Chatting with Mia Humber, the mastermind behind emerging label Baby Slice, was a special experience.
At once genuine, gorgeous, and unique, she is a perfect reflection of the suits she produces. Zanita and I met up with Mia during New York fashion week on a delightfully snowy day on Mott Street – where SoHo meets Chinatown.
Mia told us the story of how she started as a blogger doing regular outfit-a-day posts, but with the twist that in each outfit she would make something herself. Time passed and she kept running into the same problem: “Where can I buy this?” A lack of formal training didn’t deter her so she found an “old Russian lady in Sheepshead Bay” to make prototypes before settling in with her current manufacturer.
“I went to school for advertising and I started designing because I wanted to have clothes that I couldn’t find or couldn’t afford,” she explains, “So I started to make my own. But I barely know how to sew. I’m still tinkering and learning.” The three of them at the table discussed how New York is the perfect place to realize a maverick vision like this. It’s impossible not to admire a young person bold enough to enter the designer game independently.
When I asked Mia about that turning point from DIY to full-scale production she explained how wary she was that commercializing Baby Slice would be her mark on the world. “Because I love design, but the rate of extinction is over 72 times faster than it was in 1990 and that really freaks me out. I didn’t want to put a bunch of stuff out into the world if it didn’t have a real purpose or intention or vision.” We went on to chat about sustainability and Mia spoke passionately and intelligently about her designs being based on reused and recycled materials.
As it turns out, each Baby Slice suit or coat is made from a vintage tapestry individually selected by Mia after hours of online searching. “It’s really hard to tell online,” she grins, “So I have a lot of unused blankets at my house.”
“Any other learning curves?” We asked her, coaxing her to reveal how she balances commercial concerns with such a bold, creative vision.
“I think that people today in design take that harsh reality too seriously. What you really need to do is get people to believe in your vision.”
At this point in the conversation, we made it clear we were converts and we gushed and she blushed before continuing. “You shouldn’t open a boutique and have a vision of everything being special and colorful, but then the black dress sells so you only stock black dresses after that point. That shouldn’t be your business model. You can have it flop for the first few months and then figure out a way to push through that.”
Before Zanita and Mia ran off into the snow to shoot, I asked her one final question although we all knew the answer. “Who is the Baby Slice woman?” Mia didn’t hesitate: “I think of myself. I design super-selfishly. I design purely because I want to wear the things I’m designing.”
“It’s always been really strange for me to see this disconnect between what designers wear and what designers design.” Zanita suggested that one of the reasons Phoebe Philo at Celine has been such a breath of fresh air is because she practices what she preaches in that way and Mia agreed. “I think the way you dress is so powerful. You get so much across so quickly and it’s really strange that more people and more designers don’t want to take advantage of that.”
In this way, Mia’s risky decision to start a label is inherently bankable. She reflects on her product in a way that people can see and understand, and most importantly, buy into. The suits are ethical and considered – traits she obviously embodies. Most importantly though, of course, they look damn fine.
Photography by Zanita Whittington