Apiece Apart

Text by Jason Donahoe
Photography by Clément Pascal

May 01 2015

A broken-down old Mercedes. A day trip to Marfa. Twelve hours spent stranded in West Texas. Thus, Apiece Apart was born. The line blossomed from conversation in the backseat of the stalled car as longtime friends Starr Hout and Laura Cramer observed the arid beauty of the landscape before them. Today, Apiece Apart is an exercise in constant subtraction and is ‘conceptual’ in the most functional sense—it emphasizes wearability, comfort and adaptability over stylized conceit.

Hout and Cramer describe Apiece Apart as a collection of “modular basics.” And for those who abide by the modernist notion that freedom is found within defined limits, the austere line’s seasonal collections serve as self-contained systems, with choices and combinations multiplied within a given set. But for those who prefer a more freeform mode of dressing and styling, these building blocks make up more than just the components of a prefabricated structure. They adapt and acquiesce to new contexts, serving as either the focal point or the framework of any given outfit. It is precisely this versatility that sets Apiece… well, apart. Austere does not equate to boring, nor modular to fixed.

As the seasons progress, each successive iteration of Hout and Cramer’s vision represents a snapshot of the duo’s personal fascinations. An upcoming resort line sports racing stripes straight from the Monaco Grand Prix and chambray that mimics the expanse of the Roman sky. This year’s autumn/winter offering presents a palette of television static floral prints, Sol Lewitt-derived color block stripes, and a geometric tangle of urban grid map lines.

It’s a surprisingly cohesive aesthetic, and the unmistakable product of a creative partnership in optimal balance, where mutual understanding filters outside stimuli into fashion that is easy to wear, easy to pair and ultimately timeless.

Laura

Hometown
Austin, TX

Residence
Brooklyn, NY

Drink of choice
Coffee, in all ways

Favorite meal
Roast chicken and boiled potatoes with lots of butter

Primary mode of transport
I have an Uber habit that I can’t quit

Starr

Hometown
Seattle, WA

Residence
Brooklyn, NY

Drink of choice
Water with lemon

Favorite meal
Toast with butter and peanut butter, and a little salt on top

Primary mode of transport
My Subaru Outback

You met in a program at NYU that allowed you to guide your own study. Tell us about your time there and how you first began working together.

Laura: I landed at NYU in the late ‘90s as a journalism major. I quickly jumped ship into a program where I could traverse schools, take classes in the graduate school and pretty much do what I wanted. During that time my focus switched to design and theory.

Starr: I had wanted to go to design school, but decided to pursue a liberal arts degree. I fell in love with art history and pursued it wholeheartedly.

Laura: We met in our final year in a graduate level computer programming course, where we proclaimed our intention to blend art and technology. We were two fish out of water and found an instant kinship.

Then Starr, you went towards fashion while Laura, you went towards art direction and graphic design. How do your individual sensibilities compliment one another?

Starr: I had a namesake line prior to Apiece Apart. I learned on the job, figuring out how to read patterns, how to source, how to manufacture and ultimately how to produce a garment.

Laura: When we came up with the idea of Apiece Apart, Starr knew how to make the pieces happen. Meanwhile, I knew how to brand the concept and flesh it out. And then we started to flip roles. And now we switch hats all the time. Our roles are rarely linear and tend to be perfectly complimentary.

Apiece Apart is designed and predominantly produced in New York City.

We switch hats all the time. Our roles are rarely linear and tend to be perfectly complimentary.

You started the brand around the idea of “modular basics.” Where did that idea come from and how has it evolved since the outset?

Starr: It was an idea based on a brand from the ‘80s called Multiples. You had three modular pieces—a skirt could become a top, a jacket could double as a wrap dress and so on. We loved the smartness of that idea and loved the image of a suitcase with just a few pieces that could take you anywhere in the world. The idea has evolved to be less confined and more expansive. Our palette has expanded, we include prints, and our fabric groups are less rigid. At a certain point, we started saying “yes.” During the origins, it was all about “no.”

There is a definite Texas sensibility in your collections. How important has place been in informing the brand’s style? 

Laura: We came up with the idea for Apiece Apart while on a road trip to West Texas. We are both attracted to the landscape of the American Southwest with its expansiveness and freedom, its starkness and palette. We also love artists who are drawn there—Turrell, OˇKeeffe, Judd, Smithson, Agnes Martin. The landscape attracts renegades and adventurers—doers and thinkers. Our type of women and men.

You reference works from Margaret Howell to Georgia OˇKeeffe to Le Corbusier. What is it about the art you cite that makes it relevant to the brand?

Starr: The works we cite comprise our world view and are our personal palettes. And like the Apiece Apart woman, we are much more the books we read, the films we watch, the art we love than the blouse we wear. Apiece Apart is just there to support us.

At a certain point, we started saying ‘yes.’ During the origins, it was all about ‘no.’

How do you solve creative conflict between one another?

Laura: We generally approach it by “she who cares most wins.” And usually, we switch positions somewhere in the middle, and will argue for the other’s earlier position.

How do you think fashion has changed since you started the brand?

Starr: We started the brand in early 2008 and minimal was not the reigning aesthetic. We would mention “uniform dressing” and buyers would wince. Since, Phoebe Philo took over Céline and the world started jiving with the minimal approach to wardrobe building. We have a lot more competition now, which is a good thing. The idea is right!

How do you describe Apiece Apart to other people?

Laura: “Take it easy.”