F.WORDS: A new vision for sustainable high hand apparel
F.WORDS stands for fit, fashion, function and flexibility. An ethos that Creative Director and Founder, Kendel Neidermyer, inserts in her couture performance apparel through her experiences, combined with her dedication to craftsmanship; as well as her athletic history as a nationally competitive gymnast. Here & There met with Neidermyer to talk about Collection 4, “My Love Letter to NYC” which mixes a unique blend of Haute-couture and technical ‘athleisure’ (athletic and leisure) clothing designed to fit the needs of modern women. The NYC-based brand is trailblazing with its elevated production approach, its commitment to supporting a domestic economy. Proudly headquartered and manufactured fully in the Big Apple, F.WORDS creates, through a vertical local operation, only small-batch inventory in their commitment to sustainability; elevating the athletic apparel market and its processes along the way.
What sparked the creation of the brand? How did you transition from athlete to designer?
I used to design our competitive leotards and warm-up tracksuits growing up as a nationally competitive gymnast. When I was 18, I was physically and emotionally burnt out on the sport. As a teenager, I was so inspired by evening gowns and bridal attire that I decided to move to NYC and gain an education in couture fashion at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and pursue a career in couture fashion. I led the design, development, and production teams at various ateliers in NYC such as Reem Acra and J.Mendel before founding F.WORDS.
What are your main inspirations?
Food! I’m a big foodie! How it is plated is very interesting to me. Architecture and lighting are also a big inspiration for me. I’m obsessed with lighting design, strong and lean lines. And finally, the outdoors: feeling the energy of nature and letting it cleanse my soul.
What does F.WORDS mean to you?
When I created F.WORDS I started with a list of values. Three and a half years into it, I’m so proud and humbled that although F.WORDS started with me, it’s now so much about my clients, and how they perfectly embody the list of values I originally pencilled down. We are a group of ladies who are bold, confident, radiant, experienced and educated, with open hearts and maybe most importantly, we never take ourselves too seriously.
How would you define this new collection?
It’s my favourite campaign and collection so far. With a devotion to luxurious sensibility, each piece in Collection 4 seamlessly updates whatever pieces you already have. Casual luxury takes on new importance as dressing ‘up’ means something different in 2020.
What was your creative process with this collection?
Collection 4 blends signature architectural lines with a colour palette that employs practicality through a contemporary lens. With fabrics only available to F.WORDS, each garment starts and finishes with the same sewer, is cut one-by-one (opposed to stacking) and never has any pins inserted. You can find gorgeous greens, ballet pinks and toasted oatmeal colours swirled together in the finest, moveable fabrics for this collection. I needed it to be comfortable and to provide a sense of ease and stability. This led to each and every decision. We’ve had a false sense of security in our lives and that was taken away from us this year. I needed to be able to do my part, create a space with empathy and a place to escape, and how that could look in a piece of clothing in a campaign.
What is your favourite piece from the collection?
The Free(deux) Hoodie! It’s crafted in this luxurious cotton merino wool blend from Italy in subtle toasted colour with pops of orange. Orange is my favourite statement! And the hood is removable so you can wear the top many ways which are key for our wardrobes these days.
As a female entrepreneur dedicated to manufacturing and creating in NYC, what were the biggest challenges while founding the company?
No one believed in my vision in the beginning. I’m creating a new market which is positioned between haute-couture and high contemporary in the world of athletic apparel. Fashion, although primarily purchased by women, is still led mostly by men. I was ‘mansplained’ all over the place when I went out and pitched - they just didn’t get it. And so, I proceeded on my own. On the other hand, I’ve been fortunate to have a strong relationship in the manufacturing world of NYC. No one is producing athletic apparel in NYC, it just isn’t done, because the rest of the market is driving for volume and low cost as they are produced in Asia. And we are about exemplary quality which you can only achieve by producing in our process in NYC. But it’s challenging to keep my atelier afloat. They can’t survive alone with just me, not yet anyway. It is our goal though to be a fully vertical integration in the next five to ten years.
What’s next for F.Words?
Everything changed when the pandemic hit. We’ve completely had to pivot to 100% online. I’m grateful that I started the company with the philosophy to build relationships first so that during this pivot, we were able to scale on that during this time where being personal and true and authentic are key. I’m not going to claim I have the answer for what life will look like on the other side of this. I’m still strategizing with shorter-term goals than I have in years past. But I can say, we have a couple of new retail partners which we are excited about to carry our brand in 2021, and we are working on our first joint venture, with a product collaboration which will be created for international riders with a smaller budget.