Delfina Balda makes us feel like underachievers in the best way possible. This psychologist, turned sommelier, turned designer is the living, breathing definition of a modern-day Renaissance woman, and her work says it all. The result of Delfina's cumulative life experience is a stunning line of artful clothing, but this magical thinker starts the design process pretty far from that. We are currently obsessed with the abstract, totem-like drawings or better yet, "impressions" that she begins each piece with. So today Lisa Says Gah brings you inside Delfina's Brooklyn studio for a look at those special drawings and a chat with the lady herself. Enjoy!
LSG: Hi, Delfina! We know you started off independently and made a pretty big leap into fashion. Can you tell us what kind of stops were on the way to where you are now?
I guess you could say it started when I was a teen and read about Parsons School of Design in a magazine. I remember talking to my mom and bringing up the subject of moving to New York to study fashion - she asked me if I was crazy! So that was on pause for a while. After high school, I went to school for psychology, and later for psychoanalysis. And soon after that, for wine! I'm a Sommelier. Those years were for academia, discussing Freud and learning to sip and spit. The big departure was moving to New York from Buenos Aries to work in design.
When I look back even farther, some earlier stops on the path to designing were observing my parents' sense of style. My mum's outfits we're always black and classic while my father dressed very bold and elegant. Unwittingly, my style was a combination of the two as a child. My first communion outfit made a huge impression on me and I still remember it perfectly. It was an off-white, long-sleeved tunic with a rope belt that I wore really high with white tights and white leather moccasins. It was so contemporary! I felt somehow holy and fashion forward at the same time. Another early fashion memory was a Hawaiian costume that my mum made me for school. It consisted of a ballerina suit with a cutout skirt in blue raffia. I remembered thinking, I could wear this in real life!
LSG: Materials obviously play a huge part in your line. Where do you start when creating a new piece? Tell us about the process of designing a collection.
It's a process that requires a lot of thinking and focusing, but at the same time the ability to keep your mind loose. I'm mostly attracted to fabrics, texture and colors, so every collection starts by sourcing fabrics and thinking about new color palettes. I let the materials determine how they will be used; their characteristics should reach their best expression in their ideal silhouette. We challenge ourselves, with each collection, to push certain aspects of creation. We think and re-think each piece, asking how they are fulfilling what we want to achieve in regards to innovation, identity, and emotions. It is an intense and gratifying process.
LSG: What was the first piece you created and sold?
The first piece was a tunic; I actually started with a full collection of tunics, one silhouette that came in many different fabrics and prints. It was just after a trip to Tulum and I came back to NY in a tropical mood. I wanted to extend that state of mind in the city. The tunics were a huge success but as part of my creative process, I kept looking for more inspiration. The tunics were the beginning of developing the direction of the brand into ready-to-wear.
LSG: Your designs are artful and daring while still being completely wearable. How do you envision the lifestyle of your brand?
Our motivation is to find, in any experience, a genuine form of expression. So the purposed lifestyle is a dialogue that pierces all the layers of life. Design and art are important, but so is that simple spot where nothing is sophisticated.
LSG: Starting a business and working for yourself is scary, a lot of people talk about going independent but never do. What do you think holds people back?
Reality. To do it, you have to loose your mind for a bit and actually believe your own mantras.
LSG: As a business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?
Be patient. It takes time to build a solid foundation and along the path, you will be tempted to run away. Don't let downfalls interfere with your motivation, just keep focused and keep working. Take care of the relationships with the people that are good partners for your business. Be flexible and remember that everything is a negotiation.
LSG: Your studio is amazing! Tell us about your space.
We are lucky to have this studio! We love it here. It's located just across the street from McCarren Park and has beautiful light, high ceilings, fresh air and a wide open view. It's the former studio of our dear friend Lucio Castro. In New York, I design the collection with my amazing assistant Mac. We come from two different worlds but meet in the middle to tell an interesting story for the collection.
LSG: What should we check out while in New York?
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), they have a really well-curated program from concerts, to dance performances and good movies. And afterward, drinks in the beautiful neighborhood of Fort Greene.
Food wise, ACME in Greenpoint produces the best smoked salmon for all of the top restaurants in NY. On Friday mornings, they open for a few hours to the public, and you can get delicious, fresh, delicatessen fish at wholesale price. It helps that is just a few blocks from our studio! Suzume is a tiny Japanese place right by my house in Williamsburg, recommended for cocktails, special pieces of sushi and atmosphere. Also, the couscous at Cafe Gitane in Nolita! And, if time allows, go upstate to the Catskills for a secluded experience.
LSG: Do you get downtime?! What does your ideal day off consist of? Real or imagined.
Yes, I started to find downtime in the last year or so but before it was impossible to disconnect. I'm always looking and thinking of how to interpret the inspiration I find everywhere though. It doesn’t really feel like work. An ideal day off would start off by walking my dog around the neighborhood, a yoga practice, lots of water drinking, going to an exhibition, and ending with drinks, dinner, and a good conversation!
Interview: Olivia La Roche
Photography: Amanda Vincelli
Design: Alaia Manley