James Zormeir: a Modern day Artisan



James Zormeir grew up in a rural part of Montana. It may come as a surprise when you know his work but James loves nature. His degree/thesis collection is a reflection of our urban environment and the way in which the aesthetic of technology has become an integral part the 21st century day-to-day experience. James originally enrolled at CCA to study jewellery design, but students at CCA can build their own major and somehow James drifted towards fashion.



Read full interview below….



James you grew-up in Montana?
Yes, I spent my childhood in the woods with my dog, playing in streams and in the snow.

Is it strange going back home after having spent time in the Bay Area?
I love it in Montana. My father is a builder and I love building houses with him. My Mother is a hair stylist and an all around artist. One of my fondest memories is building a snow fort with my Mom.  I romanticize my Father’s life a little and if I wasn’t studying fashion I would be building houses with him (or studying organic chemistry). I love construction but it is hard work. After a day of pouring concrete nothing feels better than drinking some whiskey and going fishing. There is something very honest about it, there is humility, honesty and pride in work, this is what I romanticize and carry in my heart for Montana.

How did people on the building site react to having a fashion designer help them build a house?
I did not tell them what I do, in Montana I am more of an undercover artist. When I am there most people have no idea of what was going on in my head and I like it that way, there is no pressure. I thrive in the grey area, on the edge, and where people overlook possibility. I’ll never accept the status quo this why I tend to invent new ways of doing things. For me understanding tools, processes, materials, and construction is what separates the good designers from the great.

Can you explain your collection?
There are many ways to approach my collection. My garments are synthetic armature, pieces of jewellery, faux-electronic – fauxtronic – and in some respect could be seen as second anatomy. The idea of protective adornment is important to me. I wanted to create a new way to make clothing.

From time to time I noticed details of mundane objects showing through your garments.
Yes, I used technological objects from our everyday techno environment, such as electrical cables, VCR plugs, and also simpler objects, rope, fan grills etc. which I incorporate, you could say re-appropriate into my designs. The positive pieces for the mold consisted of sink strainers and radial popcorn bowls from a dollar store.



I describe my design process as manufractured. My collection (+)(-) is a reflection on the endless reproduction that has come to drive the modern economy. I used mass produced objects and industrial mass production techniques to make unique pieces.

How does people’s reaction to your work make you feel?
People are surprised and drawn to touch and feel my garments. The silicone pieces urge the hand to touch. While showing my work I sometimes feel naked. For me the experience of critique is simply a practice of being comfortable naked.

James Zormeir

What would you say inspired your collection (+)(-)?
The horror of standardization, conspicuous consumption and cheap plastic objects, but also a love of tools, manufacturing processes and problem solving.  I imagined my world a billion miles away and decided that my world did not want to cut and sew…or maybe it simple did not have the resources necessary to create clothing in that manner.

How do you produce your designs?
I find creating my own manufacturing processes very gratifying. It gives me full control. I developed my method with the help of the shop managers at CCA. I coupled this with my knowledge of tailoring, and garment construction.
My process involves different techniques. One is molding. I create a positive, a prototype by combining various components, everyday objects. Then I create a mold. There were many difficulties and I had to experiment a lot.



My process involves different techniques. One is molding. I create a positive, a prototype by combining various components, everyday objects. Then I create a mold. There were many difficulties and I had to experiment a lot.

My garments are merely an extension of the manufacturing process, they represent as a whole. And this way they subvert their own nature because I made them into my art.

What advice would you give to someone who is about to begin designing their final collection?
Be creative, explore unknown possibilities, don’t ask questions no one can answer, just go for it.

Do you look at fashion trends to inform your work?
No, I am totally jaded with trends and trending. If I have to think about trends I try to step back and see the macro trend that’s occurring. I look at architecture, industrial design, and fine art but most of all I look at the new technologies and new tools sets. They have the ability to change the manufacturing process and consequently the products. Once I have understood the tools I start day dreaming and feel I can imagine the future. I have to invent my own tools and materials sometimes (mostly just in my head) then I put them to work in my fantasy worlds.

CCA addresses sustainable design. Does it matter to you?
Of course I am pro-sustainable design but no approach is 100% sustainable. Man-made products have environmental impacts.

I am very critical of the eco argument because it’s manipulated by marketers. Also I must say I love plastic (although I hate its impact and consequences) and don’t foresee a time when one could grow ones own car the way they grow a flower….but who knows, one of the only things that keeps on making progress is technology; usually because it has commercial value.

In a way my collection utilizes a no waste mantra in that by casting my garment I can get an exact measurement of the material to be poured and only pour that amount.  In this way I optimize material and achieve no waste.

Credits & References









California College of the Arts Film Program undergraduates Lina Vezzani-Katano, Erik Lee, Fred Kolouch, and Yeni Che are the collective first-place winners of CCA’s 2011 R.A.W. Video (real artists at work) contest for their amateur video “James,” which is anything but amateur!

The short film invites the viewer to step into James Zormeir’s world, a fourth-year Fashion Design student, in which we vicariously learn how this talented artist creates and recreates—though the two are not mutually exclusive in his world—in the studio and living in downtown San Francisco.



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