If you don't already know Elizabeth Kiester's story, read this.
But to sum it up, the former fashion editor fell in love with Cambodia, picked up and left New York for Cambodia, and opened her own shop, Wanderlust. Said shop caught the attention of quite a few people, including a friend who worked at Madewell. And now, just one years later, the two have teamed up for a collaboration---Wanderlust for Madewell.
The thing about Wanderlust though, is that everything's made by hand by local women. So how does that translate into enough stock to fill a Broadway store? We asked Elizabeth. Her answers, and a first look at the collection, after the jump!
You're in Cambodia & Madewell's in New York, how did this all come together?
A great friend of mine works at Madewell, and last summer, she asked me if I could make some of Wanderlust's recycled eco friendship bracelets for the Madewell store opening in East Hampton. So we made a bunch,and they sold like mad, and it got the attention of Mickey Drexler, the awesomely cool big boss at Madewell & J.Crew, and well...here we are!
How did you decide on these pieces? Did you start with the fabric or the shapes?
I showed the design team a bunch of silhouettes that I thought would be cool for Madewell and we whittled it down to two dress styles that we all agreed reflected the spirit of both Madewell and Wanderlust. And we knew the eco bracelets HAD to be included, of course! So we did those in new patterns and colors and the rest of the accessories were fun to do. We just went crazy, "let's do flip flops!", "how about scarves?!" We just wanted to build upon the happiness and joy we felt the dresses and the bracelets emitted and expressed.
Does this collection overlap with what you sell in your stores in Cambodia? Yes, these are some of my signature styles, but we did exclusive colors and patterns for Madewell. We dyed the sarongs to match the colors in their denim program for summer, and the hand woven scarves, too---they match the entire Madewell range. It's very very Madewell with a Wanderlust wink.
What was the biggest challenge, the hardest part of this collaboration?
Time! In New York, everything is "fast, fast, faster!!!!!!" In Cambodia, it's "slow down, breathe, take it easy..." the west and the east work in very different ways and I am a hybrid of both now! Every single thing in the Wanderlust for Madewell collection is done by hand, by a young woman who takes her time to really hone in on her craft. There are no factories being used, no machines pumping out scarves, no robots packaging bracelets. Every item is a work of art done by a human being, and that involves time and care and attention to detail. There is love and care and hope in every stitch, in every buttonhole, in every tag, in every fringe on every scarf and that is beautiful. Beautiful things sometimes take time.