Elements of Style

Prairie Underground Outfits the Outsiders

Resistance is a part of this company's very fibers.

By Rosin Saez November 20, 2017 Published in the December 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Camilla Eckersley and Davora Lindner, cofounders of Prairie Underground, among spools of fabric.

Image: Amber Fouts

Fashion can often be as unapologetically trend crazed—scrunchies and derriere-emblazoned velour track pants are back!—as it is thoughtful. Prairie Underground deals in the latter. The Seattle-born company sounds a bit like a resistance league for midwesterners, and to founders Camilla Eckersley and Davora Lindner, it is. The duo grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, where their outrageous, imaginative style precluded any potential homecoming royalty status. Being outliers was, and remains, their sartorial modus operandi.

“Our identity growing up as kind of outsiders there informed our view on fashion and aesthetics and art,” says Eckersley, an Evergreen State College alum. When documentary filmmaking aspirations fizzled, she returned home, where her mom landed her a job sewing broken suitcase zippers at a shoe and luggage repair shop in Lincoln. This led to a stint crafting garments for San Francisco’s burgeoning leather scene and, later, contemporary T-shirts. Meanwhile Lindner was in Minneapolis working as a fine art studio artist and felt ready for a change. Eckersley made a proposal: Let’s move to Seattle and start a clothing line. 

It was a long, glorious summer in 2004 when Lindner and her two Chihuahuas settled on First Hill. The weather was Californiaesque, she recalls, the kind that makes you seriously question the city’s rainy reputation. “We would have meetings on my bed in the middle of an empty apartment,” remembers Lindner, “graphing out what the collection was going to be.” 

That inaugural Prairie Underground line launched in spring of 2005 with uncompromising principles: domestically sourced fabrics, organic textiles, and sustainable options like hemp, which at the time was seen as a fringe fiber—what you would buy at a Phish concert, jokes Lindner. Nowadays designs also utilize deadstock; that is, mass producers’ leftover fabrics, in this case hoisted from a SoDo warehouse basement. It’s this midwestern thrift that Eckersley and Lindner have employed for 14 years, a prairie mentality perhaps. As for the underground half of the name, well, the contemporary indie brand still approaches fashion with an almost teenage rebellion. Collections aren’t advertised, they’re discovered; clothing isn’t in vogue, it’s everlasting.

If Prairie Underground wearers have a youthful ambivalence about it all, at the very least, Lindner says, “They want clothing that makes them feel better about their participation in capitalism.” 

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Holiday Haul

Prairie Underground’s 50th collection boasts brocade, corduroy, and rich colors.

1. Brocade Spencer Jacket: The textured fabric may remind you of art history 101, but here it’s all modern lines and fitted silhouette.

2. Velvet Co-op Jacket: A cut that won’t quit: a sharp pop-of-color savior for those gloomier days.

3. Subtext Jacket: It’s a piece you might throw on for a date night or to run errands…a soul mate in jacket form.

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