Hi Mimi It’s so wonderful to reconnect here. I am so honored to share your brilliant work with TJA.
Can you give us a background on your education and pivotal life experiences that led to your career path?
The core philosophy of the MIMI PROBER brand (modern heirlooms handcrafted with antique materials) was conceived in 2011, while still attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. Specializing in Haute Couture at FIT (and minoring in Art History) I’ve always been drawn to artistry, heirloom techniques, preservation, and the process of creation.
At that time, I was also disheartened with the amount of waste in the industry, from the excess of yardage available, to the overfilled trash bins in our workrooms [I’m happy to share that incredible strides have been made and FIT is now at the forefront of sustainability in education and industry with their natural dye garden and fabric composting programs, which are only a few of the initiatives they have now implemented].
A passion for antique textiles, preserving history, and handcraft merged with my desire to create meaningful clothing; pioneering zero-waste techniques and the concept of sustainable luxury through the reuse of antique materials and artisanal process (hand embroidery, botanical/natural dyeing, etc).
My senior thesis focused on this approach; winning the Critic’s Choice award and receiving industry press and recognition, the brand identity was born and the philosophy continues.
As a designer regarded in sustainable couture, what do you feel is most valuable for us to learn about your work?
The value of the treasured materials used as well as the individual technique and process. Each collection piece is created with intention and the desire to honor the hands that created the art, both in the past and present. This is achieved through our custom textile development and creation. We create pieces that employ ancient techniques and processes such as botanical natural dyeing, hand embroidery, felting, weaving, spinning, knitting, as well as lost wax casting (for our fine jewelry pieces) – integrating valuable materials (c. 18th-early 20th centuries) within, in addition to locally sourced luxury fibers and natural organic materials.
What is your process with sourcing sustainable fabrics and materials for your creations?
We are always looking for new treasures primarily with a focus on preserving handmade textile processes and fragments dating from the 18th-early 20th centuries, reimagining new life and purpose into these forgotten pieces.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am always inspired by uncovering a treasured antique material and story. In each collection we incorporate a new textile, material, or technique; building upon our core philosophy, this is always at the forefront of our development.
Your creations seem to express the celebration of the divine feminine. Can you share a bit about your concern for women to celebrate their bodies through dress?
The materials and process are deeply rooted in mother nature and many of these handmade textiles (beading, embroidery, lacemaking) were created originally by women. I am connected to this beauty and history and feel empowered to share this relationship to all.
Any exciting happenings or future projects you’d like to give us a sneak peek on?
If you are in the NYC area, visit the Museum At FIT ‘Fashion Unraveled’ exhibition (on view through November 17); where you can view one of our ‘Dreamscape’ collection gowns (using antique textiles, hand embroidery, and botanical watercolor natural dye techniques).
I’m encouraged at what seems to feel like a pivotal moment of change in the industry – sustainability (from so many different perspectives) is the topic of conversation and it is exciting to see this essential mindset and movement embraced.
The materials and intentions crafted into my Joyful Kimono
Each antique lace is one of a kind, individually handmade bobbin lace or needle lace (from silk, cotton, and linen fibers) ranging in date from the 18th-early 20th centuries, and was hand selected specifically for the piece.
The variety and range of laces included are from all over the world, including a selection of:
Maltese lace (dating to the c. 19th century), originating in Malta
Duchesse lace (dating to the c. 19th century and early 20th century (1900-1910), originating in Belgium
Honiton lace (dating to the c. 19th century and early 20th century (1900-1910), originating in England
Brussels applique lace (dating to the c. 19th century and early 20th century (1900-1910), originating in Belgium
Chantilly lace (dating to the c. 19th century), originating in France
Lille lace (dating to the late 18th-19th century), originating in Europe (specifically Belgium, France)
Brussels Point De Gaze (dating to the 19th century), originating in Belgium
Milanese Flemish lace (dating to the 18th century), originating in Italy
Each panel of antique lace is hand embroidered with our signature chain stitch using a grey antique silk embroidery thread, dating from c. 1900.
Botanical (flora selection):
The signature color of our “watercolor lace” is achieved using a botanical (flora) natural bundle dye technique.
A special selection of flowers representative of their natural beauty and healing properties were selected.
As well as a selection of a variety of wild flowers, and those that were locally sourced from Elan Flowers, NYC.
Photos of Joy: John Dill
Runway photos: Randy Brooke
Photos of Mimi Prober garments with calligraphy: Minh Cao Edelweiss Editorial
Calligraphy : Ettie Kim
Photo of Mimi: Vlasta Pilot.