Chicago-based designers Olive Woodward and Savy Dean spent six months on their first collaborative collection as OSx, to hold a sway upon a pavement, which debuted in February. During that time, the two worked intensely, drinking energy drinks and smoking cigarettes together, pushing each other to think big picture about what their clothes would look like, while also focusing on the minutiae of their line — the ways different textures contrast with one another on specific articles of clothing, how to capture the feeling of drinking a 7/11 Big Gulp.
The line was born not only out of their collaboration, but also between a working relationship with the designers and Laura, the Chicago communal living and working space where the clothes were made and displayed. Even the fabrics used in the clothing explore harmony: The cream-colored clothes are made of "dense synthetics paired with soft knits," which symbolize the ways seemingly-discordant fragments can (or can not) "become a unified one."
OSx's collection embodies the potential energy of a sway, a movement "at the cusp of action." The designers marinate in this liminality, writing that "it takes dislocation to feel where you are. Writing, dressing, and building are similarly a thinking through material; exhausted ecstatic textures, densities, words, styles speak."
PAPER chatted with Woodward and Dean about the collaborative nature of designing and working models, finding the perfect runway song, and what it means to hold a sway.
How does the work relate to a feeling of community?
Olive: A collection of clothes (and bags) naturally needs people to fill them. These photos don't feel that far from sorority group photos to me. Nothing stands on its own. The urge for community always shows back up, so creating a collection gives opportunity to fill that potential. When you invite other people — models, audience, whoever — into something you feel passionately about, it starts to feel communal. What is fashion without people?
Savy: Right! The collection alone doesn't necessarily have a deeply conceptual relation to a feeling of community. The community enters when bodies are engaged. At the show, everyone seemed excited; eager, ready, and willing to watch and participate in an event presenting how Olive and I spent our time for the past 6 months.
2018 tech ethos dictates presence and togetherness — like being here but not really being here because maybe I'm scrolling through Instagram and checking my email while pretending to look and care about what's happening right in front of me. When you can get people to gather in a space for an "unmediated" experience, it no doubt creates a feeling of community. The collection was modeled by friends without any legitimate compensation. So many wonderful people gave us their time.
"What is fashion without people?"
What was it like designing a line together?
Savy: We work really well together. We have similar attitudes: Excited, compelled, passionate, excessive (it's a good thing), critical, and always on turbo. We drank a lot of energy drinks, smoked too many cigs, and listened to Hole so damn much. Our styles are quite distinct. We both approach dressing with sure attitudes and test our own limits. Like, "These pants are gonna be a shirt today."
Collaborating was super mind-opening and our differences gave the pieces their textural and compositional movement- their "sway" I suppose. The more time we spent together, the more our visions began overlapping. We read our tarot cards a bunch. We held each other accountable in the most respectful way. When it started, there was no way of knowing how it would work out. We knew it would though.
Olive: It was a lot of work, but we had fun with it. It was natural. Neither of us had worked on a project of this scale before this, so it helped to navigate those blind spots together. It bonded us in a way that I didn't anticipate. We spent so much time together that our moon cycles started lining up and I think that applied to our brains too. We started reaching similar conclusions at similar times.
At some point it felt like it just wanted to happen, like it needed to! I remember one night leading up to the show, we were drinking and playing music while we worked and the song "There She Goes" came on and we both started screaming with excitement, like, "This is the runway song!" We thought it was hilarious and brilliant in the moment, but both woke up the next day and texted each other, like, "Ok, that is not the runway song." This is the song we ended up using.
Savy: The runway song is really important to the collection. It's by a friend of ours, Coleman Mummery. It's far out. Nothing else would've worked.
How did you decide on the white and cream color palette for the line?
Savy: Snow bunny/ski resort.
Olive: That was the idea. It was 5 degrees outside when we started, so it seemed appropriate.
Savy: The colors we chose are very malleable and take to most other colors nicely. Handwork is also really important to both of us and having a lighter palette made sense because we wanted to build up unique surface textures.
Olive: The neutral base allowed us to collage and compose with our own mark.
Who did you have in mind when designing the line?
Olive: I thought about the models a lot. As individuals, they each approach dressing in a way that is unpredictable and unapologetic. It felt important to use models that approach dressing similarly to how we do, because they're who I can picture wearing the line. Keeping their individual spirits in mind while developing the collection helped keep the design process out of the hypothetical. This collection can be for anyone, though. It does, however, ask a level of willingness from its wearers.
Savy: I agree with Olive. Definitely the models for the show: moon, Vivian, Jordyn, Zeynab, Maeve, McCullough, Bri, and Crystal. Each have their own unmistakable style. They wear what they wear for themselves. Oh! Also, I was re-reading Tan Lin's 7 Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking.
What was the design process like?
Savy: It was a dialogue. A six-month-long conversation.
Olive: Our process was intuitive, but also contemplative and reflective. We were constantly zooming in and out — considering individual aspects, while also considering the whole. One of the best parts about collaborating was being able to talk through it. It helped to understand what we were doing and what we needed to do.
"Our process was intuitive, but also contemplative and reflective. We were constantly zooming in and out — considering individual aspects, while also considering the whole."
Do the clothes sway?
Olive: Yes, but they aren't light or flow-y garments. They hold sway. There's a control to it. We played around with weight, incorporating different forms of metal into the designs, and we filled the bags with hammers and grommet pliers — things we used to actually make the pieces — so that they would sway in reaction to the wearer's sway. Like a sidekick.
Savy: Their surface and construction move back and forth between my hand and Olive's hand. They don't sway when they're on mannequins or hangers. They totally sway when someone is wearing them. No body, no sway.
What does it mean to hold a sway specifically?
Savy: It's not letting what you don't know or aren't sure of get in the way of going where you want to. It's also doing what feels good. Moving through it all confidently, with love and attention. You know when you feel cute and want everyone around you to know? Each step is extra sassy and you catch people staring. 7-11 Big Gulp.
Olive: Exactly. It's a feeling. An attitude.
How do you conceptualize of the contrast between the gentleness of swaying and the harshness of pavement?
Savy: I never thought of them as having directly contrasting qualities. This is a funny question. Growing up in southern California earthquakes dispelled all belief of pavement being harder or harsher than energy or motion.
Olive: Pavement is made to be stepped on. It's a means for a sway.
Designers: Olivia Woodward and Savy Dean
Photography: Jingyu Lin
Models: Jordyn Ridner, Zeynad Ghandour, Crystal Zapata, Moon Bae