Seven Questions: Lizz Wasserman, popomomo

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Lizz Wasserman, popomomo | photo by Lelah Foster

LA has a diverse cast of characters. Whether it's the characters with stirring stories or interesting occupations or the people who are just simply characters, this town has them all. In an effort to get to know some of those characters a little better, we've created "Seven Questions with..." If you have a suggestion for a future Seven Questions subject send us an email.

Today's subject is Lizz Wasserman.

Lizz is a Highland Park-based designer whose clothing line, popomomo uses organic and/or sustainable fabrics. Wassernan's line, which is produced, designed and sampled here in LA, is the antithesis of disposable fashion — focusing only on producing unique and new designs.

Prior to founding popomomo in 2007, the Milwaukee native designed for Urban Outfitters and Free People. Lizz, who has previously lived in Prague, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, "finds LA to be the perfect weird, contradictory, and magically tragic backdrop to inspire popomomo."

LAist had the chance to exchange emails with Lizz to discuss her favorite designers, her decision to make popomomo a sustainable line, her vegetable oil-powered Mercedes and H&M.

1) The name popomomo stands for post-postmodern movement. Where did that name come from?
When I was in college I was really into Soc. Theory: and was reading a lot about postmodernism. From a societal standpoint, there are a lot of awesome changes that happened with postmodernism: but in architecture and other design areas: the constant referencing of the past and putting together disparate elements was really frustrating to me, especially because my parents are architects.

So, when I started thinking about what I would want to create for a clothing line: I knew I wanted to focus on the new. For popomomo I always try to create something, that, even if it's simple, is different from everything else in your closet.

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popomomo's spring 10 postcard | Photo by Eugene at wellmadephrase
2) Who are some of your favorite designers?
I still remember the first time I saw Vivienne Westwood pieces. It felt like being in an art museum. But like being in an art museum: there's also an accessibility issue to clothes like that and price tags like that.

Clothing is one of the few creative design objects that most people in America can buy, and that accessibility of design has always been important to me: from the design jobs I've taken, to the price point of my lines. I recently started my other line, Curatorial, which uses liability, vintage, and deadstock fabric, pretty much for fun: but it's also has a lower price point, which is awesome.

3) How did you come up with the idea to go organic with your entire line?
I had always said if I did my own line I would do only domestic production and eco fabrics. After moving to New York for a designer gig, I traveled to Asia for work to meet with fabric mills and factories. I saw so many different kinds of sustainable fabric: milk jersey, bamboo, soy, silver jerseys, that I realized I could really do it that way. That having been said: sustainable fabrics are still super limited, and I still can't find half the fabrics I saw in Asia like 4 years ago in America. But, for Fall 2010 I'm excited to be using a couple new fabrics: Tencel woven (which is made from wood pulp), and an awesome hemp/wool.

4) You told Huffington Post "If H&M went completely organic, it would be good in some ways, but the culture of disposable fashion that H&M is a part of would remain harmful and wasteful." How do you think we change that culture of disposable fashion?
As individual consumers we can make educated decisions with our money. And individual designers, we can use solely sustainable fabrics and methods: and follow our own ideas instead of trickle down trends. But, without large fashion companies making eco-decisions: none of us have as many options to work with. Fashion is a giant and profitable industry that has the potential to make sweeping and positive changes. Without either regulation or incentive: I think that change has to come from "below." Hopefully, in the future there won't be such a thing as "green lines," or "green designers," but in the meantime I don't understand any young designer who doesn't work sustainably.

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a popomomo Fall '09 Favorite: bess tunic | Photo by Whitney Hubbs
5) Once a month you open up your studio for stylists and media, describe the atmosphere of those events, and how can someone find their way into one of these events?
The open studios came about from me and my studio mate, Courtney Lowe, who own LA Vintage Exchange, having so much fun shopping each other's lines. The atmosphere is super laid back, cozy...we go a little crazy with desserts and sweets and champagne....people come by: hang out, eat cookies, drink champagne, try on clothing, hang out some more. We were doing the open studios during the day: but we are going to switch to every wednesday night from 5-10 starting next week. We'll also be having sales with other lines once a month in the back lot of the studio space, including our Holiday Sale which is
The open studio nights and back lot sales are open to the public...I'll always post the events on my blog: materialconcern.com

6) Tell me more about your Mercedes that runs on waste vegetable oil. Where do you pick up the waste vegetable oil?
I get the oil from one of my favorite restaurants in LA: Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park. My husband and I've become good friends with the owner and chef, DIep: and she even catered our wedding in October. She makes amazing Vietnamese comfort food...and she uses only farm raised meats and local produce. Good Girl Dinette's spicy fries are to die for, which is good for me: because they power my car. After picking up the oil, I take it to my studio, which is also in Highland Park, and it sits for a day or two. Then, I pour it into plastic barrel with basically a dryer sheet filter on it. Again, it sits for a couple days, then I hand pump it into my car. It works great, and the only downside is I'm constantly thinking about fried food.

7) You said you like to wear clothes that are unbranded, does that mean we won't be seeing you in Ed Hardy any time soon?
HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA,
Halloween was last month!

Lizz Wasserman and popomomo will be participating in Style Wars 2009 tomorrow at Cinespace.