Deborah Roberts’s line, Silvae, is a through-and-through homage to the Pacific Northwest. From the name itself (Latin for “of the woods”) to fabrics full of botanical prints and organic textures, her designs reflect our corner of the country’s natural splendor. But more than that, and what earned Roberts a win at the Independent Designer Runway Showcase in Bellevue in September, Silvae represents the Seattle fashion scene’s unique sense of abstract layering, uncommon silhouettes, and stylish practicality.
Roberts discovered her fashion calling while exploring Italian boutiques and museums during a University of Washington language immersion program in Perugia. After graduating from UW, she dived into her passion at Seattle Central Community College’s apparel design and development program. She launched Silvae in 2012 after a design assistant stint at Eddie Bauer.
Her biggest challenge starting out was fabric sourcing. Either she faced minimum fabric orders too large for her needs or she had to take trips to New York and Los Angeles where small quantities were more readily available. Roberts engineered a third option: Working with local pen-and-ink artist Olivia Knapp, Roberts began designing her own fabrics. Each season they collaborate on a general point of inspiration for the collection, which Knapp then translates into graphics, sometimes science fiction–like patterns. Once a print is finalized, it’s sent to New York where a fabric company prints the yardage; the entire collection is also sewn and produced in New York’s Garment District.
Now, with an IDRS victory under her belt, Roberts hopes to expand her ethereal, feminine line. “I’d love to see my pieces in major retailers and fashion publications, and I hope to get more involved with philanthropic organizations that support the natural spaces that have inspired the brand.”
This article appeared in the December 2014 issue of Seattle Met magazine.