This post is in collaboration with (Ag) + (Au).
“Elevated basics” has become a keyword in the minimal and conscious fashion space in recent years, but there are so few brands who do it well.
I think that as consumers, the idea of elevated basics appeals not only to our closets, but to our emotions. There is something comforting about the idea that in simplicity, we can still find beauty, excitement and wonder. Maybe it is in simplicity that we especially find these things.
It’s these thoughts that make me feel so beautifully myself in this Diana top, which was generously gifted to me by Vancouver-based (Ag) + (Au) Clothing – pronounced Silver and Gold Clothing.
This simple, black button down features elegant tie sleeves that give it that extra something special.
But (Ag) + (Au) is special for a lot of other reasons beyond their designs. I had the pleasure of chatting with founder Kaitlin about the origins of the brand, her inspiration and her vision for the future.
So sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine (or whatever you might like) and let’s chat about this brand worth knowing!
About (Ag) + (Au)
The name (Ag) + (Au) comes from a Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros song called Silver and Gold which, Kaitlin explains, “is about wanting to do, see, and be it all before it’s too late. It’s a little wanderlust, a little rock star, a little soft and a little hard just like me and the women I design for.”
Kaitlin designed the logo to read (Ag)+(Au) as a nod to nature and a reference to the basic organic compounds that we are all built out of (“And because I’m a big science nerd!” she laughs). Silver and gold are also durable and don’t lose their value over time – similar to the way Kaitlin designs her pieces for longevity.
Forging the Brand
Kaitlin has some serious fashion cred. She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, which is where she originally fell in love with sustainable fashion. While studying abroad in Milan as part of her program, she attended a trade show that showcased entirely sustainable fabrics. “I realized you could make fabric out of anything – I mean, they had fabric made out of milk filament and crab shells, not just your typical cottons and hemp. I realized there was literally zero reason to use virgin plastic to make fabrics (which is what polyester is made of) when the technology existed to make fabric out of say, orange peels,” Kaitlin explains.
She later interned with Covet, designed by Tara St. James (who now owns STUDY-NY and is one of the young designers at the forefront of the sustainable design movement in New York).
“In 2009, New York wasn’t at all interested in sustainable fashion, and there were maybe five young designers that would have little fashion shows together – it was a pretty cool, forward-thinking crowd. I was from a little hippie island off of the West Coast of Canada, so this concept made total sense to me, and I couldn’t figure out why more people weren’t embracing it,” Kaitlin says.
“When I moved back home after graduation, I noticed that the West Coast was indeed embracing sustainable fashion – just not in the way I wanted to wear it. It was all scratchy, brown & greens, slubby hemp fabrics and neutral colored cottons. So the concept for (Ag)+(Au) started as a way to marry sustainable fashion with streetwear – a way to show that ‘responsible fashion’ didn’t have to mean scratchy, shapeless clothing – you could feel cool and sexy while still shopping responsibly.”
The Manufacturing Process
Half of the (Ag) + (Au) collection is produced in Canada, and the other half is produced in Cambodia. Kaitlin had previously visited Cambodia for leisure, and when it came time to find manufacturers that could help her produce clothing ethically and on budget, she decided to research facilities there. “I really just wanted a way to get back there!” she laughs, but she ended up stumbling across an integral partner in the (Ag) + (Au) manufacturing process, Fairsew.
Fairsew is a full-service garment manufacturer in Phnom Penh that provides a safe and fair working environment and aims to produce clothing as sustainably as possible. Kaitlin visited the studio before signing on to work with them.
“The studio is bright and airy with fans and a ton of plants, with about eight-to-ten people working there. There was lots of laughing and lots of joking around – it felt like a room filled with friends all working on a project,” says Kaitlin. “I actually asked if they had another factory they worked out of – I felt this must be just their ‘offices.’ But Anneliese, the founder, assured me that no, this was where every single garment got cut, sewn, checked and shipped!”
About the Diana Top
“I didn’t get into fashion to redesign the t-shirt, so I always make sure to add a bit of ‘flair’ to my pieces somehow.”
The Diana Top is produced by Fairsew of deadstock rayon, which is leftover fabric that would be otherwise discarded. It is based on a traditional button-down, but it has a slightly more feminine cut, and, of course, the statement sleeves! They run a bit longer on me (as a shorty!) but I found them to be very similar to bell-sleeve tops I’ve owned in the past in terms of ease of wear – just be careful when you eat (ha!). But the ties let you adjust the length, and the opening around the wrist allows the sleeves to move organically and stay out of the way.
Kaitlin considered an array of details in designing this top – the placket is designed to prevent the dreaded “boob-gap” and the high-low hem means you can also wear it with leggings while still having some coverage.
I went with jeans because I was headed to a casual lunch with a friend (and it was really stinking cold the day I took these photos!), but wearing this top as a tunic with black leggings would definitely give you the perfect edgy weekend look.
The top is named after Diana, the Warrior Goddess, which I love, because I know I feel strong and beautiful in it. A fun fact, my name, “Kellie” is an Irish name which also means warrior.
Kaitlin wants to expand (Ag) + (Au) internationally, and eventually open her own manufacturing facility. She also wants to continue to offer a variety of designs to benefit causes that are important to the brand. And, lastly, and most exciting, is that Kaitlin is exploring gender-neutral designs and working on bringing inclusive sizing to her lines.
“Fashion exists to make people feel the best version of themselves. Why should the fashion industry be able to narrate what you feel like you in? Not to mention these very cookie-cutter shapes that the fashion industry has created.”
I am so excited to proudly wear my Diana top for years to come, and to see how (Ag) + (Au) continues to grow and develop.
I hope that you enjoyed this peek into this up-and-coming brand!
If you have any questions for me (or Kaitlin!) let me know in the comments and we’ll address them in a follow up post.