Though Emily Adams Bode Aujla, founder of Bode, has now designed her very first line of clothing for women (which debuts on Saturday at the Paris menswear shows), it’s not the first time she has designed women’s clothes. Students of Bode’s short but wildly successful history will note that while at school—simultaneously studying fashion at Parsons School of Design and philosophy at Eugene Lang College—Emily and her roommate routinely designed their own clothes for the weekend ahead. “On Fridays, we would stay up late and make a skirt out of crushed velvet or something,” Emily remembers. Making women’s clothes, it seems, wasn’t so much a challenge as a natural occurrence. “It just came so naturally to me that I wasn’t as inspired by it.”
Other factors steered her early direction too: At Parsons, after one design assignment (“Astronauts, maybe?”), a professor suggested she had a knack for menswear. And then there was the prevailing teaching on fashion at the time (and especially women’s fashion), which could emphasize design over material. Emily, however, was fascinated by fabrics and cloth, particularly by textiles that were less inventive than historically pragmatic—textiles that had been worn by people, or many people. “I was more obsessed,” she says, “with something that was steeped in history and came from somebody’s closet.”
All of which led to that day in 2016 when Emily made her very first fit sample for Bode, refashioning a favorite vintage quilt top into high-waisted trousers, thereby kicking off what has become her game-changing trademark: clothing that is ostensibly for men, though practically for any body at all. In our hypercharged culture, Bode’s pieces stand out for their quiet politics, for taking their energy from the thrill of thrift shopping—and, in an overwhelmingly virtual world, for the charge of the handmade. Her first menswear show, in a loft in Tribeca, evoked deep emotions, with pieces managing to viscerally reflect on the loss of an old family home. “My theory is, if you have an emotional connection to something, other people will too,” she says.
Now, seven years later, she has at long last arrived with what her fans have been waiting for: dresses and skirts, silk tops, and her version of lingerie. There’s everything from a form-fitting and floor-length gown sparkled with emerald green sequins to a berry-print chiffon day dress, loose and light, from a summer picnic in the past. Cardigans are Bode-like in their quiet, complicated textures and patterns, the colors seemingly from a 1970s film: olive and brown and high-powered reds. There are bolero jackets, blazers, and a black satin camisole, buttoned and fitted. On a sheer dress, beaded flowers run along a vine; a bias-cut windowpane dress is accented with flounces and fringes. Like Bode mens, it’s not old pieces remade—it’s great ideas reimagined for the present, in fabrics that communicate various pasts.
LA-based singer-songwriter Gracie Abrams—her debut album, Good Riddance, is out this month—was among the first people to not only see but experience the new women’s line when she was asked by Bode to sit for a shoot. “There’s such confidence and security and stillness in Emily’s pieces,” says Abrams, who was already a Bode fan. When the singer met the designer, Emily talked not so much about fashion as about life. “She gave me a history lesson on the women in her family,” Abrams says. Then she tried things on. “When I saw and felt the clothing, it genuinely is so her—and the woman that I want to be—in clothing.”