Edgy, androgynous, and sustainable EMCĒ is designer Morgan Childers’ fashion label. Based in California, the iconic brand is dedicated to pushing boundaries and maintaining environmentally ethical practices. EMCĒ fabric is always eco-friendly, sourced from plant-based leather, cotton, and hemp.
Honeysuckle spoke with designer Morgan Childers about her artistic vision, her journey, and the ethos behind the label.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Childers attended The Art Institute of Chicago where she studied Men’s Wear Design. While recalling her time there, she spoke about one influential teacher who taught from Japanese textbooks that students had to translate in order to read for the class. “If you wanted to take her class, you had to really WANT it, but it was worth it since she’s really influenced the way I see fashion.”
Having garnered experience and skill, Childers moved to Paris for a bit and worked at Rick Owens. After returning to LA, she became involved with the denim world in California, working with outerwear, which has an androgynous aesthetic.
“I wanted to make clothes that were unisex, or at least ambiguous, and pursue this aesthetic vision without compromising my commitment to sustainability.” In working with materials like denim to design workwear and bottoms, instead of designing dresses all the time, her perceptions of gendered fashion were blurred, and she saw the power in breaking down the boundaries set up by the industry and gender norms.
Childers acknowledges the power and responsibility of big fashion companies in how they shape beauty standards, and in the midst of the pandemic where our systems are being reevaluated and questioned, she sees the disruption as, partially, a blessing in disguise. Companies have the responsibility to represent beauty as not just one limited size, shape, or color, and EMCĒ believes in challenging these standards. Childers tells us that she believes in “breaking boundaries and redefining and expanding our narrow ideas of beauty.”
While working at some other fashion companies, she did research about greenwashing and saw what could be done better, whether it was working with alternative materials or manufacturers. “I feel like that was the push to start ECME because I wanted to make something young, exciting, and sustainable, where I could choose where I’m making these items and be transparent to customers about the production process.”
The sustainable fashion world is a growing market, but Childers notes that she wants EMCĒ to break from the more basic, granola aesthetic mold that many sustainable brands fit into. EMCĒ aims to bring revolutionary styles without compromising on the material’s ethical sourcing or quality. “The materials are super important to what we’re doing. For us, it’s setting base standards for ourselves, even if it takes more time and effort to make the more sustainable choice.” In their most recent collection, EMCĒ is working with cactus leather, organic hemp-blend cotton, and the recycled-fiber denim from a collaboration with ISKO. Childers values working with brands developing new, more sustainable technologies.
Childers emphasizes EMCĒ’s timeless aspect, which also speaks to sustainability and being able to decrease their impact on the environment. “We want our pieces to reflect the opposite of fast fashion. These pieces aren’t meant to be worn once and thrown away, they are made by local craftsmen who take their craft seriously. It pulls out a customer that really appreciates these things.” With the new collections strong silhouettes, strong shoulders, and asymmetrical hemlines, EMCĒ is challenging the status quo both aesthetically and in the fashion industries’ unsustainable and unethical production practices.
In the future, Childers sees EMCĒ entering stores. She notes that right now, EMCĒ is a brand that does a lot of explaining about their sustainable methods and commitment to unconventional styles, but she hopes that one day, these things will be taken for granted, in a way that shows that the industry has grown and sustainable practices become the norm and the standard. She’s also looking forward to collaborating with other LA-based brands, for example with one of her friend’s CBD companies.
Childers acknowledges that EMCĒ does not exist in a vacuum and she is committed to working with and uplifting the local LA community. Over the summer quarantine, EMCĒ ran a community-based campaign with other LA-based creatives who’s personal brand aligned with EMCĒ sustainable calling. In the midst of the lockdown, she stated that the shoot was a relief from the constant anxiety and full of mixed emotions. “After being isolated for so long, it was a really positive experience to bring people together and get working on something outside of ourselves. It was exciting reaching out of friends to create something together. This campaign became our Access 21 campaign, which normally would’ve been directed by the team, so it was nice to let go of that control in a time where you need to let go of control anyway.”