Emily Katz is an author, creative consultant, macrame teacher, artist, and Founder of Modern Macramé. She has taught macrame to thousands of people around the globe, from private lessons, to beautifully curated workshops, to team building for creative companies. We sat down with her in the beautiful Modern Macramé headquarters to learn about her perspective on personal style and what inspires her.
FM: Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired you creatively?
EK: Portland, OR via Tucson, AZ. I connected to both the desert and the PNW. My first “style choices” were made up of mismatched high top Converse All Stars and cut off corduroy jeans. Growing up in the 90’s, Portland was known for Birkenstocks and rain coats. I always loved vintage clothing and spent hours every week combing through the Goodwill bins for 1950’s party dresses that I wore with oversized Pendleton sweaters and those Converse shoes.
When I had my own clothing line in the early 2000’s, I was attracted to designing easy but feminine basics, dresses and jackets that could go from day to night. Now, I think I am drawn to a mix of creative patterns and prints, and sumptuous textures.
FM: Where did your first understanding of ‘style’ come from?
EK: My dad had a philosophy around buying high quality furniture (usually vintage 1970’s Danish items, or futons!) and only having natural fibers in our home. This applied to our clothing as children as well. I still rarely wear clothing that isn’t natural fibers. Outdoor gear is really the only exception, and even then I gravitate towards wool when I can.
“ Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t wear what you want. Fashion is such a wonderful way to express yourself. Be playful and creative. Or if you want, wear the same thing everyday. ”
FM: Is there one piece that you used to own and wish you still did?
EK: When I was a teenager, we lived in Italy for 6 months. I bought a white t-shirt with cherry blossoms and my favorite quote printed on it in Italian. It was a line from Everyday you Play, my favorite poem by Pablo Neruda. The line was ‘I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” I got rid of it in a purge about 10 years ago. I wish I hadn’t. Even though it was just a t-shirt, it was a beautiful representation of who I was at that time.
FM: What’s the best piece of fashion advice you’ve ever been given?
EK: Be Yourself. Whoever that is.
FM: A pearl of wisdom to give to your younger self on dressing…
EK: Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t wear what you want. Fashion is such a wonderful way to express yourself. Be playful and creative. Or if you want, wear the same thing everyday.
Wear what you love and don’t let anyone’s judgement of you sway what makes you happy.
FM: How does your work shape your personal style?
EK: Working with cotton and fiber art inspires the kind of textiles that I am attracted to. When developing a DIY pattern I am considering color trends, rope availability, and how the piece will be used/worn/installed into one’s home. How we interact with the things in our lives, all of them, can have a cohesive plan or vision.
FM: What informs your creative work? Where do you find inspiration?
EK: I find inspiration in connection. These days I am constantly thinking about how to grow my company in a sustainable way, while taking care of my community and their needs.
“ Focusing on beaches, and swimming, and eating delicious things, moving my body, and spending time with my pals. Not being a sponge, but just BEING. I know that inevitably that will bring more clarity and inspiration. ”
FM: Where in the world do you feel most inspired?
EK: It is less about a place than what travel and freedom can bring to your personal ecosystem.
I feel inspired by new places. I love wandering through European cities with no map or agenda except to wander into a cafe and read a book and people watch.
This year I hope to spend more time not worrying about being inspired, and instead traveling to places where I can let my nervous system relax. Focusing on beaches, and swimming, and eating delicious things, moving my body, and spending time with my pals. Not being a sponge, but just BEING. I know that inevitably that will bring more clarity and inspiration. But that is less the point at the moment.
FM: What have you learned about yourself as your business or practice has grown?
EK: I will always be growing and changing. I have spent a lot of time worrying about whether I am making the RIGHT choices for the moment. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to follow my intuition, and that there are no right or wrong decisions. (ok still learning this!)
FM: Tell us about your creative process.
EK: Ideate. Dream. Collaborate. I am an external processor and love to work with a team mate or partner on ideas. Really getting the juices flowing. I feel lucky to have some incredible women on my team at Modern Macramé who are wonderful at working together with me to brainstorm and create.
FM: What do you have in mind when you get dressed in the morning? What do you try to achieve with your choice of clothing/outfits?
EK: I have a very accomplishable dream for my closet. I want only 3 kinds of socks. One for adventures (like a nice cosy stretch wool). One for working out, and one for everyday. Maybe 5 pairs of each, and nothing else. As much as I love freedom and play in my clothing, this is a place where I want SIMPLICITY.
Lately I have been wearing these amazing shearling No 6 clog boots without socks though. So maybe I will just give up wearing socks altogether?
FM: Can you tell us about your next creative project?
EK: I am working on a new book, but it is in the baby inspiration stages. So I can’t share yet… I am also working on expanding my business into not just selling rope. Did you know that my company sold over 2 million feet of rope last year?
This April, I have an art show of collaborative work with glass artist Andi Kovel of Esque studios that will be held at Jessica Helgerson’s Front of House Gallery. It is work we conceived and made while at an artist residency at the Museum Of Glass in Tacoma, WA last year. Stay tuned for the opening date!
“ I love color, but dream of minimal capsule closets (this will never happen). Lately I have been trying to only buy colors that make me happy and phasing out the black in my closet. I want to wear mustard, electric green, browns, pinks, and copper colors. ”
FM: How does Portland inspire the way you dress?
EK: I remember Portland being made fun of for Birkenstocks and outdoor gear, and now athleisure is such a big trend ;) Growing up here, I had a really scrappy style, lots of thrift shopping, mixing high and low, layering.
FM: How has where you live now shaped your sense of style?
EK: I am still sort of scrappy at heart, even though I sometimes wear shoes that cost over $500, my vintage coat was only $18, my dress might be handmade, and my fur hat came from an estate sale. I am always inspired by fashion from other places, and love to bring special wearable items from my travels. So other places influence my style as well. But I always try to ask myself: Will I wear this when I am home? On our honeymoon in Bali this past October I was attracted to a few too many flowy linen outfits that were perfect for there, but wouldn’t easily fit into my everyday life in Portland. So I might get one thing, and save it for wearing when it is really hot here, and try to remember to bring it next time I travel somewhere exotic.
FM: How closely are your designs connected to the community of Portland?
EK: These days most of my work is creating inspirational content and providing DIY craft materials to people who want to make things out of rope. Portland has always had a healthy DIY spirit, so though we sell globally, where else could the macramé revival thrive but in the city that Put a Bird on it…
FM: Do you consider yourself an “artist” or “creative”? Have you ever struggled with this part of your identity?
EK: Both and… currently I think of myself as a business woman and entrepreneur more than anything else.
FM: What do you think your clothes or personal style say about you as a person?
EK: Well, I have SO many ideas that sometimes it is hard to focus on one direction. That is true for my closet too.
FM: What is your favorite piece of clothing? And why?
EK: In Theory: Once while thrifting in Reno I found a 1970’s suede Gucci pant suit. It doesn’t currently fit (a little tight!) but I keep it in my closet as an aspirational future outfit. The last time I wore it, it was Halloween, and I dressed as my future self. We shall see...
In Practice: There are really so many pieces that I love. It is so hard to choose. I tend to fall in love with designers, like Rachel Comey, Mara Hoffman, Carla Fernandez, Ace and Jig and so many more...
If I had to choose one thing though, It might be my Alexander Wang peach trench coat that I bought second hand in NYC a few years ago. It’s slinky and drapey, and the best pale peach color. Though it's really more of an LA everyday jacket, for Portland I can only wear it for a few months out of the year.
FM: How has your style evolved over the years?
EK: It is constantly evolving still! Where I used to demand to only leave the house in a dress (kindergarten), to wearing mismatched converse high tops (back in highschool), and now, I feel fancy and colorful somedays, drapey caftan cozy dressing, and other days more preppy. I love color, but dream of minimal capsule closets (this will never happen). Lately I have been trying to only buy colors that make me happy and phasing out the black in my closet. I want to wear mustard, electric green, browns, pinks, and copper colors.
FM: Is there a particular outfit that makes you feel the most confident/inspired?
EK: I have a few Ace and Jig dresses that everytime I put them on I feel stylish, comfortable, and put together. That is the perfect combo. Just slip on a pair of shoes that I love (I have many playful ones) and I am all set.
FM: What does being ‘comfortable’ and ‘confident’ with your sense of style mean to you?
EK: Wearing whatever you want. I would always rather be overdressed than under. I am committed to being equally comfortable in my vintage tiger print dress as I am in my APC cashmere turtleneck and Kamm Pants. My style is a mix of modern, playful, vintage, and stuff my mom would wear. I love sweater dresses, jumpsuits, and outfits that are easy to put together. As I have grown older, I feel more comfortable not having one definite style. I am ok with being a little bit all over the place.
Learn more about Modern Macrame HERE.
Follow Emily at @Emily_Katz