Fashion designer and Massachusetts College of Art and Design alumna Erin Robertson is used to the question “When are you leaving Boston?” But the 30-year-old Utah native has no plans to relocate any time soon.
The winner of Project Runway Season 15, which wrapped up in December, recently put down roots at the Piano Craft Guild building in the South End. A psychedelic flora and fauna mural painted by her friend and frequent collaborator Jordan Piantedosi covers the door to her airy 1,200-square-foot loft, a one-bedroom unit that’s more work space than living quarters.
Robertson’s Project Runway prize bounty included $100,000 to start her business, $25,000 in cash, and a Lexus, but it’s the Brother Sewing and Embroidery studio that gets the most attention now. In her quirky creature- and color-filled home, Robertson will design and sew— and collaborate with local innovators and artists. Up first is a project with MIT Media Lab researcher Jifei Ou.
You’re staying in Boston, but why?
Now that I’m starting to get into my business, it’s allowed me to step back and think about what I care about doing and what I want to be doing. I’m excited to be [in Boston] because it’s good to be close to technology and students at MIT who are doing innovative projects. They’re on another plane, but it’s so connected to what I do.
I met Jifei [Ou] at MIT’s Being Material symposium, and he was showing off 3-D-printed fur. I had never seen soft material created by a 3-D printer. So now we’re working together and creating a garment. I’m hoping what I’m doing can inspire other [fashion] people to work with engineers and scientists. I love science and tech, but that’s not my study. I can’t engineer a sustainable textile alone. But I can be proficient with what I’m good at and work with someone who can do the engineering. And, together, we can start thinking about sustainable textiles.
Will we see products or ready-to-wear from you soon?
I don’t want to be on a fashion calendar. I want to make [collections] when I want to do them. Fashion needs to slow down. There needs to be meaning and love rather than just producing to be bought. Jordan [Piantedosi] and I are going to make a collection inspired by nature. We want to make couture outfits [inspired by creatures] that are fun and shiny but also educational.
What vibe are you going for in decorating the studio?
I want it to be as colorful as possible. In the past, I’ve only worked in studio spaces with fluorescent overhead lighting, and now I can install cool Philips Hue lights that I can change to be any color I want. It’s really bright in here, but they allow me to always have pops of color.
You’re depicted as a snail on your front-door mural, and there are more snails lurking around the loft. What’s their significance?
It’s the only emoji in the animal section [of the emoji alphabet] that’s facing toward the future. The rest of the creatures face to the left — toward the past. There are a few others that are facing upward, but the snail is full force the opposite direction. And it’s even more epic because it’s a snail. [When] thinking about slow factory, slow food, and those other movements — they’re almost always represented by a snail. Going into my business, I want to be slow fashion, and I want things to be handmade. The snail is my reminder.