You have probably noticed that embroidery has infected the fashion industry more so than it did 1950s rockabilly cowboy shirts. Instead of embroidered horseshoes and eagles, current designers work with cutting-edge patterns and icons. Portland is lucky to have Bonnie Heart Clyde because they are outfitting the non-trendy fashion junkies with wild style and taste. For the record Bonnie is aka Emily Katz and Clyde is aka Shaun Deller.
Q. Why did you bring your design concepts to Portland?
A. Shaun: I was studying art in Baltimore, and that is where I met Emily. I had always wanted to see the West Coast, so when I graduated, we decided to drive to Portland. Emily is originally from here, so it was a smooth transition. We brought my mom’s sewing machine and were playing around with embroidering shirts. We weren’t really sure what we would do to make a living, so we decided to try selling our shirts on Alberta Street at the Last Thursday in July of 2003. It was just an experiment but ended up being a big hit.
Q. Why do you use vintage and/or recycled clothing? Is it a statement about consumerism?
A. Emily: Originally, we were buying vintage and recycled clothing because it wasn’t a very big investment. The cost of these items kept our overhead really low.
Shaun: I like the fact that we are recycling by using vintage shirts, but it also makes for clothing that has a lot of character and a unique history.
Q. Where did you develop the “embroidered drawings” idea?
A. Emily: We started independently from each other. While Shaun was experimenting on creating his own lightweight outdoor gear, I was trying to embellish old oxford shirts. Eventually, we began to play off each other’s ideas; the drawings became more complex, telling stories about our daily experience.
Q. What are your favorite themes or icons to work with? Why come?
A. Shaun: Mythological creatures, figures, machinery, flowers. I began applying traditional painting subjects like myth and still life to embroidery. If I were painting these things on canvas, they seemed played out, but embroidered on a shirt these subjects felt fresh and new.
Emily: I was making a lot of prints in art school, and the stitched line reminded me of the raised line in an Intaglio print. My drawings of figures, anthropomorphic creatures, and furniture, translated really well from the medium of a fine art print to the wearable embroidered item.
Q. When are you most productive?
A. Emily: In the evening, or when I have a big deadline.
Shaun: In the morning. I like to jump out of bed and start working.
Q. Who are the most cutting-edge designers (in your own opinion)?
A. Emily: Adam Arnold, Lisa Levine (jewelry designer from Brooklyn), Mona and Holly, Erin Macleod, SIWY denim, Faryl Robin shoes.
Q. Where is the most awesome place to sell your work?
A. Shaun: Seaplane in Portland. Because it is local, we are always bringing them new one-of-a-kind pieces. They have a really amazing selection of up-and-coming local and national designers.
Emily: First and Last Thursday too, I like meeting the people who buy our shirts. We definitely have some collectors.
Q. What is your connection to the real Bonnie and Clyde?
A. Shaun: Emily made me a mix tape, back in college, with the Serge Gainsbourg song “Bonnie et Clyde” on it. We decided it would be cool to live the life of outlaws, but with sewing machines instead of tommy guns.