SPEAKING WITH NATALIE GRACE
The nostalgia summertime holds; the cozy sun beams that belong to your skin, the way your favorite bathing suit slinks over your curves and ice cream melts down your fingertips like a slip and slide. This is where it all started for Natalie Grace, rooted in the soliloquies of Chicago's warm temperatures as she discovered an invincible summer. Natalie is the Founder of Made In June, the designer and creator of the sportswear line deeply inspired by femininity. The girl behind the pastel velour and simplistic threads has her hands in all elements of design. From press kits and lookbooks to trade shows, her creative direction is all a part of her process and she is not afraid of the challenge. Natalie trusts her vision and in her work it shows.
I had a backyard when I was young, 4 and 5 years old, so during the summer we would be on the slip-n-slide, running through sprinklers. Wearing little pink and purple bathing suits and rad sandals and dresses, eating ice cream and watermelon, riding bikes.
I liked to just stand in the sun and feel it beaming on my shoulders– getting real tan, cocoa brown. Made in June is very nostalgic, rooted in the 90's. I was born in June ('92), so I've always had this affinity towards summer. I'm also a cancer, a water sign, so I'm very into being by the water.
Made in June captures the joy of a birthday, the spirit of childhood, and the feminine, sensual vibes that come from wearing little bits of delicate clothing in the summer. MIJ is basically a grown-up Limited Too, lol.
I'm a minimalist. It's a blessing and a curse. I stood out in my fashion courses for being a good illustrator/designer and sewer, but my last professor really hounded me for not designing what she considered, "out of the box." I couldn't help it. I love the fucking box! I like to think abstractly about "the box."
I like to predict trends. I design what I believe will be worn. It's not an intention, it's just me. I like to design things that make sense. Yes, I can take it there, and make some weird shit, but that's not what I'm into.
Sportswear is functional. It's what American fashion is best known for. I started a label because I know what girls like and I had a vision for a company.
I shot three lookbooks this summer. I was being how Kanye is about his music videos. It was apart of the process for me. I really wanted to capture it right.
Directing a shoot is tough, but I love it. I get an adrenaline rush. As the designer, you're there to make sure the clothes look perfect, but most of all, that the vision is being executed.
The environment– the makeup, the hair. Is it all working together?
I'm very involved. You have to be able to communicate with your model (my friend Kirsten!), consider lighting, style, feed the crew and jump in to pin clothes. But it's all worth it, and when you get your proofs back and you're happy, you're really really happy. Very satisfying.
The images I have now were shot with a fantastic photographer, Yumna, who's had a photo/style blog for many years. I followed it when I was in high school. I was on a serious time crunch trying to secure a photog and randomly e-mailed her a week before I needed to shoot.
She happened to be in LA and was down for the cause. We got coffee, I showed her what I had shot previously, and she said I needed to change the location and environment to fit the collection. "They need space, they need to breathe," I trusted her vision on that and it was absolutely beautiful.
I'm still learning about myself. My biggest challenge is pushing even when I feel like I'm failing. Artists are really hard on themselves. Sometimes I just want to turn a blind eye. But you have to be like a football player - keep running the plays, over and over, adjusting, until you succeed.
I'm working towards getting past my pride and acknowledging that there is no success without adversity. Hiccups are ok, they happen, and you have to move on.
As an independent artist It's important to keep good company - motivated, hard-working people that you can relate to. On the other hand, I find that solitude is very important. You should be able to handle being in the presence of your own thoughts. A balance of the two matters.
My boyfriend works a lot, and it's cool, because he really motivates me to be great. He gives great pep talks. We try to be that for each other. He helps me reach the mental state of, "I can do anything." No limits, no boundaries. Keep working.
The first piece I designed and sewed was at Pratt. It was this black sleeveless poplin vest thing, with an elastic bottom, and a tall cowl neck with a drawstring. Very fetch.
ILLUSTRATION & FASHION
I started taking fashion illustration courses when I was 14 at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, then I did programs at Columbia College and Pratt Institute.
I graduated high school and started a very rigorous term at SAIC in Fashion where learned to sew very well and some basic pattern making.
I left school when I realized I wanted to have a business, not be the best at making costume-like clothing. No shade.
A lot of design programs don't really delve into the business side of fashion.
I've also done some courses in large scale painting, which I love to do and want to pursue more seriously. I'm an artist first.
MADE IN JUNE
When asked what she wanted readers to know about MIJ she said,
"Black girls rock."