Discussing nostalgia, deconstruction and reviving Woolrich's long-lost Woolrich Woman line, the Amsterdam-based designer offers balance through opposites.
Centring around deconstruction, harmonious opposites and balence, Daniëlle Cathari’s eponymous brand encapsulates the young Dutch designer’s approach to fashion and life in general – a world of black and white, where dualities inform both creative output and the way in which Cathari chooses to live her life.
Having won VFiles’ runway show at New York Fashion Week in 2017, Cathari was catapulted from recent university graduate to high profile adidas collaborator in the blink of an eye, with her widely celebrated deconstructed tracksuits offering a symbolic transformation of a symbol of her favoured clothing from her childhood. Launching her label in 2018, Cathari has continued to develop her own specific design language, an exclamation of her passion for colouring outside of the lines of the traditional fashion universe, for creating subtle pieces that subvert classic design with a quiet flair and a confidence that belies a nostalgic and personal relationship with the stories her garments weave.
Launching her first collaboration with the seminal American outdoor brand, Woolrich, Cathari delves into the long-lost figure of the “Woolrich Woman”. Reviving the line from the 1980s, Cathari breaks new ground as the first female collaborator with the historic brand – delivering a nuanced interpretation of Woolrich’s classic codes, influenced by her own characteristic sensibility and approach to garment design.
Catching up with Daniëlle Cathari, END. delve into her elegant and sophisticated take on deconstruction, how nostalgia informs modern design and her vision of the “Woolrich Woman”.
Exploring worlds of “complementing contrasts”, your work centres around deconstruction, balance, and harmony. How do these three elements work together?
How I approach my work is pretty much the same as how I see things generally in life. I see deconstructing things and thoughts as a way to find the balance and harmony of two opposites. For me, it's all about finding harmony within design, within how I would like to operate the business and also in my personal life. When talking about complementing contrasts, I’m actually quite a black and white person, in somewhat of an extreme way. In some ways, I can be very pragmatic but sometimes also really intuitive and acting from my emotions. I always try to think about what the best thing to do in any given situation is and find the balance between these ways of thinking – whether that is a business opportunity or simply a design choice.
Do you feel that the way you started your career – with your adidas collaboration – had an influence on the way that your brand was formed?
Definitely – it was certainly a more unconventional way to enter the industry, which has become a characteristic part of the brand and has really defined my place and set my view on the industry. The collaboration with adidas had a really big effect on the way that I built Daniëlle Cathari as a brand. Working with adidas, on that scale, when you’re basically still a student was a huge masterclass in design. It all went by very quickly – and with my transition into being an independent designer, that period of time was really important considering the knowledge I was able to gain – to see how the industry actually works. It also catapulted me, and my name, into public consciousness – which wasn’t something that I had consciously chosen to do, it just happened like that. I didn’t really have any other option – but it also meant that everything that I do now feels even more personal, which is something that still sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable.
I aim to mindfully colour outside the lines of the fashion system – I’ve always felt like I’ve had one foot in and one foot out. I’m not interested in being in the centre of the fashion world, I want to bend the rules and show young creators and designers how that really is possible to do that and still be a designer – to show them the different ways that you can enter the industry.
With “harmony” given as one of the core components of the brand, how does a sense of harmony contribute to the design codes of your label? What does harmonious design mean to you?
Harmony is when everything just fits perfectly together. Within design, when the idea behind the collection is something that is inspirational for me or when it is something that sparks joy for me – that is harmony. Or more visually, when the colours complement each other, and when the fabric and fit works very well together, this all creates a combination of comfort and confidence that creates harmony when the clothes are worn.
When speaking about harmony in colour, the colour brown is very important for me and for my work. I love that it can be such a tricky colour – it can turn out terribly or really beautiful. I see myself as a brown connoisseur now – it’s an elegant and confident colour. It’s not black, it’s not navy. It’s like those colours’ older sister. The colour brown really resonates with me as harmony in design.
Fusing athleisure and an elevated aesthetic, Daniëlle Cathari champions comfort as a key facet of luxuriousness – what importance does comfort play throughout your design processes?
Comfort is of great importance to how I design – how you feel has everything to do with how you dress. I want to design clothes that make women feel comfortable, secure and happy with what they’re wearing, wherever they go and whatever they do. It’s something that is at the forefront of my new partnership with Woolrich too. Woolrich is known for their functional and comfortable garments, so we get to work with an amazing team and fantastic materials. They really know how to create comfort, so it’s been a lot of fun to implement my vision and style into that world.
We actually talk about this a lot at the office – we’re a small team of only women, who really represent our own customers, which makes it easy for us to talk about the function of a new design. What we want, what are we missing from our closets or what do we miss in the market. Comfort is always something that comes back as being important.
Reviving Woolrich’s “The Woolrich Woman”, you’ve taken the reigns on a line with a specific heritage, language and style. What does Daniëlle Cathari’s Woolrich Woman embody?
To me, the Woolrich Woman is every woman – she was once a girl and is now becoming a woman. It has an emotional angle to it – it’s reflective of my own coming of age journey from being a student to the designer that I am today. It’s a very relatable and contemporary character. What gives it a more personal and sentimental value is that Woolrich has been around for almost 200 years and it’s the very first time that they have collaborated with a female designer, which is amazing and super challenging. It was the perfect time then to revive the Woolrich Woman from the ‘80s. It felt really good to take that as the starting point for this revival.
"It captures the duality of the city girl going to the countryside and vice versa – that movement as a concept."
With a specific connection to the outdoors, Woolrich captures the beauty of the natural world. How has the natural world played a part in the design of WR by DC?
That’s what Woolrich has always been about, about that sort of confidence imbued through natural materials. We really focussed on the idea of the revival of the Woolrich woman, it was about that revival more than the natural world itself. I love to go and visit the countryside and to be in nature, but I still live in the city. So it captures the duality of the city girl going to the countryside and vice versa – that movement as a concept.
Approaching this collaboration with several years experience running your brand now, how has the process differed from your first foray into collaboration with adidas?
Collaboration is a very big part in how we operate at Daniëlle Cathari. Of course we have our mainline product, but collaboration is honestly what I really love to do. It’s so exciting to work with an iconic brand, like Woolrich, or adidas before, to have 50% of the DNA of a project and 50% of your own, mixing it together. You end up with this baby from two different worlds. I love the research that is required in collaboration – going really deep into a brand that has been around for so long.
Since that first collaboration, my process is pretty different as we’re working on the design, the store pop-up, the marketing strategy and the campaign. With adidas, I was working more simply as the designer rather than as a guest creative director – now it’s the whole package. It’s what I love to do, because there is more to the project than designing a collection – I really want to tackle the marketing side and the image that comes with it myself.