We interviewed Simone [of Simone and Sylvia] about her fashion and design background and the role she played in helping us create the first casual clothing line designed specifically with transgender people in mind. It has been a huge privilege for us to work with her, and without Simone's dedication to our project and the wealth of experience she brought to the table, we would never have come this far in so little time. So, from all of us at Leo Roux, a huge thank you to you, Simone!
LR: How long have you been drafting patterns and doing what you do?
Simone: I have been doing this since 1974, so for over 40 years. Although I actually started sewing when I was seven; I made my own clothes. I was tall and a lot of things didn't fit me, and back then Seattle wasn't known for having a lot of hip and trendy clothes - so I would just make my own.
LR: Did you go to school for design and pattern making? Or how does that work?
Simone: I got a degree in Fashion Design and Textiles from the University of Washington, and I graduated in 1978. Then I did a pattern making program through Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for two years.
LR: That's awesome! Can you list a few of the major brand names that you've worked for over the years?
Simone: Yeah, so... I've worked for Levi's, and Betsy Johnson; I've worked for all kinds of local companies like Brittania Jeans and Normandie Jeans. I started out in denim, and then worked for some high end lingerie companies, and for some circuses like Barnum and Baley and Cirque du Soleil and some European circuses. I worked for the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the opera here. I've worked for local gay and indie theaters, as well as cabaret and burlesque groups. I've owned three different boutiques, the first of which was called Polka Dot (which opened in 1980) and sold punk-themed clothing. I designed a lot of that and did a lot of silk screening. I've designed a lot of children's clothing as well.
LR: Wow. So it's really more a question of what haven't you done! ... How have you applied your craft to the specific needs we had for our clothing line?
Simone: I've worked with all kinds of bodies throughout my career, so I have a pretty good understanding of anatomy. I was able to use that knowledge anatomy, pattern making and the architecture of clothing to incorporate the measurements and physical attributes of the fit models - and in a sense 'remove' and 'add' some of the physical features that we usually associate with men and women - to create the clothing you wanted.
LR: What was one of the major challenges you ran into, and how did you find a way around it?
Simone: The fit of the jeans was a primary concern of mine. I think the length of the crotch and the ease of the crotch are what needed the most work, because those attributes of jeans are most characteristic of gender. So we had to get the the fit right by building in ease or taking out ease where needed, as well as paying attention to the shape of the buttocks.
LR: Thanks so much for your time, Simone. We are so grateful to you for sharing all your expertise with us! We look forward to continuing our work with you, and seeing what comes next!