Words: Charlie Lake
33-year-old Emily Adams Bode Aujla may have no children per se, but her offspring is that of Bode – the genderless clothing brand that has become a mainstay of Yankee fashion culture. Launched in 2016, Emily began her passion project Bode to make purely one-of-a-kind boyish items with a particular focus on high-quality, handcrafted textiles. Some of the brand’s first unofficial seasons consisted predominantly of handmade jackets using old quilts, tablecloths, and other handwoven African textiles. By 2018, Bode had already seen huge success, expanding the brand into a more commercial shape. Emily began creating full collections, which debuted at Paris Fashion Week as early as 2019. Given the brand’s then-newfound status within the New York fashion zeitgeist, it opened its flagship store in Chinatown, New York, which now stocks many of its rare sample pieces and main collections. Even the store design is immaculately conceived; walnut wood-panelled walls with sparse lighting features illuminating the store with a warm, familiar light; the aesthetic inspired by an old American modernist hotel foyer.
The decision to begin by making typical menswear pieces was a purposeful one. Emily wanted to design for someone other than her, taking into consideration their habits and preferences. Despite being loosely labelled as menswear, each piece has a clear touch of femineity; the playfulness of the designs, the bright beads and embroidery, and the colours all add a softness and inclusivity that makes everything broadly androgynous. Like Grace Wales Bonner and Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, Bode Aujla suggests a simpler and more elegant way of life through her work. She does not look to respond to how we live our lives and tailor to the modern day. Instead, she offers a complete alternative to fashion enjoyers, the uniqueness and exclusivity of which many buy into.
By definition, Bode has always been in a league of its own, with unparalleled attention to detail in design. The silhouettes produced have always been timeless and transcend specific historical periods and trend cycles. Take, for example, the signature boxy shirts that are constructed using textiles collected at auctions and estate sales; they would not look a touch out of place in 1940s Hollywood, nor do they look a misfit on Harry Styles, Jay-Z and the many other A-listers that sport them nowadays. Everything that Bode makes has an air of vintage and nostalgia about it. The old, sometimes frayed fabrics used, the vintage-style embroidery carefully weaved into many of its shirts, jackets and knits, the various dyes and even the store and website design make for a holistic brand aesthetic that captures the attention of the prospective buyer.
At the beginning of the New Year, Bode evolved once again. During the menswear calendar of Paris Fashion Week, Emily debuted her first full womenswear collection to eager onlookers. There were stunning evening gowns, formal coats of the highest quality, suiting, and awe-inspiring knits, all incorporating signature Bode touches like bright beads, quilting and complex embroidery. However, this is not the first time she has tried her hand at womenswear. Singer Lorde’s 2021 Met Gala look, designed by Bode, was the first taste of what Emily had in store for women’s garments; a weird yet luxurious white silk skirt and open-front jacket, studded and beaded in irregular, asymmetrical patterns, paired with a one-of-its-kind crown and narrow white slippers. Her vision for womenswear goes beyond anything she has done with menswear. Unlike her menswear, and similar to the look she created for Lorde, the clothes that were previewed are sexy and eccentric, oozing with luxe. One model wore a see-through sequined skirt with a chunky novelty sweater. She wanted to do the opposite of what people might expect when examining her previous menswear products, and she certainly looks on course to achieve that, considering what was unveiled in Paris.
Emily’s approach to garment design has received a great deal of critical success: In 2019, just three years after her debut collection, Bode Aujla won the award for ‘Emerging Designer of the Year’ from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. 2021 saw Bode displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in the past two years, she has won the award for ‘American Menswear Designer of the Year’, also awarded by the CFDA.
Bode’s growth has been volcanic, especially since becoming commercialised in 2018. With the launch of womenswear, she seems well on her way to creating the new blueprint for luxury garment design in America and beyond.
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