Studio Series: Daniel Silverstain

November 11, 2015 BY WATM STAFF

Daniel Silverstain is fascinated by modernism, innovation, essentiality and futurism. His collections explore textiles and natural forms in an era of hi-technology and industrialism while architecture and mid-20th century heavily influence his bold designs. A former musician, Silverstain discovered his passion for design on a trip to India where he practiced in knitting, screen-printing, and jewelry making. In 2009 he moved to New York to continue studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. As an undergraduate, a professor submitted his collection to a competition run by Vogue Italia in 2011 and Silverstain was selected to collaborate with the Danish-based fashion label Muuse, a fashion group that partners with emerging young designers from around the world to produce their collections and sell them to the public.

Recently Daniel Silverstain was recognized as one of three finalists for the Fresh Faces in Fashion at Gen Art, a program that has helped launched the careers of many young designers: Peter Som, Philip Lim, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte to name a few. We caught up with Silverstain in his studio, a few blocks away from FIT.

WATM: How long have you been in New York?

I’m originally from Israel. I moved here 7 years ago to study fashion at FIT. I always wanted to move to New York. I thought it would be for music but it ended up being for fashion. I chose fashion because I wanted to do something new. I studied music all my life, it was my life’s work. While studying at FIT a professor submitted one of my collections to a competition by Vogue Italia in 2011 and I won. The award was to make a capsule collection with a Danish company in Copenhagen; it was the first time I submitted a collection with my name on it. After graduating I worked with Philip Lim, Calvin Klein and finally Elie Tahari. They were all very different experiences, from the size of the company to type of design they wanted. A few years ago I decided to stop working for someone else and open my own business. We started with SS 15; we opened full market and now we’re heading up towards our 4th season.

WATM: What inspires your namesake collection?

I remember driving around with my dad in Israel and I always paid close attention to new buildings and new constructions. When I started designing I was always intrigued by architecture. As I evolved my personal aesthetic, architecture was an inspiration I would constantly return to. What I love most about fashion is that you're constructing something around the human figure. People don’t understand how complex it is to make a t-shirt; a well-made t-shirt is not simple. You’re engineering materials around the human body. Our SS 16 collection was inspired by Montréal's 1967 World’s Fair.

WATM: Are the locations you reference in your collections places you've visited?

I try to travel as much as I can. For SS 16 I chose Montréal specifically because at the time my fiancé, who is from Montréal, and I were going to meet his family for the first time. I don’t recall any designer using Montréal as their inspiration. I try to look for things that aren't really touched. But my first season was inspired by Brazil. Although I never traveled to Brazil, I was fascinated by the culture so I read a lot about it and started to gather all this information. I do extensive research; I especially watch a lot of movies and documentaries about places I have in mind when designing.

WATM: Any favorite films that continually inspire you and your creative process?

The Eye Has To Travel, is one of my favorite documentaries about Diana Vreeland. It’s amazing you have to see it. Go home today and watch it. She really gave fashion an artistic place in the world. It wasn’t about marketing or selling something - it was really about the beauty of clothes and the beauty of women. The beauty of fashion is that it’s tied to culture; it’s like a window into our world's history.

WATM: What songs are you listening to right now?

World music; I love Portuguese music, my husband is Portuguese. I like African music. Oldies. Israel has a heavy oldies influence- even today you can turn on the radio and oldies are playing. I guess it's in my culture to kind of go back. When it comes to my collections, I always go back in time but it’s never about what the future means today, it's more about what the future meant in the past.

WATM: What do you love most about New York?

I’ve been here for 7 years and I still fall in love with the city again and again. Two years ago I moved to Inwood. It's somewhat of an untouched neighborhood. Many New Yorkers don’t even know where that is. It's super green; there are spots around there that don’t even feel like New York. There’s a really big Dominican presence, some Russians, some Jews. I like the sense of community up there. I lived by Columbus Circle and there’s no community down there, only tourism. It’s nice to have that, especially in New York. It’s nice to feel like you’re going home when you go home.

WATM: Where are you taking us for your AW 16 collection?

It’s in diapers right now, as you can see we're still getting fabrics. For AW 16 I’m going back home to Tel Aviv; I always liked the juxtaposition between hot and cold, natural and unnatural. It is something I always play with in my design and fabrications. Fabrics are a big part of my brand. I’ve never done a collection inspired by my country and thought it would be interesting; a collection inspired by the dessert and the Dead Sea. We're also focusing on the Bauhaus movement- Tel Aviv has one of the biggest Bauhaus buildings in the world. Bauhaus is an architectural movement I’ve always loved; it started in the 30’s and 40’s but a big part of it is based in the 60’s, an era I love as well. There was a positive outlook on the future at that time. That’s what I like to focus on with my brand, how a positive outlook on the future can affect us.

WATM: What are your earliest fashion memories back home?

All of my family works in fashion. When I was younger I tried to stray with music. My mother’s grandfather founded the Tel Aviv Design School. My great grandfather on my father's side started a fashion store that was passed down and allowed my father to create his children’s collection and womenswear. Growing up I was the fitting model for everything, including dresses. When I was younger my parents sent me to a music camp and I really connected to music because I loved to perform. I feel like music was my outlet then, a way to express myself at the time and I loved it. I still love it. Fashion wasn’t on my radar until later. The music thing is something that no one in my family ever did so they always said “Wow, you're doing something different.” But here I am today.

Photography by Chandler Kennedy