If you’ve never heard of Aimée Wilder, you’ve more than likely seen her designs on coffee shop walls, in boutique retailers, or on Vans shoes. At least, that’s how I felt walking into Wilder’s Williamsburg loft-studio, combining her work and living space in an eclectic, yet seemingly cohesive, space of vibrant turquoise and lime, balanced by tans and creams.
The New York-born and bred artist began creating her own patterns at a young age, with first exposure to the city’s fashion world resulting from her father working with denim and mother as a buyer. “I grew up visiting showrooms in the NYC garment district, ranging from moderate, to better, to couture brands,” shares Wilder on the early days of inspiration.
Wilder chose to follow her intrigue for the styles and patterns of her first showroom visits by pursuing art and design at the School of The Art Institute in Chicago, where she graduated to take on freelance design gigs, before moving back to New York to launch her brand. Her first break came from Vans, after Wilder left her original design ‘Pigeon Print’ on a Postcard at a career fair. “We call these cards ‘leave behinds’ in my industry for a reason,” shares Wilder. “This one ended up on a bulletin board at Vans HQ, where the licensing director then saw it.”
As Wilder’s name became recognized nationally, then globally, she expanded from prints and wallpaper to provide her customer’s with a broad line of home accessories. As I tour her studio, I gain a visual of these more recent offerings, including rugs, poufs and pillows, while simultaneously gaining a sneak peek of what’s to come; at least the color samples on the wall hint that.
Handing me a glass of fizzy water, I can’t help but notice the effervescence matching Wilder’s personality as she unabashedly welcomes us into the space she’s made home, and the brand she’s made her own. We caught up in this oasis, tooled around Brooklyn, and popped in her favorite coffee shop, the pineapple wallpaper plastered behind the espresso machines all too familiar, and now I know why.
When did you discover your passion for art and design?
When I was small, I played with Legos quietly for hours. My mom always said I would become an architect, designer, or doctor, and as I went through school, I definitely excelled in conceptual topics like art and science over writing or spelling. I struggled with a different learning process, but instead of allowing this to hinder me, I used it to develop my own unique style of art.
How did you realize you could turn this into a career?
The moment that the licensing director from Vans called to ask for my entire library of artwork was definitely a turning point for me. I was freelancing at the time, and he found out about my work because I left a postcard with my Pigeon’s print with a Vans representative at a Style Career’s Fair. We call these cards “leave behinds” in my industry for a reason; this one ended up on a bulletin board at Vans HQ, where the licensing director then saw it.
Tell me a little bit about the early days of Bun Voyage.
Bun Voyage had a working title, “I am a Bunny,” after my favorite childhood book by author Ole Risom and illustrator Richard Scarry. The collection is meant to be seen from, “a bunny’s eye view,” illustrated in the colorful oversized mushrooms, towering flowers, mythical creatures and friendly monsters. After traveling to Scotland a few times to visit my fiancé’s family, I was definitely inspired by the mysteries of Loch Ness as well.
Did you have any role models or inspiration to shape how you built your brand?
Both of my parents worked in fashion: my dad was a manufacturer of denim and ready-to-wear, and my mom was a buyer and product development executive. I grew up visiting showrooms in the NYC garment district, ranging from moderate, to better, to couture brands, from Lacoste, Calvin Klein, and French Connection; to Pierre Cardin, Oscar De La Renta, and Missoni. I also traveled with my mother on business trips while on school holidays around Europe to textile shows like Premier Vision in Paris and to meetings with department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Selfridges.
Can you walk me through a typical design process? What’s your starting point?
I start by listing themes or ideas that I think would work well together. Next, I choose a concept from this collection of ideas and start a collage using clippings from magazines, photos I’ve taken, found images, and small sketches so I can visually feel the flow of the artwork. The collage step is very important to the formation of the collection, before I dive in and spend a long time drawing. After I begin drawing, it can take a few weeks, to months, to finalize the artwork before color selection begins. Coloring a collection is my favorite part: it really brings everything together and breathes life into the artwork before it is applied to specific products like wallpaper, pillows or a rug.
What allows you to continue to bring fresh patterns to the table?
I have more ideas for artwork and patterns than I can develop at any one time, so it’s really easy to keep things fresh and moving forward. The most difficult thing for me is switching gears from the general day to day of running a business back to art and design mode—it’s the best feeling to get back to working on my art, and I really wish it could be every part of my day.
What has been one of the most rewarding projects you’ve taken on?
Every time I see an installation shot from a customer, I am so excited. There are so many talented interior designers working with our wallpapers and fabrics, and it makes me so proud to see the beautiful final spaces.
You are also heavily involved in philanthropy. (When we were with you, we visited Oslo, where you donated paper after a fire burnt them down). What does it mean to you to be able to give back to a community? Whether in Brooklyn or Nepal?
It feels good to donate wallpaper for a good cause, when we have enough stock available. We just donated a lot of wallpaper for Peter Sandal’s installation at Design on a Dime, an event created by Housing Works, and in the past, we also donated to Animal Haven in Soho for the most beautiful cat shelter designed by Emily Henderson.
How would you describe your style in three adjectives?
Eclectic. Playful. Adventurous.
Do you have a favorite pattern right now? Or a go-to color scheme?
I love the animal print feel of our new pattern called Sea Ray, which is coming out soon in our Neptunian Collection. Sea Ray is inspired by the skin of the spotted eagle ray, and the Neptunian Collection is inspired by the sea. I loved the warm palette we used for our Neptunian Collection Preview at this years Architectural Digest show, featuring copper tones and warm neutrals.
What’s next for Aimée Wilder?
I am working on developing woven fabrics for residential and commercial interior use, and I am also dreaming about making silk dresses, caftans, skirts and harem pants—resort-wear of all kinds. I want to stay away from the seasonal releases of the fashion industry, as I’d rather make pieces that are classic and timeless. It would be fabulous to use the overage of the silk for curtains and luscious pillows, or to make some menswear items like silk ties and short sleeve shirts for summer. I could even see myself creating suits in muted versions of my prints like Cheetah Vision and Jungle Dream.
(Photos by Michael Marmora)
Electrify Magazine celebrates the ethos of mindful consumption and slow fashion through a block-printing workshop in collaboration with Aimée Wilder and Jeremy Fritzhand of Studio Bagru on Wednesday, June 27th at The Assemblage. To learn more, RSVP here. For a complimentary day pass to work from the NoMad or John Street location, book a tour here using the code ‘ass3mbleEM’