Wearable, beautiful and locally made, clothing designer AJ Woodruff‘s effortless designs “combine vintage details with modern tastes, while employing local sourcing and celebrating the art of hand-making.” Born in Atlanta, Georgia, this talented entrepreneur moved to LA before settling in Brooklyn, NY and launching Humbert and Lo—a dynamic RTW collection alive with color and texture. two+seven caught up with AJ to find out more about H&L and what’s next for this versatile, sustainable line.
two + seven: Having attended Catholic school and having to wearing a uniform every day, was fashion design your escape from monotony?
AJ Woodruff: I attended Catholic school from kindergarten to 12th grade. That’s a lot of plaid skirts and saddle oxfords for any person! As kids, we lived for non-uniform days, which were usually given as a reward for selling ungodly amounts of fruit and wrapping paper. To this day, I am thankful for the ridiculous amount of oranges my mother bought just so my sister and I could wear a pair of jeans to school! Not wearing a uniform was such a novelty that I always looked for the most unique, one-of-a-kind items I could find. At the time, I was really into vintage fashion and I started sketching and reconstructing clothes when I was 10 or 11 years old. I had no idea that designing could be a job, but I’ve been sketching ever since.
2+7: Tell us about Humbert and Lo. How did it come about and what was the most difficult part of starting your own business?
AJ: Humbert and Lo came about kind of by accident. A few years ago during the height of the recession, everyone I knew in the creative industry was getting laid off. Being jobless in New York can be very scary, but being laid off almost became a right of passage and a time to reevaluate your career. When my turn came, I had mixed feelings about the fashion and I was caught between going back into advertising or leaving the creative industry completely. I started making clothes for myself merely as a project to keep busy and after creating a few things, I realized I had made a collection. That pretty much snowballed into Humbert and Lo.
The hardest part of starting a business is starting a business! Every aspect of it is challenging from having enough time to do everything to handling financials. You have to wear a lot of hats and even with the best planning, it’s mostly trial and error. Although most problems aren’t unique, finding a workable solution oftentimes is. Research is key for me, and Google is a big help!
2+7: There is an emphasis on local sourcing and hand-crafted construction—the whole coveted “Made in America” aspect. Was this one of your goals starting out?
AJ: When I was in college, I had the misfortune and fortune of seeing a sweatshop in person. I was completely mortified, but it stuck with me and taught me what not to do in the future. Although making clothes in the United States is challenging, I need to know that my products are being produced in a safe environment. Producing clothes locally allows me to closely monitor the process and have more control over the design and manufacturing. I know the hands that the clothes have passed through which gives me peace of mind. As the company grows, it becomes more difficult to produce locally, but I love a challenge, and it is definitely a goal that I am dedicated to.
2+7: You mention that your inspiration comes from the different places you’ve lived—Georgia, LA and New York. What else inspires you on a daily basis?
AJ: I am highly inspired by architecture, music, novels, and especially film. I love books by Haruki Murakami and Miranda July, and I’m obsessed with Turner Classics and the Criterion Collection. I really enjoy movies that transport me into another time or place where the director’s focus is on cinematography and framing. I particularly love surfing documentaries and films directed by Godard, Sophia Coppola, Adrian Lynne, and Wong Kar-Wai. Their movies are like eye candy. I can’t get enough!
2+7: Your collections are soft and subtly glamorous—southern belle meets urban hipster. Who would you say is the Humbert and Lo gal?
AJ: I love that phrasing! Can I steal that???
2+7: Of course you can
AJ: Overall, the Humbert and Lo customer is someone who loves small details, versatility and most importantly, comfort! I hate to wear anything that is too clingy, too tight, rides up, or is itchy. I always want my clothes to feel like the comfort of a sweatshirt while wearing something feminine and presentable. Each piece is inspired by a different era from the 1920’s to the 1990’s, and I combine those details with modern fashion trends. The Humbert and Lo girl appreciates the vintage aspect while embracing current styles.
2+7: What’s next?
AJ: I’m very excited about the upcoming Humbert and Lo Fall collection, but even more so, I’m really looking forward to a new charity project that I’m working on. Before fashion, I studied fine arts, photography, and graphic design. This new project has allowed me to get back to my roots while also supporting one of a my favorite organizations. But right now, my lips are sealed so you’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s next!
“One of my favorites: our new FATA MORGANA TEE which is a hand painted tee using a tie dye and paintbrush technique. Each tee is individually made in limited batches.”
“And our SILK CAFTAN DRESS is a must-have in pure silk and has an inside adjustable drawstring so that the dress can be worn three ways.”