where the priority is always about making sure everyone understands you're priority is making.

ADAM: Yes. Yeah, I mean that's true, and I think it does come from those formative years. I mean it's still true.

NAMITA: I mean it even manifests itself in… you rode your bike everywhere for years, and now you have a car.

ADAM: I know, I bought my very first car when I was 41, yes—

NAMITA: I was so excited when you got the car.

ADAM: —because I've always wanted a pretty little MG. Like, you know. Somebody ordered tuxedos and I was just like, you know, you should surround yourself with beautiful things. And, it's not in a material way—like, things that feed your soul, like, things that you… I mean, I put in my time for that. Like, how many years? Without actually ever driving. I used to ride my bicycle to all the fabric stores and carry all my—

NAMITA: And you'd carry your laundry in your bag.

ADAM: Yeah, yeah. Well now I can't even fit fabric in that MG.

NAMITA: [laughing]

ADAM: So I'm still riding my bicycle to the fabric store.

NAMITA: So, let's touch a little bit on beauty.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: And how that ties in beauty, and then also how that ties in with the way that you design your everyday. Because I think that there is… You make sure that you get into nature, at least once a week. You don't go out to dinners and parties. You're in your studio all the time.

ADAM: Well yeah. What's more beautiful than working on what you love? And, yeah. I think that there are a lot of… Those are a lot of things.

NAMITA: Yes. [laughing]

ADAM: So let's talk about… First of all, from the beginning, I mean I'm a visual person but I'm also a manual, hands-on, making, having an idea—"How could that work?" and then figuring it out kind of person. And I really appreciate beauty but I would almost—and that would manifest in… I would create a studio environment that I felt was the most ideal environment for me. And then I would just sit in and I would work. I would work, work, work. I mean, for the first ten years I think I worked seven days a week, fourteen hours a day. And I'm not even kidding.

NAMITA: But it wasn't work, was it? Right? In that traditional sense of what people say when they say, "I had to go to work."

ADAM: Yeah. It wasn't working for someone else. It was more akin to an artist working in their studio for fourteen hours. It was like I was high for fourteen hours, you know? And then I would just slam. I would come down, and like, come back up the next morning all refilled and I would work and work and work and I wouldn't eat lunch, and I would hold off because if you're eating, you're not being productive. So, but I came to realize… I took a month off. One of my goals, when I first started working for myself, was to take a month off. And I didn't know why, but I thought, "How luxurious, you work for yourself and you just get to take a month off." And so I did, and when I came back, I had this sense of calm that I had never had and it was really scary because I was used to kind of, feeling tense and that was my edge, and that's what was gonna get me through this was that little edge. And the edge, like, died on my vacation, my month. And it never came back. And what I realized is it's because I allowed myself, and I also forced myself to stay away from my work for this month. And I realized the power and the potential of taking, or actually not taking the time, but making the time. You know, you work and you're dedicated, but you make the time to take yourself out and surround yourself with things that you find beautiful, or things that you… beautiful moments, or situations, or you know. I have never allowed myself to go hiking because I'm like, "Oh, that's for everyone else. They're lucky, they can go hiking because they work for someone and they have lots of time. They're just gonna sit on their ass and then get a paycheck. And that's why they can go hike on the weekend. But not me, because I have to work all the damn time." But what I realized is that I have to work to make the time to do things that are important to my soul other than creating. But things that feed—it's like breakfast for your eyes or breakfast for your soul. Riding your bicycle to the Rose Garden to see the sun rise, and then just sitting there and it's so quiet and, you know there's no parking to pay until 9:30, and you just let the flowers just… It's amazing, it's like breakfast. I feel like it's breakfast and it's mandatory. And when you do that, when you take the time to do that, it creates—before, I'd get really nervous that I was taking away from my work—and yeah, I'm probably not getting as much accomplished, but it feels… It's like there isn't a part of me that's starving and angry because everyone else gets to do all of these things. I have to work to make the time to expose myself to beauty, or—

NAMITA: It's regeneration.

ADAM: Expose myself to regeneration. And then other people, I realize, need to work to discipline themselves and find that.

NAMITA: So how does this affect the way you design and the way you create garments? And things that people wear? I mean, I have one of your dresses, and when I put it on, it is unlike anything else I have in my whole closet and it just feels good and it fits well and it makes me fantastic and my husband said, "Why are you buying things other places and why are we not just having Adam design everything and make it, because it makes you happy when you put that dress on?" So, I know what you give to other people, but I'm curious, when you took that month, and you came back and you've been trying to work a different kind of lifestyle. You know, designing a lifestyle that's going to allow you to regenerate and make it a marathon, not a constant daily sprint or grind. How did that impact your design?

ADAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, it's a new thing. It's probably in the last, you know, the last year or two that I've started really taking the time to do things that feed me, that energize, regenerate me. Things that, I mean I could be using that time to work on people's—clients' pants and all of that. I mean, jackets and things. I make—all of the clothing that I design and make, I see anyway as kind of like a larger picture. It's a, it's a process that's going to take my entire life to cover. And I was in—it's like I was rushing around for something, waiting to get there—"I'm gonna get there, I'm gonna get there." And I realized that I am there. In this moment, I'm there. And, so, I'm going to… My influences or inspirations or everything has always kind of moved along at like a biological pace. It's never been like, BAM it's spring, now I'm gonna do this. It's like every… I have clients and everything is made to measure so I am making it for these people, and they're living their lives and I'm living my life and, you know, it's like this regenerative kind of thing in that respect too. And so, I feel like giving myself permission to do those things—to do those things outside of the studio has allowed me, given me also permission to take the time and to develop these ideas that I have, and maybe not… It's like, I used to do these collections every six months—

NAMITA: Right.

ADAM: And, I did it for ten years—

NAMITA: Which is the traditional cycle, right?

ADAM: Yeah, well, although—

NAMITA: Although these days it's every month.

ADAM: Right, yeah. It's like, "Oh, I've got some new ideas, because of the internet."

NAMITA: It's like early spring, spring, late spring, early summer, summer, winter, fall. It's absurd, it's absurd.

ADAM: Yeah, I don't know. It's like I blink my eyes and it's a new season, so yeah. But, I was doing that twice a year, I would have a show in my studio. And I would… It was kind of like my chance to, kind of, further develop certain ideas, and it was never about, "This is going to not be—or this is going to be popular right now, and it's not going to be popular, you know, later." So I think it's given me permission to kind of take my time with developing and with my clients and know that, like, my world isn't going to cave in. Although I will say that the prospect, you know, of not being able to pay rent or not being able to, you know, it's always there. I mean, it's like, security… I used to think that if I had a job where I was working for someone, I would have security, or if I just had enough money. And, you know, the reality of not being able to pay rent sometimes is enough for you to, kind of start looking inside for your security. Knowing that you are able to make something happen out of nothing, and I've found that the more you trust that, the more you trust that energy, that something… that as long as you are dedicating your life to something and that you are, um, you're working towards something; you're actively on a daily basis doing this, and you are feeding yourself with all of the influences that feed your soul, that the powers that be will make it possible for you to keep going. Or it'll throw, like, an axe at you. And you have to… And then you just realize that you will know what to do when that axe is thrown at you. At a certain point, after, you know, dedicated, non-stop working for five years, ten years, you start seeing these patterns of, "Wow, I actually don't have to worry so much, I just need to—" you just need to work, you need to balance all that time you spend worrying, you know, go sniff some flowers. Or go ride your bicycle somewhere. Or, I love the old Hawaii 5-0's, like I love watching—I could just camp out with Hawaii 5-0 DVDs and like, eat ice cream. It's like, whatever turns you on. That kind of… But it's like, bringing that back to making it. I mean it all feeds. You know if it's feeding your work, and you know if it's taking away. Like I don't go to… I don't go… There's a lot of people that get upset because it's like, maybe I'm not, you know, out at party night. You know what I'm saying? And at this point, I'm forty—

NAMITA: Well you're an enigma in town. I mean there are people who say—

ADAM: Well it's 'cause I'm like, helloooo, like when I do show up. Like, "I think that's Adam..? Maybe not."

NAMITA: [laughing] But people, people ask.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: Like when we came over with—Lauren Raburn and I came over to rope you into our Laurie Herrick project. You know, she was really nervous at first. People know that you are deeply committed, they know that you work—you're working day after day after day.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: And, because they don't see you out in those social settings, you're this enigma.

ADAM: Or they haven't come in and experienced.

NAMITA: Or they haven't come in; or the only experience they've had, maybe, is one of those shows that they used to do at the Mallory. Wasn't it at the Mallory? The installations that you guys would do every now and then? Where you take over rooms in the hotels and all the people, you and Elizabeth and everybody would go and do those?

ADAM: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

NAMITA: Do you still do those?

ADAM: I don't, but originally I did. That was Content, at the Ace Hotel.

NAMITA: Content. Yes, that's it. Thank you.

ADAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

NAMITA: And so that's how people experience you, and those are installations. They are very much conceptual installations and—

ADAM: Well, they show my dark side.

NAMITA: [laughing] They show your dark side.

ADAM: So, people see my dark side, 'cause I'm very comfortable with my dark side. I wasn't always. But yeah, they see that or they don't see me at all. They just see this black, Victorian edifice. You know, they're driving by my studio and it's 2am and they're driving home from the bar, like, I don't know. Is anything else open at 2am in Portland? I don't know. But like, 2am they see me in there, just like—I can't even imagine what I must look like in there.

NAMITA: Well, it's looking into a glass box.

ADAM: It's like a glass box.


ADAM: And this guy is like, [machine noise], and I don't even know if it looks like I'm doing anything. I mean, I'm doing something. But I'm awake. But yeah, so people… I do have a certain… I don't know, there's a certain—People are afraid, maybe, or intimidated, maybe, by just my standing there. And what, I mean, maybe that comes from years of grade school when no one would talk to me because I'm the one that does origami on the playground. And so I just kind of got used to the outside, I got used to being alone—I just kind of felt like that's the comfortable place for me. But I also thought everyone hated my guts, and what I found out at my twenty-year high school reunion is that people finally—they came up and talked to me, and they were like, "I couldn't talk to you in high school because you just seemed like you had your own really cool thing going on." And then I realized, "I did have my own cool thing going on, but I thought everyone hated me, and it actually works in my favor because it actually gives you… Just the willingness to be alone a lot, and to work and, and not really rely—I mean, I don't ask a lot of other people because of that preliminary, you know, life. My first part of my life. So, um, I probably come off, you know… I'm very—I'm a very, like, just real person. And I can't hide behind any kind of pretense.

NAMITA: Yeah, yeah. So let's talk about fashion in Portland.

ADAM: Yeah?

NAMITA: So, there's—

ADAM: How dirty do you wanna get?

NAMITA: [laughing] Well, we don't have enough time to go too far.

ADAM: We'll just scratch.

NAMITA: We'll just scratch a little bit.

ADAM: With a couple pin pricks. [laughing]

NAMITA: [laughing] So, in the early 2000s, there was Seaplane. And then in more recent years, there's been sort of the pop culture thing. The phenomenon of Project Runway and people becoming fascinated with certain kinds of making in Portland.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: Through all of this, and this is something that, with Fashion in Cascadia at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, some of the folks who came down from Seattle were really impressed at the range and yet the community that's here at the same time in Portland.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: Now I wonder if you could talk about that because when someone is young, and they're getting started, there's this idea that "I'm gonna go to New York, and I'm gonna make it, and I'm gonna be the next big name," and through this conversation, you've talked about ways that you know you are where you need to be.

ADAM: Yeah, yeah.

NAMITA: And it's not fitting into that stereotype. It's not fitting into that model of producing a ton of things that are out there for everybody to wear so that we walk down the street and everybody has the Adam Arnold label on it. You know?

ADAM: Right.

NAMITA: I mean that's not what you're doing and yet, you're successful.

ADAM: [laughing] Well what is success?

NAMITA: What is success?

ADAM: Yeah, I mean success is a personal thing. It's a really personal thing. Everybody has their own success, so, my success is that I'm able to have a beautiful studio. I'm able to, like, connect with people. I'm able to make clothes, or have an idea, have a client who wants me to make something for them, and then I actually measure them and do fittings and actually sew every single thing that has my label on it. Um, I mean that in itself is, this person is not going to make as many clothes as somebody that, you know, gets a high profile job in New York. And I've never actually even liked New York, so I—

NAMITA: [laughing]

ADAM: I… I guess that's the other thing; I've never really wanted to live in New York. So, I don't know. But Portland, yeah. When I first moved here, I went to Seaplane because that was the place. And I remember I moved down here because of the Mill End Store. And because I was living in Seattle right after San Francisco, and they just didn't have fabric stores that I liked, and so, I was like, "I'm gonna go where the fabric's at. And I get really inspired when I'm in Portland, and I don't know why and it's making me crazy because I worked so hard to get away." And, but, it just made sense. When I moved here, I brought a line of clothes to Seaplane and they were like, "Wow, you actually have a line of clothes," because at the time, it was t-shirts with doilies on them. And it was like a pair of pants made out of a sweater, and it was like one-off, and like… I mean, I moved here and I was asking people, "Do you think I could make a living as a designer here?" And they were like, "I don't know, there's really… There's Seaplane..?" So I don't know. What I found out is that I brought this—I mean I'm just gonna take credit for bringing this element of fastidiousness and integrity and a business sense, but also an artistic sense, to fashion that was quickly emulated, you know what I'm saying? I was like, I'm gonna come here, and of course I need a studio with a showroom. And you can't get inside unless it's by appointment only. Because there's no way I can have people coming in because I won't get any work done, because I am making everything. And so, you know, I started this studio. As far as I know, that studio was the first one like that in Portland.

NAMITA: This is the one on Morrison, right?

ADAM: Yeah, in 2003. And, um, that was like seven years in that place and I had a show every single six months whether I was having my gallbladder removed or it was raining, you know what I mean?

NAMITA: That's right, I forgot about that.

ADAM: I just found that I'm extraordinarily—I can be very frustrated with this city in terms of, I don't know. Like, "It's raining, I can't do my fashion show." Like, I don't know. I just wouldn't do that. I don't give myself that option. But, it's also a very appreciative city. It's a city where people appreciate people that work, work very hard and they're dedicated. And, having grown up here, the kinds of clothes that I design are meant to be worn. They're made of natural fibers. But it's not like a thing: NATURAL FIBERS. Like if I see a polyester something, I'm gonna buy it if I totally love it.

NAMITA: Yeah, I've seen somebody who had a pair of your jeans, then ended up cutting them off into long shorts, then cut them off into short shorts because they just wouldn't—they just didn't want to let them go. And it was a local person. That's the other thing, most of your business is local.

ADAM: Almost. Well, I would say 98% of my clients live and work and Portland. They have to. I mean, I have to do a fitting. They have to come in there and do a fitting. And the people that don't live here used to live here. And I send them things. That's the other thing. I love the idea of you can't get this anywhere else. Like, whatever happened to going to another city and being like, "Oh I can't wait because there's that store, and you can only get that one thing there." And I love that. I love being difficult to find and, you know, people call me and they're like, "You know how hard it is? It's so hard to find you. Somebody said your name and I've been working the last, you know, two days on the internet trying to find you." And I'm like, "Well congratulations; you got through." And it's like, the best people find me. It's not…

NAMITA: It's not that hard…

ADAM: No! But it is, at the same time. I'm hidden in plain sight, a lot of the time. And, um, people… I find, I've always found, and this is just something I've found by working for myself, that if you work to create something that you can really put your name on, and people have to work a little bit to get it… You just show them what—this is the kind of beauty and experience you could have in your life, but I'm not gonna tell you how the hell you can get it. Like, if people have to work a little bit, then they've already invested in you. And it's like, it's something that—You have a lot, a lot to uphold at that point because it's their imagination. I mean, everything. Who you are, what you do. How wonderful your clothes are, all that. You have to live up to that.

NAMITA: You have to deliver.

ADAM: You don't just like, oh you can't come in, and then somebody comes in and you're offering them this piece of shit, you know? That's gonna fall apart in like two weeks. And you have to be ready for that. That's… You have to be ready and confident enough that your work is going to stand up.

NAMITA: Carrying it through to the Nth.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: Carrying everything through to the Nth.

ADAM: Yeah. And it's about… It's never been about me painting Portland Adam Arnold. Or painting Paris or painting anywhere Adam Arnold. It's always been more about… It's so internal. It's my own creative process but it's… Clothing is the way that I am able to express myself. Not even necessarily wearing clothing, but creating this clothing that is made specifically by me for another person. And know that that garment is continuing to live in their life with everything else in their closet or… You know, the problem is, usually, somebody comes in and gets something from me and then all the sudden they're throwing all their clothes away, and they wanna come in and get all—and that's a whole other responsibility for me because now I'm designing their uniform for their life, and I mean that's a big responsibility. And I mean I do it, I do that, but yeah.

NAMITA: That's huge. So I think we have time for one or two questions.

ADAM: Awesome!

NAMITA: Does anybody have a question?


ADAM: Here.

NAMITA: It's a big moment.

ADAM: Does anybody have a question?

NAMITA: Nope? Nobody have a question?

ADAM: Am I scaring you?

NAMITA: Yeah! [laughing]

AUDIENCE MEMBER: How did you first break into the scene or get noticed as a clothing designer or maker?

ADAM: Here?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah. Or if that happened somewhere else, and then you rode on the name you had built already to here. Yeah I guess how did you first..?

ADAM: Yeah. So, um, I would say I'm a fan of creating visual concept. But then fleshing it out in such a way that anybody would believe it. It doesn't look like the Rose Festival parade or, I don't know. Not the Rose Festival parade. But it doesn't look, like, not real. So I… When I first moved, I think I was kind of… In Seattle, it's really hard to be, like, known. Because unless you've been doing it for twenty years or you're like connected with a few larger institutions, it's really hard to get people to even look over their shoulder at you. So when I moved here, I decided that I was going to get involved in some of the group shows that Seaplane was doing. And I remember the first time that Seaplane—it was in January '03, and they said, "You know, we're having this show; it's a group show." And I was like, "Okay, can I be part of it?" And they said, "Yeah but it has to be couture so, blah blah blah blah blah." And I was thinking, there is nothing couture. You don't know anything about couture. And I remember thinking like, I'm gonna just… I just have this challenge to, like—everyone was doing six pieces and I was like, I'm just gonna do two and I'm not gonna tell anybody about it. And I just recreated this… I had this dream, and I just recreated in these two creatures that came out on the catwalk. But I made sure that everything was so perfectly fleshed out that it just looked like—if someone was watching it, they'd have felt like they had slipped into some other dimension. Like, there were familiar elements and it was just show real. And I made that a point to do it again and again and again and then just disappear from sight. And then have this storefront, which was literally a dress form with something on it in the window, and then it was just like blocked out. You couldn't see in at all, and it just said "By Appointment." So it was just like creating a… I think it happened because it's almost like I created this mystery unconsciously but it was just because I needed to get some work done. But it was like mysterious. How did you find me? I mean, it's like this little, "There's something in the window."


ADAM: Oh. And then word of mouth. You do something like that and people talk about it. But they can't get you!

**NAMITA:v And it was that Lisa told me about Japan, and we were talking about Japanese design. And I was talking about designers that I had known in Chicago, because there's a lot of independent clothing designers in Chicago and I used to sell my jewelry in some of the shops.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: And the clothing. And I said I wanted somebody who could make things like they did. And she said, "You need to talk to my friend Adam." And that's how I found you.

ADAM: So it's word of mouth. I would say… Was part of your question, "What's my advice on breaking into this scene?"

AUDIENCE MEMBER: [inaudible]

ADAM: Yeah. I would say, yeah, by doing those shows and words of mouth. And constantly going back to—There were lots of people. I mean, you do a show like that and all the sudden there's all these people who wanna help you be famous. That show up, and they're like, "Oh, you need to be on this TV show." Or, "Oh, I've got these big ideas for you." And I'm so stubborn, I was just like, "I don't want to talk to you. I want you to get out of here; you're wasting my time." And so, because for me it was… It always just came back to "They're trying to take me away from what I love and that is making clothing." And I realized that you can only get so big making all of your own clothing. But what else am I gonna do? You know? I don't know. Yeah.

NAMITA: It's working.

ADAM: Yeah.

NAMITA: Well thank you so much for the time, and for letting—

ADAM: Thank you. This is fantastic, being in a geodome with you, Namita. We should camp here tonight.

NAMITA: [laughing] There you go. Well thank you, thank you. Thank you everybody for coming.

With thanks to Andy Carlson for recording, Ray Brigleb for recording and editing, and Nina Berry for transcribing.