My name is Heidi, and I am one of Jhane’s assistant designers. I am a rare breed of fashionista-computer nerd.
As a toddler, I would climb out of my crib at night and scribble all over my walls with my orange crayons. Always orange. I don’t know why my mother didn’t just throw away the orange crayons. I was always creative, and I excelled in art class, as well as many other right-brained activities. However, I discovered that I was really good at left-brained activities as well, like math.
My mom is left handed. She loves to cook, and has a flair for decorating her home — she is typically right-brained. My dad is extremely left-brained, he’s a numbers guy. He loves money.com and Business Week, and in fact, I can’t remember ever seeing him read a fiction book. In high school, I enjoyed both art and math. I was encouraged by my parents to pursue both activities, but always felt I was supposed to pick one or the other.
Although I took A.P. Calculus my senior year and tested out of all my college math requirements, art did eventually win. I went to Philadelphia to study painting at Tyler School of Art. When I got to art school, I met the most amazing group of creative, inspiring, and artistic (right-brained) people. But the left-brained thinkers were few and far between.
I still felt really unresolved because only half of my brain was being challenged. Years after I graduated, still trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I started hand knitting. I realized that I really loved figuring out the interloopings of the yarn which create fabric. I wanted to design fabric for bulk production.
I attended FIT and studied Textile & Surface Design. Besides satisfying my creative side, weaving also engaged the left side of my brain — how many vertical threads vs. how many horizontal threads, figuring out complicated weave structures, and the science behind the different fibers which make up yarn and are woven into fabric.
I remember hanging out with an old art school friend, and trying to describe why textile design was such a good fit for me. I described how sometimes designs are very complicated or have deep concepts behind them, and sometimes just an orange scribble is enough.
When I started working for Jhane almost a year ago, I found her to be creative and artistic, and also inspired by mathematics and algorithms. In fact, Jhane employs mathematicians who write her exclusive proprietary software which we use to generate abstract geometric designs.
Working with Jhane, I have discovered my inner computer nerd. I have learned to use so many new graphics programs. We’re using software that no one else in fashion is using like fractal software, mathematical generators, and 3-D animation software. We’re even beta testing brand new software as well. I still love Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and I’ve looked to other industries to find alternative ways to use these programs. Since the main focus of our sportswear line is shirts, I took a pattern-making class to learn how a shirt is constructed. By the way, there is a lot of math and geometry involved in pattern-making.
A lot of the skills that I learned as a fine artist are transferable to textile design. For instance, even in menswear, it is important to know how to draw flowers traditionally, before you can draw flowers abstractly. Color is the first thing that people notice, and if it’s not pleasing to the eye or flattering, it doesn’t matter how well a garment fits or how innovative the fabric.
We just finished designing our Spring 2010 line, which was loosely inspired by grafitti and painting. Some of these shirts were actually approached in the same way that I would make an abstract painting, with the exception that I used a computer to literally layer high resolution scans of paint strokes, drips and splatters, instead of real paint which is messy and toxic. In fact, many art critics and mathematicians believe even the action paintings of Jackson Pollock are based on fractals.
-Heidi Bender, Assistant Designer at Jhane Barnes Menswear