Hannah from Hansel from Basel: legs pt I
Socks. When a person typically thinks of socks, the stylish they probably go for are those white ankle socks. Short, clean cut, barely-there. Practically invisible. More of an afterthought. However, it seems Hannah Byun, founder of Hansel from Basel, thinks socks are supposed to, and can be, much more than that [but of course traditional minimalism is always appreciated]. I completely agree. I happen to think socks and other hosiery are like scarves and any other accessory. You can express yourself and your sense of style through them.
In the last few years, the hosiery industry has certainly bloomed and established themselves as much more than simply "something you wear with your shoes". They are a mark of fashion in themselves. Now, so many varieties exist [I mean, yes, there was 80's legwear...but I'd rather not talk about that. I tend to have a bias against 80's fashion :( ]. There is so much more than one's argyle and tube socks, and brilliantly patterned and colored tights instead of neutral ones. Plus, you've got your lamé and holographic leggings. They are as integral a part as a top in an outfit. Sometimes I find myself purchasing things to go around my socks. Is that intense?
Can I just say, I love it? I have a whole shelf in my dorm dedicated to tights, socks, and leggings. I've pretty much acquired them all over the past year. I am a little obsessed. I love to walk into stores that happen to be ridiculously high-end, and come out with a pair of socks or tights. Is that weird? It's just... they are just as creative, sometimes mind-boggling, but tons more affordable than an actual garment piece. Sometimes there just happens to be a really good sale too...so you get your $50-70 Gaspard Yurkievich stockings for $25-35 when a typical Gaspard Yurkievich top is $300. Even spending that amount may seem absurd to some, but you can't simply think of them as "socks".
I am going to stop that hosiery spiel now. Here is where Hansel from Basel comes in. I came across them online a couple months ago and just fell in love with their line. love love. Especially all the kneepad (a few of which I own) socks and the tuxedo socks... not to mention the schiele print socks and dotted socks...which is basically everything. They were just so fun and whimsical and quite colorful. And there was hardly a single company that had such cute and innovative designs. A chance encounter allowed me to meet the actual creator behind Hannah from Basel, Hannah Byun, in LA. I even remember what she was wearing- her cute striped socks, a fairisle sweater, full-ish skirt, and comfy-looking boots, and her hair was tied-pinned up in the back. It took a lot of guts to ask her if I could ask her some questions at another time, but thank goodness I did! Hannah was very sweet and down-to-earth. It was so enjoyable and I had so much fun (while attempting to be serious at the same time). In the same spirit, for some questions I have kept some of the original IM format. Please enjoy.
Life Style: Where do you originally hail from?
hanselfrombasel: I grew up behind the orange curtain (aka orange county)
Life Style: When did you start getting interested in fashion? How would you describe your "style evolution" from when you were a kid?
hanselfrombasel: I have always loved fashion. As a child, I was obsessed. I read vogue as a pre teen... my style evolution has not changed. Despite my interests in fashion fashion, I tend to dress preppy with a twist and have my whole life. I remember wearing wool plaid shorts with henleys while other kids had scrunchies, baggie neon shirts, and tights… I also still wear some of my clothes from high school. My style has been consistent through and through.
Life Style: What did your parents have to say about your obsession as a teen? [I know my mother goes nuts]
hanselfrombasel: They didn’t think much of it. I’ve always been in my own boat with that stuff and if anything, they let me be as obsessed. It wasn’t like I couldn’t study… or spent my money on clothes, because I didn’t have any money.
Life Style: I understand that you graduated from UCLA, majoring in Studio Art and Art History. How did that lead to hosiery?
hanselfrombasel: My father had a business manufacturing hosiery lines for mass market brands. It was an opportune time in creating something interesting without the hassle of finding connections but using ones you already had.
Life Style: So what is a typical work day like for you?
hanselfrombasel: I wake up, read emails, write emails and I mean a lot of emails, research designs and inspiration, eat sometime in between, manage the manufacturing because it's hectic ...work work work. It's a lot of work and changes everyday. Like today, I have to get packaging approved, approve production samples, figure out taxes, designing the fall 08 mailer, manage fall 08 samples, figure out pricing.........
Life Style: So you oversee the production process?
hanselfrombasel: I do my production in China and Korea. Though, I plan to focus on Korea from now on.
Life Style: Are you having a Spring 08 line? (so excited!)
hanselfrombasel: Yup, and it's just about ready to ship ...just checking on some minor details and changes. It won’t be in stores for another month [February]
Life Style: Where does the name "Hansel from Basel" come from?
hanselfrombasel: Well, it's a combination of things: it's similar to "Hannah", I've always loved Switzerland and the idea of lederhosen, yodeling, chalets, etc., and I took a lot of German in college… it's kind of a little character that I've created as an alter ego, I guess
Life Style: The oft dreaded question: Where do you get your inspiration from?
hanselfrombasel: Oh a lot of places. Spring colors were inspired from the fall 07 comme des garcons collection…I love vintage knitwear… Japanese crafts…
Life Style: So you're a big vintage shopper?
hanselfrombasel: Interestingly, I cant stand vintage shopping…I do it all online. I’m so busy that anything requiring "search" frustrates me.
Life Style: I think its fun! But I agree about the frustration at times.
Life Style: Speaking of Comme des Garcons…Who are your favorite designers?
hanselfrombasel: Oh so many. balenciaga's nicholas ghesquire is so good. I am obsessed with the cargo bag and asymmetrical dresses he did early on for them.
hanselfrombasel: I love marni, tao by comme des garcons...isabel marant is a good everyday designer that I love
hanselfrombasel: Oh man, I am having a serious monday brain slur
hanselfrombasel: I love miuccia prada… I really like acne jeans too.
Life Style: So I am guessing that you spend most of your time in or around LA. What are your favorite places to frequent?
hanselfrombasel: Yes, I spend a lot of time in LA though I’ve been traveling to NY a whole lot. In LA, I love creatures of comfort. My whole wardrobe is from there, no joke.
hanselfrombasel: I don’t shop all that much in LA…I will go to creatures and be done done done. I hit Barneys once in a blue moon but mostly for face products. I love South Willard for their postalco products and I like APC but I just go to creatures for it…
hanselfrombasel: [On cafes and eateries] Yuca's burritos on hillhurst, izayoi in little tokyo, mozza, intelligentsia (my friends and I are addicted), cafe los feliz for amazing croissants that are as big as your face...I’m trying not to go out to eat as much…so unhealthy! I like haru ulala for cheap Japanese eats… Oh and I love yabu for noodles! Inaka on la brea for macro japanese food...sooooooooooo good, my favorite.
Life Style: My kind of girl! I eat too much for my own good too.
hanselfrombasel: I’m totally going off track. I think about food a whole lot.
hanselfrombasel: Oh and bagel broker....BAGELS! So good. Ok I will stop with food.
hanselfrombasel: I think about food as much as I stress about socks.
Life Style: Well, I’m sure you can get inspiration from different cuisines
hanselfrombasel: Sure thing
Life Style: How would you characterize your line in a few sentences?
hanselfrombasel: It's a spirited line with whimsical designs that come straight from the heart.
Life Style: that's good
Life Style: Lastly…Any advice to those who would want also to pursue any sort of design in the fashion industry?
hanselfrombasel: Perseverance. I think once you have your aesthetic and sensibilities in line, it's really important to secure a strong production base…60% of being a designer is managing and perfecting your production. I can't stress how important that is. And it helps to be organized. <>
Oh, and did I mention their socks feel so comfortable and have a slight sheen? They feel so comfortable and have a slight sheen!
Anyhow, Hansel from Basel is sold online at anthropologie.com, activeendeavors.com, creaturesofcomfort.us, chocosho.com, stevenalan.com, and bonandging.com (sales on most sites!). Store stockists can be found online here.
Shh...My favorites from her SPR 08 line: the spats long socks, white colorblock mondrian socks, and azure/blush mini striped stockings.
SPR. 08 sneak peek