‘Craft is at the core of who we are’: Emily Adams Bode Aujla Remakes American Fashion

‘Craft is at the core of who we are’: Emily Adams Bode Aujla Remakes American Fashion

The visionary designer of handcrafted clothes seeks to bring ‘more intention’ back into our lives.
The visionary designer of handcrafted clothes seeks to bring ‘more intention’ back into our lives.

W hen Emily Adams Bode Aujla is designing clothes, she imagines a certain kind of person wearing them. “Our client is interested in culture, traditions and the beauty of handiwork,” she says. Bode grew up antiquing and brings that history into her handcrafted collections, which have totally altered the trajectory of American fashion. In 2016, she launched her first line, a series of menswear pieces made almost entirely from vintage textiles.

Within three years, Bode was awarded Emerging Designer of the Year by CFDA – the nonprofit fashion organization currently chaired by Thom Browne, curator of Visions of America at Sotheby’s – which she followed up with back-to-back Menswear Designer of the Year awards in 2021 and 2022. Now, a juniper stripe double-breasted suit from 2023 is featured in Sotheby’s auction CFDA: Defining American Style.

Instead of adding bits and pieces of craft into her clothes, her brand, BODE, has become synonymous with it. After expanding to include ready-to-wear collections for both men and women, Bode has never stopped treating the clothes she makes like the heirlooms that continue to inspire them.

Portrait of Emily Adams Bode Aujla by Andrew Jacobs

You once said you see craft as a tool to create clothes for a different kind of man – or a new kind of story. What kind of man or kind of story is that?

I believe that craft and the narratives around specific techniques can encourage people to explore and reflect on their own familial histories and evoke memories, emotion and inspiration.

Do you think your unique lens on menswear is helping make craft more synonymous with elegance? 

I believe so, yes – at least in the market in which we show and sell. The way in which we talk about and utilize craft in our collections is quite different from what one may think of “fashion rooted in craft” in the last few decades.

How does your approach to your own home influence your approach to your work?

Domestic craft, and the private, domestic space in general, is hugely influential to me. I’m inspired by these labors of love, and the concept of making things to evoke comfort and to be loved for generations. For example, a quilt handmade for a wedding or a blanket for the birth of a child. My husband, Aaron Aujla, and I work quite seamlessly between making our home and making pieces and the identity for Bode. Like our approach to our home, our work is hyperpersonal, rooted in reflection and historical narrative, and made to be cherished.

Do you think fashion’s embrace of your approach marks a shift not only in that world, but also in the world of interiors? 

Yes, our goal is to inspire people to be more intentional in the way they live, and be encouraged to explore their family and personal stories, and history in a broader sense. If this translates into the way in which they curate their lives, dress, collect objects, and make things, then we’re doing what we dreamt of doing.

Have you ever tried to make sense of what is driving this reemergence of craft? 

I think that for many people, including myself, it’s not a renewed interest, it’s at the core of who we are. In terms of a more mass appeal, I think that people are flooded with information and products, and they want to have agency again while also understanding the importance of preserving ideas and techniques that are being forgotten or lost.

“People are flooded with information and products, and they want to have agency again while also understanding the importance of preserving ideas and techniques that are being forgotten or lost.”
- Emily Bode Adams

How would you describe yourself as a collector – of all things, clothes, antiques, and the like? 

I’m a collector in both my personal life and work life. I do try to save as much as I can, or put it in the hands of someone who will save it themselves.

I am curious about what you meant when you said: “We’re talking about a really specific worldview about family and preservation and craft and timelessness.” Can you describe that worldview?

We’re highlighting the importance of the craft itself and the importance of the preservation of these techniques and materials. My work is often about the personal lives we lead, the emotions we hold. I believe in family traditions, and that familial and global histories ground us –they make us who we are today.

Visions of America

About the Author

More from Sotheby's

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top