Local Love on the West Coast: An Interview with Calle Del Mar Designer Aza Ziegler

Calle Del Mar Knits

Photo by Beatrice Helman

Local Love on the West Coast – An Interview with Calle Del Mar Designer Aza Ziegler

The thread weaving together Aza Ziegler’s life lies in creativity. From an early age, the
designer was exposed to the power of imagination, and that has been a constant for her ever since. After graduating from the Pratt Institute, Aza launched her brand Calle Del Mar. The California-inspired pieces didn’t take long to gain attention and after only a few years out of college, the designer found her pieces garnered a cult-like following. Since then, Aza has zeroed in on the creations she feels most passionate about making: sportswear knits made of silky yarn.

The brand’s popular “varsity tees” are a prime example of the seemingly contradictory elements which make Aza’s designs so covetable. These garments are both feminine and masculine, practical and fantastical, “sporty” and chic. Calle Del Mar believes in producing clothing with heart and collections are made locally (in Los Angeles) by women earning fair wages. Through attention to detail, a passion for quality, and love of self-expression, Calle Del Mar brings conscious fashion to life.

You grew up in Northern California with parents who are both artists. How has your
upbringing informed your work?

Northern California is a magical place. I grew up nestled in the fog, where the mountains meet the ocean. I loved the crisp air, the winding roads, the access to a city as beautiful as San Francisco. Foggy mornings were spent layered up, as noon rolled around the fog would burn off, and the afternoons were sunny and warm. Northern California had an extremely powerful impact on how I am energetically, how grounded I am in nature, and how I dress. I was, and still am, always in layers and lots of knitwear.

I feel immensely privileged to have such creative parents who pursued artistic careers. Their untraditional outlook on life has shaped how I view not only the world but how to set up my life. I was raised to always go against the grain, honor my individuality, and celebrate my freedom of expression. My parents left a lot of time for play when we were growing up and really nurtured our creativity by encouraging us to go after anything that interested us. Weekends were spent hiking, painting, and collaborating.

One spring my parents got new outdoor furniture and instead of throwing away all the boxes they helped my brother and I create little houses to play in. They saw potential for play in every situation and in every material. My mother grew up in a very Italian family and we spent many days in her garden or cooking with her. My dad would make up every story he read to us and would teach us to play with words and write poetry. When I would see a dress I liked in a store or a magazine my mom would say, “let’s make it!” They picked schools for us that had theatre, painting, ceramics, and music. I am really so grateful to have been raised in an environment that nurtured that.

“I design like how I shop: less is more, unique pieces, and
the same item in a few colors”

How has a love for vintage affected how you design and value clothing?
When I was a little girl my mom use to take me to this vintage store called Secondhand Bananas. It was a thrift and vintage store for toddlers so I guess you could say I’ve always worn vintage. My mom taught me how to be a thoughtful consumer through buying vintage pieces, classic basics, and not overconsuming. I’ve always been after the search for the unique item that speaks to me. Clothes used to be made with so much more care and attention to detail. I like to believe our society is slowly coming back to that by starting to shop more local and consciously. I personally care a lot about the quality and fit of garments because I think it sets brands apart. You can wear a well made piece with a great fit a thousand times while enjoying the unique stitching and handmade feel. Vintage to me is also about giving clothing a longer life.

When I design, I try to create timeless pieces that you can immediately fall in love with and keep forever. I design like how I shop: less is more, unique pieces, and the same item in a few colors. My love of vintage definitely drew me to knitwear in high school. I started collecting all of these vintage athletic viscose shirts and cheerleading sweaters because I thought they were cooler than a typical t-shirt. I’d wear them with jeans and vans and get so many compliments. I
loved the shine of the viscose yarn, the silkiness of the knit, and the weight you felt as you wore them. Not to mention how breathable and smell repellent the fiber is! I finally decided I want to re-make those pieces in my own way, and that’s how the varsity tee was born.

Photos by Beatrice Helman

Photos by Beatrice Helman

You’ve cited the 1960s and 1970s surf/skate culture as inspiration for your designs. What
drew you to that period and community?

Like much of my generation, I have always felt nostalgic for a time I didn’t live in. I think of the ’60s and ’70s through the clothes, the design, and the simplicity of life. Those times feel more colorful and free. My fascination began when I moved to New York at 18. I felt an immense culture shock. While I was so drawn to the hustle and bustle of the extremely creative city, I felt disconnected from my breezy roots. I started romanticizing the effortlessness of being a California teen and the surf/skate culture I grew up around. I found myself obsessing over old beach party movies, music, and books. I would go to vintage stores to score “Made in California” clothes because I wanted to hold onto that part of my identity. Now don’t get me wrong, New York shaped me in so many ways as well, yet I couldn’t shake my love of the West Coast. The colors, the clothes, the movement, the lifestyle of the ’60s and ’70s California culture resonated with my romanticized view of what growing up in the state felt like.

“Every item has a full life before it even reaches the customer.”

Calle Del Mar is manufactured in Los Angeles. Why is local production important to you?
Producing our products locally is important to me for a number of reasons. Some more obvious than others like reducing our carbon footprint, having firsthand control over ethical factory conditions, etc. However, it has also allowed us to be extremely hands-on with our process, allowing us to work on a smaller made-to-order scale and reducing our waste. Knitwear has always been tactile and comforting for me, so it’s important that there is a piece of myself in that process.

Local production has given us an amazing bonus of relationships with the women who run our production and beautifully manage the quality and fit of each garment. I think that is so special. In the digital era, being able to communicate face to face creates magic in each conversation, whether it be about lowering the waistline by a 1/4” or learning about their family’s weekend plans. There are real women behind these clothes. Each piece is made on handlooms, in small batches, and they come from a community that cares about the quality of your garment.

Photo by Beatrice Helman

Photo by Beatrice Helman

What do you wish more consumers knew about what it takes to make a quality garment?
It takes time and money to produce something of quality and unique style. The journey
of a garment is so long before it reaches customers. Every product we make starts with us
handpicking the colors, dying the yarn, and swatching to find the perfect tension. Sometimes our sample process takes months as we perfect the fit of each piece. Additionally, we make a sample in every size to ensure there is consistent quality. Our products are made by hand and
therefore take time and care to produce. Every item has a full life before it even reaches the

“I want to continue to create consciously, locally, and with a vibrant community.”

What are your hopes for Calle Del Mar moving forward?
I see CDM with a flagship store, a luxury shopping experience for our growing loyal clientele. I want to foster a community around our product and make made-to-order pieces, including custom colors. I also believe that fashion is moving more and more towards renting and away from producing. I would love to have a rental system for those who do not wish to personally consume more items from the inventory of past seasons and samples. I want to continue to create consciously, locally, and with a vibrant community.

-Audrey Stanton