Burke Residency 34: The Series

Written by Emma Olson


Posted on May 06 2024

EMMA: Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about THE SERIES.

ELLA: My name is Ella Wiznia and I’m the founder and designer behind The Series.  
I’ve always had a fascination with vintage and thrift finds. I grew up an hour north of New York City as an only child and spent a lot of time going to estate sales, flea markets and auctions with my parents on the weekends. 
In high school, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and while in recovery I began to realize how incredibly toxic all the advertising imagery was from the brands I had always shopped at, and how I unknowingly had been impacted by them. I also started educating myself on the environmental impact of the fashion industry, and came to the conclusion that I would only be wearing secondhand and sustainably-made clothes from then on. 
I attended NYU where I created my own major in Urban Design, concentrating on neighborhood change, displacement and development. I planned to have a very different type of career, and then I started working at Make Workshop (a Brooklyn-based studio and sewing school), where I was exposed to all different forms of hand crafts (crochet, knitting, sashiko, etc.) 

I quickly gained a deep appreciation for these art forms and started thinking about how I could integrate them into my own clothing. The Series was officially born in 2016 when I started selling at Hester Street Fair in NYC, mainly as a hobby at first, and it immediately became obvious that other people had similarly strong nostalgic connections to the materials and crafts I had been spending so much time with.

Granny Tanks by The Series NY on models

EMMA: 2016 was a significant year for you as you founded THE SERIES amidst an eating disorder recovery and learning about the negative impact of the fashion industry. You've said that using secondhand textiles and fibers was a form of protest, was it also healing for you? 

ELLA: Absolutely. In treatment, people will often take up knitting or crochet. I took to embroidery and at first started practicing just on my own clothing. Soon, I expanded from there and started hand stitching patches and fabric scraps. I found it to be extremely soothing and meditative - having busy hands helped to quiet my mind so much that I never wanted to be without a sewing project.

Chunky Bag with Charms by The Series NY

EMMA: THE SERIES centers domestic crafts, which are too often overlooked and deemed "women's work" and given less significance than other art mediums. The world of domestic craft is so vast, were there surprises you discovered as you explored more secondhand goods?

ELLA: Totally! While I was working at Make Workshop I got a first hand look at the amount of time, energy and skill that went into these processes. It really changed my perspective on how I interacted with these crafts when I saw them out in the world. I would be at a thrift store and see a crochet blanket, balled up and fraying, or an embroidery sampler from the 19th century that was all stained and wrinkled, and just think about how this beautiful piece must have taken someone many, many hours to finish, only to be seen as worthless and eventually discarded. 

This sentiment of valuing and honoring work that is thought of as less important because of its domestic origins is a critical piece of the foundation of our brand. I find it remarkable how these items can endure time, maintain relevance, and be adapted for modern function and appreciation while still holding their original essence and acting as a connection to another era.

Yoyo Dress by The Series NY on model

EMMA: Goods are made in New York by a small team - do you all share a studio space and co-work? How have you come to find the artisans that you work with?

ELLA: I have a home studio in Manhattan where I work out of, and a few core team members have worked with me here off and on for years. 

I worked with the community center in the town where I grew up to find sewists. They’re independent contractors, so they work from home and are able to set their own schedules and pricing. Our pricing structure is entirely based on the rates they set for themselves so they’re able to make a livable wage.

Upcycled works for The Series NY

EMMA: Some domestic craft devotees have decried the use of vintage quilts for repurposing as garments, and you've made a point to say that you'd never cut up a vintage quilt in perfect condition. Can you share more about how you determine what may be repurposed and what may be better left intact? Have you ever come across a quilt that had a particularly interesting history?

ELLA: We have a few guidelines that we reference when we’re deciding how or if a material is going to be repurposed, and we’ve developed a pretty good eye for scrutinizing pieces to determine their potential for wearability and longevity. A big question that we’ll ask is, is the material still usable for its original intended purpose? A “cutter quilt” is a vintage quilt that has substantial damage from use. However, there may be pieces of it that are still in good enough condition to salvage and rework into something new. Quilt tops (unfinished quilts without their backing) are great to find because essentially they’re projects that someone abandoned that we can pick up and continue the material’s story, albeit with a different intended purpose.
If we source a piece that we decide doesn’t fit our guidelines for reworking, we don’t use it. We actually have a collection of incredible condition vintage quilts and blankets that we plan to sell eventually! 

A lot of my own curiosity of these materials leads to historical research. I’ve done many deep dives into why certain motifs or styles were popular, why specific fabrics were used, etc. You can go down some fascinating wormholes and find connections to so many different aspects of history just by looking into one small detail.

Quilted Jumpsuit by The Series NY on model

EMMA: One-of-a-kind reworked goods are so incredibly special on their own, especially in an age of so much mass-produced clothing, but I imagine it brings its own complications as an online seller. How did you educate shoppers about the unique product that THE SERIES offers when you first began?

ELLA: It’s definitely more labor intensive writing product descriptions and taking photos and measurements for each and every piece we make, and unfortunately there’s really no shortcut. As the business has expanded we’ve been trying to grow our wholesale accounts which is another challenge. One of the successful ways we’ve done it is working with sustainable materials like bamboo and recycled or organically grown cotton yarn to create multiples of some of our most popular accessories, like our Balaclavas, Hoods and Caps. Our Chunky Bags are produced using yarn that’s made from textile production remnants that would otherwise be destined for a landfill, and we’re looking to expand more into that area of production as well.

Crochet Charm Bag by The Series NY

EMMA: THE SERIES has a wide range of apparel and accessories from crocheted bags and balaclavas to puffer coats and yoyo quilt dresses. Do you envision THE SERIES expanding further into other secondhand textiles or fiberwork? 

ELLA: We’re constantly brainstorming new pieces that we’d love to make, from new crochet styles to home textiles to jewelry - there are definitely a few avenues we’d love to expand into! A big part of our process is the sourcing of materials, and we often let the materials drive our design process. So the next collection could be something we’ve been planning for months, or it could end up being something inspired by a gorgeous piece of fabric we pull out of a bin at a flea market. We’re also keen on doing more partnerships with larger brands who have sustainability initiatives; taking unsold inventory or past season pieces and reworking them into a new collection is a great way to make something new without manufacturing any new garments. 


Chore Set Maude on model by The Series NY



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