Lots of work goes on behind the scenes to create Uye Surana’s print designs and I wanted to share a little more of our design and production process. From initial concept to printing on each garment individually by hand, so many hours are packed into these little pieces.
It all starts with a theme. For our initial Snakes design, I was inspired by vintage technical drawings of snakes found in encyclopedias. This time around I wanted to reimagine them in a fun color, so after a little consideration I decided to remake them in a bold fuchsia and citron yellow. I love the juxtaposition of fierce snakes in a feminine colorway.
For our other two designs, I decided to collaborate with a few of our favorite influencers. I thought it would be really fun to do a big campaign with them.
Collaborations can take many different forms. Sometimes we'll work together to create the design itself. Other times we work with the influencer to be a part of their platform and voice.
For our collaboration with Cocoa Lizzy we wanted to work closely with Lizzy to feature her name on a print that I designed. I’ve admired Lizzy for some time now for her voice and the way she brings awareness to the racism she’s faced as a Black woman both while growing up in Japan, and now as she lives in New York. She has the wisdom of navigating what it means to be a Black woman in two countries and there’s a lot we can learn from her experiences in both cultures.
For some time now, I’ve thought about creating a design as a follow-up to our Lovebirds print. I thought to try something a little more "wild." Peacock feathers felt fresh, and their beautiful teal, green, ochre, chartreuse palette is one of my favorites to work with. I also wanted to incorporate something else whimsical and similar to butterflies, so dragonflies quickly came to mind.
For our collaboration with I Hate Blonde, I’ve always admired Rachel Lynch’s dreamy lingerie styling that borders between bedroom to night out. She is often captured painting at home in her beautiful lingerie. Rachel studied writing at Columbia College in Chicago, not too far away from where I was studying at School of the Art Institute before I transferred to Parsons School of Design.
A discussion over the Black Widow Blue Rose print design evolved naturally as Rachel suggested incorporating unusual blue roses and juxtaposing it with some sort of creature. The two of us began thinking of what would be a good pairing and I soon suggested spiders because of their mystical nature and creation of beautiful silk webs.
From Concept to Design
Many hours go into creating our print designs, from initial concept, to manipulating images, creating a layout, testing the print, and reworking as needed. All of this happens before we even begin printing, which we do sustainably by hand, one garment at a time.
For this season, I created all three prints digitally through photo manipulation by recoloring, reshaping and adding digital drawing to them. Occasionally, I’ll incorporate more of a hand element into our prints. For example: our Snake Charmer print features an abstract painted background I created with watercolor pigment and then digitally placed it behind the snakes to reference the vintage drawn inspiration of the design.
Printing the Garments
Traditionally, printing can take a heavy toll on our waterways. We’re proud to use a different technique that allows us to achieve the individuality of handmade designs while leaving more wasteful methods in the past. Through our proprietary printing technology, we digitally transfer the designs to the garments without excess water and pollution of dyes into our water stream in the process.
Once I have my initial layout, it’s time to start testing the print. Each piece has a different shape and way I need to address how to apply the design. Testing the print on the samples helps me determine if my print is balanced enough to make the design similar across every style in the collection. Some variations throughout the design occur, but it’s also part of the magic in this handmade process.