Emily Adams Bode
Fashion visionary, storyteller, boundary breaker
Every garment, every piece of fabric has a story to tell. It’s an idea that piqued designer Emily Adams Bode’s interest and inspired her to dig deeper into the history of textiles and traditional crafts like quilting. She used that inspiration to build Bode—her menswear brand launched in 2016 that creates one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing from antique and thrifted materials. Just two years later, Emily became the first female designer to show at New York Fashion Week: Men’s.
Today, she’s a fashion industry darling. She was named GQ’s 2019 Breakthrough Designer of the Year. She now has a studio and storefront in New York. And she’s committed to paving the way for other female designers and entrepreneurs in menswear.
“I've always been inspired by the history that comes with the fabric. Antique materials have an intrinsic narrative and value from the fact they’ve had a life before.“
– Emily Adams Bode
Emily’s rise to fashion success might seem fast, but it stems from a lifetime of learning and discovering. She grew up antiquing, sewing, and crafting with her mother and aunts in Atlanta and Massachusetts, and had an inkling from an early age that fashion would be her calling. “The first sewing class I ever took was in the third grade. I had always been really intrigued by this idea of craft and American craft in particular,” says Emily.
That’s not to say her life didn’t take a few interesting twists and turns along the way. Emily spent time studying in Switzerland before moving to New York. There, she graduated with degrees from Parsons School of Design and The New School’s Eugene Lang College. She was keen on learning both a trade (menswear design) while also getting a liberal arts education in philosophy—a duality that’s reflected in her designs.
Emily says that being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated side of fashion was a major obstacle in the beginning. But she focused on what she could uniquely bring to the table: her deep appreciation and understanding of traditional art forms, often female-centric ones, that were ripe with the opportunity to be reimagined into something entirely new. It started with creating one-of-a-kind garments out of materials like antique quilts, old lace tablecloths, and vintage saris. Then, it grew into making her own textiles with an eye towards preserving historical craft techniques around the world.
Now that Emily has broken through a barrier in the fashion industry, she wants to help do the same for others. As Emily grows her business, she treats her studio like a workshop where she hires talented designers to collaborate and create. She’s working on sourcing materials in a way that supports and preserves and supports female craftsmanship across the globe. And she recently partnered with Microsoft to create an AI-powered digital quilt archive that aims to preserve this historical American art form while also revitalizing it for a new generation.
Because for Emily, craftsmanship is about more than a specific textile or garment—it’s about the history and story behind it that connects it to humanity. And in the end, this is what her work has always been about: helping people better understand themselves. “My aunts and my mother are my role models and inspiration because they had such an interest in storytelling—the idea that your history and the histories of others can ground you as a person.”