Building at the seams
STORY BY Seth Putnam
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jesse Lenz and Jennifer Trovato
“I was kind of a punk kid, so I was constantly trying to do whatever would be different,”
Kristina Angelozzi begins each workday by riding her 1980s Motobecane beach cruiser bicycle to a boat that ferries her across Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to her day job as a sportswear designer.
But it’s the art she makes in her spare time, under the label Fischer Clothing, that really sets her eyes alight.
It all began with a sewing machine. “My mom was a total hippie,” Kristina says. “I was always stealing her sewing machine, until she got sick of me breaking it and finally bought me my own, a Singer.”
Kristina was 11 years old. At first, her projects mirrored her age: stuffed animals here, pillows there. As she got into high school, she became interested in clothing.
“I was kind of a punk kid, so I was constantly trying to do whatever would be different,” Kristina remembers. “I was a little social misfit, so I was just making clothes out of the craziest things you could possibly imagine.”
Once, when a friend came over on a weeknight, the two girls rooted around in the basement and found some metal grill covers, which they turned into skirts over the course of the evening.
She made her sister’s wedding dress, and after a degree in fashion marketing, she forayed into the world of costume design. She worked six shows a summer, everything from The Wizard of Oz to Forever Plaid.
“That was the first time I started working in menswear, and I realized that’s where my taste was,” she says. “I wanted to make a living, so coming out of all that melee I went to the Parsons School of Design.”
After her second degree, she worked for a handful of design companies until she came to the realization she was on a corporate trajectory. “When you’re designing for a company, it’s always their expression, not yours,” she says. “So I figured before I died I should at least have some channel of my own.”
So in 2010, she started Fischer and christened it using an old family name. “I think it would have been weird to name it after myself,” she says. “But I love the concept of a name. It conjures some kind of history. I went back through my ancestry, a mix of English and Scottish heritage, and played with about 20 I really loved. Fischer is the one that ended up sticking.”
What followed next was trial and error. She made samples and sold them to a few boutiques. Then she had to figure out how to get stuff made on a larger scale, finally settling on a factory in Brooklyn, where she spent several years before returning to home to Maryland. “Baltimore is so schizophrenic,” she says, musing about what happened when the steel industry crashed. A city that was once considered for the capital of the United States was gutted and became more derelict than habitable. “You have a historic downtown vibrant with bars, then eight blocks north of that you’re in a really bad neighborhood, and it’s The Wire, and people are getting shot.”
Kristina cares about revitalizing the once proud city. Eventually, she plans to move her production to Baltimore so she can have an unimpeded dialogue about her men's and women's offerings. “My general reaction is to not love dresses,” she says, explaining the mindset behind the women’s side of her line. “I’ll wear them, but I’m not interested in gowns and ruffles and flowers. So instead I try to adapt menswear to women’s bodies.”
She dreams of devoting her full attention to Fischer Clothing. But designing and producing a fashion line is expensive and volatile. So she focuses on what’s in front of her. “I like to think Fischer is a combination of everyone I know and want to dress,” she says. “I’m lucky to have clothing on some outstanding people, but it means just as much seeing my friends wear the clothes in their daily life.” —Seth Putnam
Kristina Angelozzi was one of four artists who traveled with The Collective Quarterly. After the trip, she explained what her time in Montana inspired her to create.
WORDS BY Kristina Angelozzi
I didn’t pack very much weather-appropriate clothing for our trip to Glacier National Park. I ended up wearing a blanket all night, and I thought, “How can I make this functional in cold rain?” In a downpour, it’s hard to move when you’re wrapped in a blanket.
The park has so much great history. You can’t help but be inspired as you walk down the trails, seeing dilapidated houses and hearing about women moonshiners.
I made an anorak as my signature piece. If you’re in Glacier, freezing your ass off at 2 a.m., you want somewhere to put your hands. It’s made from a classic blanket from Faribault Woolen Mill, the kind you’d want to take with you on a camping trip. The colors are mossy and natural, then a shock of red. Then there’s a sort of shelter treatment with nylon overlays on the head and shoulders—like a cozy tent for your body.
The name comes from British slang. How appropriate: Here I am nerding out over the difference between an anorak and a parka.
When I’m in Brooklyn and Baltimore, I ride my bike a lot. People think I’m crazy because I still don’t have a car in Maryland. But I do it partly because it centers my creative process.
You have to completely focus on what you’re doing can’t be distracted by email or phone calls. Forced downtime is so important.
What’s inside of me that I need to express? When I think of creativity, it’s a sum of everything in my life I’ve seen or taken in. It’s my tendencies, my tastes. I think it’s doing things without the constraints or difficulties of designing for someone else, through a filter. It’s my unfiltered imagination, my pure self. And I think that allows the designs to be genuine because I’m not trying to contrive a message behind something.
Montana seemed to me to have a very genuine lifestyle. People there are enthusiastic about it for what it is, not trying to make it be something else. They’re there because they appreciate nature, the land, and what they have, rather than trying compete or cater to tourists. It’s wholesome and yet still rugged, and that’s what’s beautiful about it.
I’m not the type of person who plans well or thoroughly. It’s part of my nature, to be happy-go-lucky and clumsy. I loved that Montana was a choose-your-own-adventure format. It was somewhat planned, but nothing was hard or fast, so there was no pressure. We just rolled with it. Things happened that were amazing, and there were surprises around every corner.