Burke Residency 16: Freeform Cltr

Written by Emma McFarland


Posted on February 10 2022

Emma: Could you begin by introducing yourselves individually and sharing the story of how you’ve come to work together to create Freeform? 
Katherine: Hi Emma, it is a pleasure meeting you. Well, I met Andrea while we were in college, we were friends however I never thought that we would end up working together, and for me it is crazy how our pathways merged. We studied in Paris and my plan was to stay after uni, which I did, for a couple of months then I got homesick and decided to move back home. Arriving in Panama, Andrea wanted to meet and discuss some ideas since she saw that I was reselling second hand in Paris. When we went in la Rana Dorada (a local pub), was when everything started, we gathered and considered the possibilities to start a business together reselling clothes and creating concepts. Both of us were a little a bit clueless how we were visualizing our concept and since we started creating our love for recycling, reusing, art, concepts and fashion evolved and after many trials, errors, and different names, FREEFORM was born, our own laboratory for self expression through clothes, art and recycling.  FREEFORM continues to evolve from our curiosity for circular design and alternative ways to change the fashion industry. We expect to keep evolving and to come up with innovative ideas that support sustainable fashion.

Andrea: Hi Emma, I am Andrea, a 24 year old girl from Panama, I met Kath in my second year of uni in Paris and I am so happy I have had the opportunity to work with her and also to grow in so many aspects together. I think we both share a love for rare unique things and concepts that connect us in a very special way. Starting Freeform has definitely helped us discover more about ourselves. Working with a friend that also shares this urge for growth and discovery has made this process even more fun. FREEFORM started and continues to evolve  from our curiosity for circular design and alternative ways to change the fashion industry. We expect to keep evolving and to come up with innovative ideas that support sustainable fashion.

 Andrea and Katherine Founders of Freeform Cltr

E: It seems that expression is at the heart of Freeform and I’d love to hear about what inspires you and how you turn that inspiration into a unique expression of your own. 
K: Self-expression is at the heart of FREEFORM, we love to find our own unique ways to express our most authentic selves and that’s what we love about FREEFORM, it has helped us grow and understand what we want. The way we explore concepts are always on a holistic perspective, finding our self awareness, flowing within the ideas and inspirations we can acquire from previous experiences, feelings, mindset, art (specially performance), colors, forms, fashion and anything that can elevate our vision. Self-expression is on everyone and on everything.

A: I believe FREEFORM became a way of thinking and a way of facing life. As we grow into our own expression we appreciate the expression of others as well and that's why within upcycling we create unique pieces and that allows us and others to CREATE YOUR OWN FORM. By reusing materials that others might not want or consider trash, has definitely trained our eye to find potential in everything we see, therefore we believe that we can find inspiration everywhere and in anything. 

Freeform Cltr models 

E: This question is related, but on a more pragmatic level, could you tell us about your process of reinventing the garments that you use? Are you inspired by the individual pieces themselves or do you start with a vision that you source pre-loved garments to create? 
K: Hahaha in just this instant I was thinking how amazing will be for my brain to auto-print the ideas around my head... well, back to the question, really depends on how we are feeling. Most of the time we visualize an idea and then start building a concept around it or the other way around, however it truly depends on the elements we can find and how we use them to self express our vision. Sometimes we draw, but other times we just prototype them and later on whenever we are happy with the final outcome of the garment we create the pattern.

A: We  like to use our brand name, FREEFORM, as a way of thinking, it helps us go with the flow and appreciate mistakes and imperfection in order to use  them as bridges for creation. We believe that upcycling in a way forces us to improvise at times in a creative way around a main concept. For example when we were working on our collection PRIMARIO, we were practicing the use of colors and zig zags in some left over fabric, we actually liked the messy look it had with all the colors and strings hanging, that we actually designed the vianka pants and pablo top out of this messy trial. We also  received a bag of pre-loved garments and one of those bags came with a pile of gloves. We saw the gloves and loved the material they were made of and decided to create the Vanessa top out of them. This top was not planned nor designed previously, we simply worked with what we had and the moment. We receive pre - loved garments from donations and we also source pre - loved in order to get some kind of consistency in the patterns.

 Freeform Cltr production process

E: Your clothing is “reinvented in Panama”—is Panama a source of inspiration for you?
K: Panama is our motherland, the place we started and where we fall in love with upcycling, definitely is an important source of inspiration. Being here on the tropics is such a blessing, people are kind and with loads of authenticity and that authenticity inspired us to stay true to ourselves. As an emerging market we feel that there are so many possibilities to create and we will be always grateful for the opportunities we encounter here. 

A: Panama is the place where it all started. We love to use the phrase reinvented in Panama, because Panama is not a country that manufactures clothes nor fabrics, we would love to see Panama as a country that could actually be circular and instead of manufacturing, it can be a hub for recycling and reusing. Panama is home and we will always want to bring some of it to other viewers. 

 Freeform Cltr production

E: Freeform extends beyond a clothing label, but envisions itself as a culture (“cltr”) as well. Could you talk about the space you are creating and how you see this culture manifesting? 
K: Since the beginning we were visualizing a nomad space without a form where human alikes could find themselves through art and culture, a space to create without any stereotypes, a space for respect and awareness for like-minded people, our experimental laboratory of deconstruction. Freeform is a culture that grows and flows within time, also can be seen as a lifestyle, a conscious lifestyle that creates a holistic perspective around fashion, where humans and earth are treated with respect. 

A: FREEFORM became a way of thinking and a point of view , we even find our customers and friends using FREEFORM as an adjective to describe things that are free, flowy, weird, cool, perfectly imperfect, colorful, funky, authentic, RAW and organic.  

Freeform Cltr photoshoot 

E: As a follow up, I’m interested to hear more about the collaborations you feature on your instagram. It looks like you publish zines and have a podcast too? 

K: Yes, haha we get excited when people ask about these collabs! The fanzine we publish was a collab we did with our friends who created an amazing lecture club that has evolved into a feminist group that fights against menstrual poverty and equality on sexual rights. When we realized how the government was managing the distribution of resources among people in need, we couldn't believe that menstrual hygiene was taken out of the picture. We saw the mission our friends carried in 2020 at the verge of COVID and decided to help, and the creative way to do it was creating a fanzine that held dialogue about the political, enviromental and social repercussions around menstruation. With this fanzine our final aim was to find ways to finance menstrual cups, in parallel with workshops about menstrual hygiene for women in need. 

Freeform Cltr model 

E: To conclude, is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Maybe a hint about where you see Freeform growing in the future? 
K: We would love to create a whole circular ecosystem, partnering with local businesses and being able to create our own fabrics from plastic or second hand garments (a girl can dream). Definitely having our own physical space (not in the cloud) where we are able to create and have our atelier, adding other lines like accessories, even homewares. And always finding our place in this world, always evolving, evolving with it, within our holistic perspective. 

A: Our aim is to be able to upcycle a whole range of items in order to give them longer life on our planet and avoid landfills. We believe FREEFORM is always evolving as long as we are also growing, we expect new design ideas to come out soon and some more innovative creations and projects. 

Freeform Cltr model 



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