IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, when considering the simple shapes, fresh colors, and unique proportions of the clothes by State (statethelabel.com), that raking alpaca poop is part of the line’s origin story, but it is. In 2010, Adrienne Antonson was living on an alpaca farm on Vashon Island off the coast of Seattle, when the family she was working for let her set up a little studio in the barn. She started felting alpaca wool and incorporating it into an upcycled clothing line that is still going strong 10 years later. “I was doing it in the cold winter and it didn’t have walls, it had half doors like a barn does,” she says. “I had a tiny heater and the alpacas would all just stand there and watch me. It was the best thing ever.” After a stint in Brooklyn and in rural Georgia, Antonson moved her family—which now includes two kids—and the line to Athens, GA, in 2018, where it quickly grew from a mostly one-woman show to a bona fide brand with a gorgeous, light-filled production space, a retail store, and 10 employees, all of whom happen to be women. (“My husband calls it my feminist pit,” she says with a laugh.)
The piece that first garnered State a cult-like following was an elevated workwear-style smock, made from deconstructed second-hand men’s shirts. In order to meet demand, ensure quality, and expand sizing (up to XXL)—fabric is no longer thrifted, but sustainability is still State’s foundation. Antonson’s ethos is so engrained she calls it “Old news. I feel like everyone should just be working that way.” State uses organic, U.S. fabric when possible; the line is mostly sewn on-site (more complicated pieces are manufactured by a fair-wage, family-owned factory in New York); and the whole process is impressively zero waste. “That’s possibly what’s causing [our space] to look like a hoarder’s studio, because I don’t throw anything away,” she says. Instead, fabric scraps are used to make State’s kids collection, giant scrunchies, or soft seatbelt pillows donated to the local hospital for heart surgery and mastectomy patients.
Every piece, from the elastic-waist, wide-leg Swayers pants to the boxy, collared Bud Blouse shirt to the handpainted Face dress (Antonson’s background is actually in fine arts) begins as something the designer would want to wear. But they’re made for and modeled by women of all kinds, none of whom are actual “models,” but rather, people Antonson brings into the State fold—like the bagger from her local grocery and the girl who was hosting her Bible study at the picnic table outside the studio. “I want any person,” she says, “to feel really at home and welcome here.”
By Lisa Butterworth
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
More from BUST