Emma Altman is a fashion designer who was born and raised in New York. A graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Emma’s first major runway showcase was in the Winter of 2018 during New York Fashion Week. In February of 2019, Emma’s colorful apparel walked the runway at the Art Hearts Fashion event in Manhattan as part of International Fashion Week.

Emma’s clothes and accessories are typically bright, fun, and made with unusual fabrics and materials. She has been featured on Van’s Warped Tour, “America’s Next Top Model,” Gisele Magazine, Vanity Hype and elsewhere and this media has contributed to her fashions becoming recognizable on an international scale.

Emma worked with legendary fashion industry icon Betsey Johnson and has seen her designs sold in stores. Emma is also an Artolution contributor where she teaches clothing design techniques through this organization. Her “Barbie Girl Meets Rock & Roll” style is incredibly distinctive and undeniably her own. Citing Tokyo street fashion as a major source of inspiration, Emma also ensures that her creations are entirely cruelty-free and vegan—an important feature of the brand since Emma is an animal lover.

Emma recently granted an exclusive interview where she discussed her brand and more.

Fashion, bold colors, and neons

Meagan Meehan (MM): You grew up in New York, so how did being raised there influence your artistic sensibility?

Emma Altman (EA): Being raised in New York I’ve always been inspired by Street Fashion. There are so many stylish people here. I love sitting in the park, or on a stoop, and watching people walk by to look at their outfits. I always have my sketchbook with on hand, so I can draw out looks that bring inspiration to me. One of my favorite things to do when I was a teenager was to hang out at Astor Place and see all of the edgy, fashionable people who walked around there.

Seeing live music and going to museums in New York has also influenced my art greatly.

MM: How did you first get interested in becoming a fashion designer and what was your very first piece of apparel?

EA: I have always been an artist. I’ve loved to draw, paint, and create mixed media artwork from a very young age. I went to RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in Apparel Design.

When I was a young teenager, I was in the doctor’s office and saw an older girl wearing ripped up denim jeans covered in safety pins. She looked so cool to me, and I realized that she had probably customized the jeans herself. At that moment I realized that I could customize and make my own clothes. Shortly after that day, I began designing clothing and learning how to sew. The first piece of apparel that I ever made was a turquoise batik printed circle skirt that my mother helped me sew. We bought the pattern and fabric together, and then I sewed it completely by myself at the age of 15.

MM: How did you initially get your fashions showcased on fashion week runways?

EA: After graduating college, I did a bunch of pop up capsule fashion showcases in New York from 2013-2017.

I would network all over NYC at fashion events, clubs, concerts, art shows, etc., until I finally was sought after to do my debut runway show last February 2018 for Style Fashion Week.

MM: What inspires your bold colors, patterns, and shapes and have you a favorite type of clothing to design?

EA: I’m inspired by Tokyo Street Fashion and the 70’s Punk era in NYC and London. When building a collection, I first draw inspiration from specific colors and then build off of it. I love designing all different types of clothing — tops, skirts, pants, dresses, jackets, jewelry, and handbags. I specifically love designing my own digital prints that I incorporate throughout each collection. My brand is all about having an entire look, and pieces that you can easily mix and match with each other.

MM: What was the inspiration behind the latest 2019 collection which featured a lot of neon colors?

EA: This collection was inspired by the movie “Hackers” from 1995 with Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller. This movie is about a group of teens in the ’90s who are computer hackers, who get framed for hacking that they did not do. The collection name is called “Hack The Planet” playing on the concept that in our current day everyone is so obsessed with social media and knowing everything, that technology is taking over the world, and is negatively affecting the planet.

The world is a beautiful place, and we need to take care of it, instead of focusing so much on ourselves through our phones and computers.

Because we can access any information at any moment, no one knows what’s the truth and what is a fabricated sense of synthetic reality. Throughout all of my collections, I use bright colors, prints, and textures to make people feel happy and confident.

Brands, inspirations, and career goals

MM: How did you get involved with the Art Hearts Fashion show in NYC and what do you most enjoy about participating in that show?

EA: They found my brand through social media! One of the most exciting things for me working with Art Hearts Fashion is that they have their NYFW shows at the Angel Orensanz Center. This location is where Alexander McQueen Debuted his first NYFW show at the age of 27, which is the same age I was during my show there this February.

MM: I notice you have images of Fran Fine from “The Nanny” on your Instagram so is that show and character a big inspiration to you?

EA: Fran Fine is a HUGE inspiration. Her aesthetic from the show “The Nanny” has inspired me for over ten years. I pull a lot of colors and silhouettes from the outfits she wears throughout the many seasons of the show.

MM: What are your ultimate career goals regarding your future as a fashion designer?

EA: To have clothing sold internationally in stores in London and Tokyo. To expand our LA fan base as well. And to collaborate more with empowering female musicians and artists.

MM: What events are coming up in 2019 that you’re excited about and what sorts of fashion additions can fans expect to see from you in 2020?

EA: We have some pop-up events to be announced and a huge product launch coming soon. Fans can expect new clothing and accessory releases on our website by Googling “Emma Altman.”