The scene: summer, 1991. The revolution was on the big screen, but it wasn’t the revolutionary effects that turned viewers into slack-jawed gawkers. The movie: Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The star: Linda Hamilton’s arms. Women around the globe [and far more than a few dudes] lustily proclaimed in unison, “I want HER arms!” No small feat. It was going to take drive. Dedication. Perspiration. And, above all, a kick-ass wardrobe. The modern interpretations of those badass arms came to me in the recently-returned forms of Heather Carlos and Janie Franks. The pattern-rific design duo of the Uintah Collection.
Heather and Janie, both fashion-obsessed SLC natives, who had oddly never met, ended up working at Lolabella together 10 years ago...right before they were both moving to New York City. NYC is to fashion as a mission is to a good Mormon. And these ladies are devout. Feeding one another's energy, they gathered their gusto and made a not-so-easy name in the biz as 3 Femme, the go-to showroom for the best editorial swimwear. Running their own showroom, and being Bikram addicts, they had access to state-of-the-art fabrics that dried quickly for swim, but no high-perfomance yoga/workout wear that, you know, performed. Or looked better than anything in the midwestern aisles of K-Mart. Their passion for healthy bodies, achievement, and design needed a bigger outlet. The pattern was on the wall. Create. And the Uintah Collection was born: high performance, super unique, lifestyle clothing.
Then, they did what a lot of people born here seem to do when they leave Utah for a awhile: they came back. Heather returned to SLC and Janie headed for Venice Beach. The beautiful West, where creating and living well doesn’t suck the flesh off your bones and spit you out as Carnegie Deli toothpicks.
When I first met Heather Carlos, one half of the Uintah Collection design duo, I was enthralled. Her arms! Her clothes! I wanted both.
Small caveat: her stunning, sinewy, Linda-esque arms require the aforementioned hard exercise regime and discipline. Instead, my mind ran some crafty calculations: Uintah’s blousy pants in fab fabrics that fit everyone, eyeball-grabbing laser-cut-slashed tops and bottoms, and flowy dresses I could slip on asap. My laziness smoothly camoflauged by deliciously-colored prints.
This is fortuitous for the most hardcore and the most indolent of the exercise set. When hauling our cookies to our sweat-inducer of choice, we no longer need be relegated to the slopfests of yore. Yes, exercise is healthy. We all want our tickers to keep on keepin’ on. It is, technically, the most important facet. But. Looking killer in clothes, (and blazing hot naked), is number 1. With a bullet. This is why I love Uintah Collection and mirrors in class. Two great tastes that go great together. Intense physical exertion requires a route containing a tout ensemble with sass, served up with a side of slashed fabric, producing smiles as we sweat. The 2013/14 collection is replete with saturated hues and tribal prints, Navajo textiles and blinding, yet happily-flattering, neons. Uintah is cutting edge and cut-up. Beautifully, sexily, favoring the lines of your soon-to-be-soaked-in-steam body.
Heather and I took just a few pieces of Uintah Collection for a ladies'-day spin in downtown SLC: deliciously hot and sweaty yoga with the best views in town at Salt Lake Power Yoga, immediately followed by elk chimichurri burgers wolfed down in 5 seconds flat at Caffe Niche. The results: astonishingly-dry gear within minutes of a pore-cleansing sweat. Throw on your own togs over Uintah and each piece renders anything you layer them with 'cooler and more compelling'. Double up on light-and-easy Uintah pants over Uintah workout pieces, a la Heather, going full force. Add Converse, a Gryson bag, and your ready for anything. There were several intense, sidelong glances from other yogis and Niche patrons, quickly followed by the fully expected: “Um, excuse me...where did you get those pants?”
Who is the Uintah woman and where in the hell does she shop? She’s unique, carefree, active, adventurous, and naturally beautiful. She doesn’t accept the saying that “fashion and beauty equals pain.” She embraces her uniqueness and uses fashion as a platform to highlight herself and show off who she is. She doesn’t care what the label is. She appreciates craftsmanship, quality and is always looking for something different from the masses. Shopping is merely a collection of the gems she has found from her travels or day to day living be it a thrift store, a local Mom and Pop shop, the street vendor, or even a hand me down from a family member or friend.
Your love of Utah shines with the line's name and your commitment to Utah-based photo shoots. What about the landscape informs the clothing designs? Both of us have always been drawn to the beauty and diversity of Utah’s backyard. From the southern red rock desert to the northern Rocky Mountains...there is absolutely nothing like it! Since we both grew up in Utah, it’s a part of us so, naturally, it’s a part of the way we design. While each season’s prints are different, you can definitely see the inspiration of Utah’s landscapes from year to year. This year we were inspired by the desert life so we went with more tribal prints and added contrasting pops of color to capture the visual eye candy of the large scale of the red rock formations contrasting with the deep blue sky. Last season, we drew influence from the northern parts of Utah. The colors of the rock against the trees creates an amazing abstract visual, so we went with more wavy and less-structured prints and mixed colors together to mimic that same affect.
What makes Uintah different in a crowded market? Janie and I wanted to produce more than just another line; it had to stand for something, too. We wanted it to say something about us, who we are, and what we stand for in this era of 'sameness'. Janie and I own and operate 3 Femme Showroom, a swim showroom that we ran in New York for 6 years (and now do on the road). During our time in New York, we saw the Garment District change in front of our eyes. What used to be sewing factories were slowly being replaced by dance studios and shipping offices. Production was rapidly moving overseas and these jobs became a lost art. When we decided to make the jump into designing, we vowed that we would do it domestically and keep everything in our back yard as much as possible. We even print our fabric in the U.S., where most brands have moved this process overseas and merely assemble their product in the U.S. We believe that, like us, the consumer cares where and how things are made. They’re educated on the process and harm of production going entirely away from the United States. Uintah is not just a beautiful and functional piece of clothing, it’s a commitment to and appreciation for workmanship in the U.S.
The patterns are so flattering; mine have the perfect curving line down the thigh that give me the illusion of bangin' hips. How did you decide on you patterns? This is where two minds are better than one. Janie and I basically lock ourselves in a room and go through hundreds of design and print ideas. We narrow it down to six or seven, based on what the other person thinks. If we can’t agree on something, we throw it out. When you’re dealing with lycra, fit is always the biggest reason to veto something. I have a pear shape and my small bust is always a problem in finding tops that fit. I’m always complaining that something flattens my chest, or makes me appear less feminine. Janie is far more athletic than me and is often aware of things that dig into her sides or that don’t give her support in the bust. She’s always thinking about something rubbing or being abrasive on her skin. We love facing these challenges together because we know that our consumer is also thinking about these things.
SLC vs. NYC? I am more balanced here. While I loved the 9 years I spent in New York, there came a time where I found that I was completely out of touch with myself. I was going through the motions of waking up, going to work, working out, going home and going to bed. I wasn’t appreciating the people or things around me. Mainly because New York is a tough place to survive and often you work to live. I’m so grateful for my time in New York because when Janie and I met in our early 20’s in SLC, we both dreamed of working in fashion. With the exception of retail, those jobs, training, or education did not exist here. You had to go to New York or LA. Janie and I both worked as sales reps in showrooms and we learned everything there was to know about this industry. I met amazing people from all over the world. As the years passed, I started to miss my family more and more, and I would hunger to be in nature. Both seemed so far away and not a part of my reality anymore. Finally, I had to accept that New York gave me what I came for, but Utah is where my soul was.
What is surprising you about the, “New Utah,” as I call it? I am blown away at how much Salt Lake City has changed since I left nearly a decade ago. Fine dining in SLC was Olive Garden and your morning coffee option was Starbucks. Salt Lake was just another suburban town, as far as I was concerned...but that Salt Lake doesn’t exist anymore. There are so many amazing local restaurants, markets, coffee shops and stores. Moreover, there are actual pedestrians walking around and riding their bikes. I love what has become of this place! It’s the perfect balance of city and culture, coupled with adventure and active living.
Any celebs you’d love to see in the Uintah Collection? I have to laugh because I don’t think that I’ve actually thought about that before. Working in wholesale for so many years, I would receive more calls from consumers because they saw a celebrity wearing something in Us Weekly more than Vogue. In all sincerity, it would kind of annoy me because I felt like that girl didn’t know who she was. She needed a celebrity to tell her what was cool, or what would make her cool. Of course, it would be awesome to see a celebrity wearing something that we designed, but I would get the same thrill if I saw a woman in my yoga class wearing something I designed. It means she handpicked something we created because it stood out. That is major validation.
How does it work being separate from your design partner? Pros and Cons? Janie felt the same way about New York as I did, except one year earlier. She decided to try out Los Angeles and she’s loving Venice Beach. We were able to move production from New York to LA. I feel so lucky to have met Janie! We constantly discuss how odd it is that we didn’t meet until we were both about to leave Utah in our early 20’s. We knew all the same people and went to school down the street from each other. We have the same outlook on life and always see the glass half full. We share the same sense of humor and never take life too seriously. So, when the idea of Uintah came up, we had no hesitation in working together. Our partnership succeeds because we have the same hard work ethic, trust, goals and, ultimately, self-motivation. I miss our morning meetings over coffee, but I never worry about work getting done. I travel to LA, and Janie to Utah. Both our families and roots are here. The shoot for our look book is somewhere in Utah every year and we talk nearly every day on the phone. Working in different locations hasn’t affected Uintah in the slightest. But...I really miss doing yoga with her.