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In conversation with deparel

From knitkinis to caterpillar tops, they are redefining the possibilities of texture knit has to offer.

Knitwear connoisseurs, deparel crafts must-haves for every season. From knitkinis to caterpillar tops, they are redefining the possibilities of texture knit has to offer. In fact, playful experimentation is the brand’s middle name as they explore the boundaries of their medium in a wholly independent way. No factories, no fuel emissions—they do everything in-house by hand with deadstock and unconventional materials. And yes, the rumours are true: this Friday, we are welcoming deparel to the Glamcult Store’s shelves—with drinks and cute faces to celebrate, of course. Amid all the excitement, we got the chance to catch up with the couple behind the needles, Max Mulder and James Langley, to talk all things from their inspiration to ins and outs.

Walk us through the beginning days of the brand. Starting at Rhode Island School of Design, moving to Amsterdam together and founding deparel.
J: Max and I met at RISD, and Max was the knitting teacher’s assistant in my first knitting class. It really was a knit affair from the beginning. Then we started getting to know each other and collaborating, and then one thing led to another, and we ended up here!

And why Amsterdam?
J: We both grew up in the US but aren’t originally from the US. We met in school and then decided we wanted to go off and blaze our own path. Max’s family is Dutch, so we thought we’d give Amsterdam a try.

How would you say the brand has evolved over the years?
M: We both had to step out of coming from a place where we were students, just making things for fun. So we’ve had to put our little business hats on, which is something neither of us expected to do so soon out of college. But getting things straightened out as far as all the business aspects has really helped us grow.

Following up on that, what has been the biggest challenge and what is your greatest accomplishment?
J: Our greatest accomplishment is definitely being here now in this moment and seeing everything we’ve built! At the same time, our biggest challenge was also getting here: finding a voice and a place to just operate and work together.

And where do you get your inspiration from? Any bizarre places?
M: I think we’re both definitely inspired by nature, workwear, and fashion history, and I’d say we’re really inspired by each other’s work. A lot of our processes relate to material experimentation, so definitely getting inspired by the materiality or texture of things.
J: Not that bizarre, but we’re really inspired by each other. I just come to the studio and try to impress my crush, and that really does it!

Aww, that’s so sweet. What would you say you two bring out in each other while designing?
M: We’re both on the fence between being artists and designers. I lean more into the art side—like soft, squiggly lines—and James leans a bit more into the design aspect—like sharp, straight lines. I think it’s this difference that makes our brand so successful.

What does your creative process look like?
J: I’d say it’s very organic, really experimental, and we just really enjoy what we’re doing.

What does a typical day in the studio look like?
M: Oh, it differs every day! Definitely always orders to fulfil, and then a million other boring and less interesting things that are necessary to keep a brand above water. But as soon as those are ticked off, we always work on making new things or just reworking designs that we’ve made before, and generally, again, a lot of experimenting!

Describe deparel in 3 words.
M: Innovative, collaborative, and experimental
J: Innovative, experimental, and collaborative

Hahaha. Where does the name come from?
J: It comes from the Dutch word De Parel meaning the pearl, combined into one word. In English, it doesn’t mean anything, but funnily enough, it does sound like the negation of apparel. We find that the name really embodies what we do.

You describe deparel as a vertically integrated studio, can you elaborate on that?
J: Definitely! We work totally in house here in Amsterdam. So we design, manufacture and send everything from the same building. By staying under one roof, we totally cut out the middle-man in the production process which is something we really take a lot of pride in.  

How did you refine the philosophy of the brand?
J: Hmmm well it’s still a bit of a work in progress. But we really try to wait until we’re super sure on something because we want to make something not only to buy, but something you get to keep, more of a treasure.

Ins and Outs for this spring/summer?
M: Ins definitely swimwear as outerwear, swimsuits as bodysuits, swim shorts as normal shorts. And as for the outs I don’t really believe there should be any, people should just wear what they want
J: In… deparel, specifically knitkinis. Out… there’s no out. 

Song on repeat in the studio?
M: We recently went to an Underworld concert, so we have been listening to this one song that we heard at the concert for the first time and spent so much time searching for it and it’s called Denver Luna and there’s 3 different versions of it, at the moment we prefer the a capella or the edited version :p

So deparel is about to be in the Glamcult Store!! What pieces can we expect there? 
M: Some of our new caterpillar swimsuits from our spring 24 collection, which are super fun because the tops are also something you could wear like a sports bra. Some long skirts which are pretty new, a bit more covered and very dense in textile and quite adjustable and definitely some new colorways of our classic knitkinis and our classing caterpillar top in a white fuzzy yarn.

Are you excited for this Friday?
M and J: Very! See you guys there

Words by Ella Paritsky