Brit Shaked is a designer creating for the future of individualism. Originally from Israel and having studied textile design at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, she found herself pursuing fashion in New York nearly ten years ago. With her aspiration as a designer to craft high fashion garments she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s MFA program which she graduated from in August 2020.
Her work and practice is greatly centered around the act of collaboration be it with other design houses, different types of technology or companies that support her creative endeavors. Currently working with threeASFOUR doing design, pattern grading, laser-cut, print and more she is greatly involved in the company identity. In addition to that her own work will be featured in upcoming editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and she anticipates a runway show in the coming months. For Brit Shaked, the future is what she envisions and what she is bringing to us in the present day.
Julia: Hi Brit. Can you tell us about yourself and what lead you to pursue fashion?
Brit: It’s been almost 10 years since I joined the fashion industry. After graduating from Shenkar I moved to New York and worked in the industry and did a lot of design for production based companies. I quickly realized it’s not really for me – all those quantities – so I decided to go back to school and got my MFA from FIT.
How was the FIT MFA program as an experience?
To get into FIT you need a proposal of what you’re going to make. A lot of times you have an idea but you’re not able to produce it or it’s too dreamy or financially hard to execute but I stayed with my idea. Of course it changed along the way, I didn’t exactly know how I was going to do it because I invented a whole new technology that didn’t exist.
Basically every day was a struggle of not knowing how the next day was going to be. As a student there is often the challenge of having an amazing idea but because of time, budget and skills it’s really hard to produce. Everything involved problem solving, so that’s how I would define my time at FIT: problem solving everyday. By searching for solutions I find new and unexpected options. Through research it’s like “Oh I can’t use this material it’s too expensive” then I use another material and realize it’s much better. It was a lot of finding myself and reaching out to people I never thought I would contact.
The MFA program at FIT is very individual. We all have our own path and we need to find our own solution for our own collection. FIT isn’t teaching you how to sew anymore or how to design –they’re basically giving you instructions and options to create and it’s very self driven. It was a very exhausting rhythm of not sleeping, eating and mostly dreaming and, again, problem solving. But at the end it’s like a piggy bank – you put money in and you don’t see the money but if you break it then you have a lot. That’s how I felt. I didn’t feel anything, I didn’t see anything but when it was over I broke the piggy bank and saw all the amazing outcomes.
Can you talk about the intimate personalization of voice as clothing and the personalization of your projects?
When I look at fashion and the future of fashion, to me as a designer I design the future not the present or past. As high fashion we’re the ones who are going to lead the lower fashion brands. When I think about the future of fashion – especially after COVID – all the talk about sustainability and being smart about our choices is related to personalization. When we wake up in morning, as simple as that, we want to be individual, we want to speak our voices, be who we are. Right now in the stores you don’t really have options, you go into a place like Zara or H&M and you’re going to choose exactly like the girl before you just chose, and you’re not going to be unique.
They’re giving you options to choose from and that is not personalization, not a way to be an individual. In my collection I’m saying: “You want to be individual, let’s treat your garment like any other device. So if we’re talking about technology the production of your iPhone is basically a square that maybe you have personalization of colors, option of three colors, but the production is the same. But what makes your phone feel like it’s yours is the apps, the music, it’s the photos. And I’m saying “Why can’t we treat our garments like any other device?”
I want to buy my garment that’s going to look like yours but my application and my control and my feelings are going to change the way it looks. If it’s fit, if it’s color, if it’s shape, if it’s long or short, if I’m hot, if I’m cold, if I’m sad today; why can’t my garments do what my phone does? Why can’t I put my own feature into it? Then instead of buying a million garments I buy just this one or two that change and adapt to what I feel. And this is something that to me is the future of fashion because this is also sustainable, there is no sizing anymore, there’s no colors or preference because as the wearer I decide.
You know the feeling when there’s a phone on the table and you pick it up, push the button and see it’s not yours like “Oh it’s not my phone”. This is how I want people to feel about garments. So you go into the store, you take the garment, you take it home and then it’s yours, you put your own feature into it and nobody will touch the garment and say “This could be anyones”. This to me is very important because this is the thing that is closest to us.
Some people ask “But why would we put technology on our bodies? It’s super dangerous…” and my answer is always “But you already are”. Your phone is in your pocket 99.99% of the day so it’s essentially the same.
How do you see your practice with technology and personalization evolving into something on a practical, integrated level?
As a young designer I’m still in the prototype development phase. I already did my second prototype so I can see the evolution. The first time I did my patent, my technology, it was that big and then it was that small so the next phase is with zero battery or zero waste. Then I’m going to find a way to wash it in the laundry –there are so many solutions and it’s happening.
Because during my time as a student I approached millions of people who told me that what I want to do is impossible. Because for them it is impossible –they don’t know how to do it. But I find young and brilliant minds that don’t tell me anything is impossible and instead think about different solutions. It’s getting there and I think the way it’s going to happen is people realizing that the fashion industry is the most primitive industry in the world, we’re still doing things with labor.
This is something that needs to be changed as soon as possible if you want to be thinking about the environment, thinking about slavery, thinking about countries that are struggling. This is not the right way to do things, this is the primitive way to do things. I have my own startup company based in Israel we’re doing technology solutions for fashion, so we’re going to use robotics to replace handwork and slavery I hope.
threeASFOUR has a very futurist design sense. How has that informed you professional experience and your personal work?
threeASFOUR reached out to me because they knew we had similar values but I feel that they saw it in me before I even knew my values. They sensed it by the way I create. I was creating what I wanted but I couldn’t nameit. Then I came to threeASFOUR and I realized the way they create is the way I want to manage my own business. They believe in respecting the workers, they believe in saying things the right way and even if we are all stressed they’re going to try to do it in a way that we don’t feel they are abusing us. This is very rare in fashion –this almost doesn’t exist. After being in a very bad environment before, in fashion, it felt like I came home.
They take young designers that are good at what they’re doing and elevate them by using them in creating their collections. For me this is exactly what I believe in. It’s multidisciplinary designing from different fields and valuing technology for problem solving; like you want to do something but don’t know how to do it, technology is always a solution. This is something threeASFOUR and I are very similar in and we believe in it, not only believing but executing it because you’re going to see a lot of designers saying “I believe in technology, I believe in sustainability” but they don’t show it. You need to show it; how you do things and make people feel that when they see your garments? Because what does ‘future’ mean? The future is unknown how are you going to have a feeling of futuristic design? Because it can be any color, any shape, any material but it’s a feeling and process that you need to put into your garment for it to show.
Much of what you’re doing is far removed from traditional fashion design. Do you see yourself as a “fashion designer”?
It’s very hard to define it because as as designer you need to know how to do everything. Your need to be able to instruct people on how to do it. For example I’m not a seamstress but I have to know how to sew and construct a garment to give them direction. I have to know textiles because I need to understand how you put stuff together and I have to understand technology because I need to communicate technology. I need to know a lot and sometimes I need to pretend like I know because it looks unprofessional if I don’t. To be honest being a designer is basically doing everything from business to collaborating, to reaching out to people, to knowing how to talk, how to sell yourself, how to produce, how to sew, how to make prints: it’s a whole dimension of stuff that we need to learn how to do.
How do you think the fashion industry would view you and what you’re doing?
Well I’m trying to lead an idea of personalization, a real one and the most common question I get is “Why do I need this? Why do I need this crazy garment that I can’t go to the grocery store with?” But I create what I feel so this is what I feel and being practical is for boring people. It’s not for me. I hope that I’m going to get good reviews from the industry on my next collection but I don’t know yet.
How/where/on who do you want to see your design worn?
Right now what I’m approaching is mostly editorials and celebrities that are doing editorials. You can’t wear my garments in the streets – you can of course if you’re Bjork or Lady Gaga – but you need to understand where it’s going. We hope that in the future I can take those ideas to more commercial places and more wearable place for people like me. I don’t design for me, I’m not my own customer. That’s very important for me but I still have a lot of time to think about going commercial because you can always go commercial from high fashion but you can’t go to high fashion from commercial. You can always go low. My customer is a person who exposes feelings, is not scared of what other people say, that is confident to show themselves and is not scared of the future. That is how I would define my customer.