Meet the Maker: Emelia Ruyle of Explore Designs

Hudson River Exchange interviews the creator behind Explore Designs currently showcased at the Handmade Pop Up Shop at 514 Warren Street from May 17th to June 16th.


HRE: What’s your creative process? What’s your favorite part? How do you maintain your creative stamina? What do you do when you’re stuck?

EMELIA: Finding inspiration through exploration, I am constantly inspired by my surroundings and the insane colors and beautiful patterns that are found in nature and fill this world. I love making connections through my travels and the cultures and landscapes I experience, recreating and reinventing them on silk. I first hand dye the silk using shibori dyeing techniques or processes I have made up along the way and then cut and sew the garments, keeping all scraps to be used for later projects. I have always seen fashion as a wearable art and I strive to design unique, hand made pieces that express a part of myself and my travels.

I take so, so many photos of everything I see and do, things that inspire me on a daily basis. I just filled up my phone with 26,000 photos so it’s a bit of an obsession. I’ve spent the past two years living nomadically across the country in a combination of camping and housesitting. The constant traveling has really made me crave creating and working when I get the opportunity to be in one place long enough. Now that I’m a bit more settled, I just need to scroll through my camera roll to get excited about those colors and textures from my adventures. Then I try to figure out how to incorporate that inspiration into my designs.


My favorite part of the process is definitely seeing the silks come to life. Everything I make is a surprise. There is some planning to it but not a lot of control. The dyes have a mind of their own and I’m always trying new things. I love ironing/steaming the siks after they’re dyed. As they dry all the details appear for the first time in front of my eyes.


HRE: What materials do you work with? How did you start working with these materials and why do you enjoy working with these materials?

EMELIA: Pieces are primarily made from 100% silk which I love because it is a natural fibers that is highly renewable and has less impact on the environment than many other fabrics. Each piece is hand dyed in small dye baths, making sure the dye is used to its full potential before discarding.

When I was first introduced to shibori dyeing in a workshop in college we used silk and acid dyes and I loved the brilliance of the colors with this combination. Silk soaks up the dyes beautifully and allows for rich and lively colors. It also feels extremely luxurious and I love experimenting with all the different types available; charmeuse, raw, habotai, and even some amazing blends with wool.

I have also started collecting vintage silk garments to dye as a part of my Re-Explored line. It has been really fun to bring new life to these pieces in an effort to reduce textile waste and lengthen their lifetime. It allows me to make things that would be more difficult for me to sew myself like silk bomber jackets and blazers and I’m able to offer these pieces at a lower price point and promote sustainable fashion in a new way.

HRE: We believe creativity loves company because there’s so much we can share and learn from each other.  What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about creative practice, business, or in life?

EMELIA: “Buy less, choose well.” has been my motto for the past year and a half. A funny thing for someone who is trying to sell clothing to say but as a consumer it has really made me look at the things I want to purchase twice and question A) Do I need this? And B) Is this supporting something I believe in? I’m so passionate about small business and I want to support others that are following their dreams and making thoughtful, high quality goods.

As a maker, these words have really pushed me to look at why I am making this clothing, what is the impact? I strive to promote sustainable fashion and inform about the harmful practices in the fashion industry, especially fast fashion, that I think are still not on the radar or buying habits of most people. With Explore I want to provide clothing that is really unique and seen as wearable art. I want my customers to feel the love that it is made with and be excited that it is truly one of a kind, nobody else will ever have the same piece. I think that is incredibly special and I hope that makes people want to keep their Explore pieces in their closets forever!

HRE: What is a goal that you set for your business this year?

EMELIA: I am working towards growing my business through becoming a part of the community in the Hudson Valley and Capital region. I moved to Troy in January and with this new beginning I really hope to find friends and connections in these areas to help expand Explore. I lived in Burlington, VT for about 2 and a half years and found a really supportive community there of other creatives and business owners so it would be amazing to build that here! I’m really excited for what’s to come!

HRE: Can you share a challenge and a benefit about being a creative in the Hudson Valley?

EMELIA: Growing up in Nyack a block from the Hudson River I was always surrounded by so much beauty in nature along with the cultural influences of NYC. It really is a hub for creatives and it is so encouraging to be surrounded by others working so hard to make their creative dreams come true. Both of my parents are freelance artists and many of my hometown friends are now involved with various artistic endeavors. I think there is so much available to us in the Hudson Valley and we are so lucky to have so much so close, the great outdoors and the biggest city in the country, all within arms reach. My biggest challenge is probably the winter weather and its longevity. It makes it hard to get outside as much, which is where I get really inspired. But I do love experiencing all four seasons fully and there’s beauty to be found in all of them!

Explore Designs by Emelia Ruyle pieces are all one of a kind and hand dyed and made in New York. Various dyeing techniques are used to create inspired silk textiles that are then sewn into wearable pieces of art such as kimonos, scarves and dresses. Inspired by a passion for travel, nature and color, Explore is made for the woman who values hand crafted pieces while seeking comfort and versatility. With Explore you’re getting more than a piece of clothing. You’re curating a unique sustainable wardrobe, supporting a one woman business, experiencing a new place, and wearing a piece of art that is one of a kind.

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