Oklahoma Contemporary’s one-of-one fashion designer brings her upcycle skills to The Studios
Aged, exposed brick gives the Josie Eresch Fiber Studio a Brooklyn feel. Thickly framed windows gently hum as a train passes, weathered cars visible. Artist, designer and Oklahoma Contemporary Retail Coordinator Iman Knox preps her garment, a terrycloth vest with rich hues, and her sewing machine, then ties back her red braids in simple, swift motions, ready to get to work.
“As a kid, I would always be destructing a lot of things around the house,” Knox says. “And after a while, that started to translate into deconstructing clothing. I was always tearing stuff apart, like Bratz and Barbies; I was literally ripping apart the body parts of the dolls and clothes. And the clothing aspect really resonated with me. Over time, clothing — reconstructing and customizing to whatever I wanted it to look like — I found that, oh yeah, this is for me.”
Knox grew up in Detroit on a street called Northbrook Drive, the origin of her brand name, House of Northbrook. Here, her love for fashion bloomed, utilizing her childhood experiences to structure and shape her goal: self and communal comfort and support.
“As for me, I do want to be associated as a designer and an artist, just my name,” Knox says. “As far as the brand goes, it’s open to anything and any possibilities. My brand slogan is, ‘Make yourself at home.’ And that’s general for anyone to make themselves at home. It’s not just fashion; make yourself at home in your home or make yourself at home in a very uncomfortable environment. Keeping it open is my goal for everything I plan to do besides fashion.”
Knox recently launched her debut collection, NU-GROWTH, an homage to her Blackness, hair, ancestry and the pieces of fiber that carry Black community stories. She also creates and sells custom one-of-one pieces and House of Northbrook merch.
The designer brings her expertise into Studio School this fall, teaching students to design and make their own one-of-one clothing. Studio School’s fall lineup is stacked with creative courses, from ceramics to fiber, including Knox's four-week class, Upcycled Jackets. She will ask students to supply their own repurposed and upcycled pieces of fabric to sew a custom jacket.
“There’s a bit more connection to a piece that’s recycled because you’re giving it life again. So with that, I’m hoping that whoever is taking this class can look at whatever fabric they bring in or material they bring in, and they can connect with it in a different way than when they walked in. And walk away with a bomb jacket.”
Breathing life back into fabrics resonates through Knox’s work. She designs strictly one-of-one pieces, creating an original fabric work each time, which is both a challenge and a defining trait of who she is as an artist.
“I’ve always wanted to stand out and express myself 100 percent, flaws and all,” Knox says. “So I think making custom clothing is like an accessory to being yourself. It’s an outlet to 100 percent be yourself, authentically. Every time I make something, I try my best to honor that it’s one of one. And I try not to make replicas and duplicates of the same thing. So whoever’s receiving it also feels very special when receiving that item. Like, ‘Oh, it’s mine. No else has it in the world, it’s a custom-made piece just for me.’ And they can use that to express themselves and tell the story they need to tell.”
Like many other artists and designers in her field, Knox is a storyteller, but not the main narrator, and she knows that. Emphasizing her part in other people’s individual stories, Knox finds both the process and the end result just as satisfying — sewing, knitting and crafting unique pieces meant to show off, to be worn with pride.
“Each piece tells a story, regardless of who the receiver is,” Knox says. “If it’s a commission I’m making for someone, I may not even know who is buying it, what their story is, even though I make these pieces to accessorize whatever your story is. But in the moment, while I’m making these garments, they tell a story by themselves.”
“I always think of my pieces like a puzzle, like a puzzle piece, and a lot of times, the pieces I make are extremely challenging. The harder the piece, the more challenging, at the end of it I’m impacted more. Getting through a really daunting task, and getting to that end result is so refreshing. It’s a reminder of who I am, what I stand for, and that’s what I love the most about sewing; it’s the process, what’s actually being created in that moment.”
Knox’s class will challenge students to create custom works, pushing them to tell their own stories. Upcycled Jackets, along with all of this fall’s four- and eight-week classes and one-off workshops, is currently open for registration. Tackle sculpting, wool felting, portraiture, painting to calm the bleep down, weaving or any other medium that suits your artistic expression. Popular classes fill very quickly, so save your spot now.
As for Knox? She’ll be gearing up for a stellar four-week class, an opportunity for beginners and experts alike to create their own one-of-one jackets. We can’t wait to see your new look.
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