“Making the decision to stop working full-time for others and really focus on what I want to do during a pandemic wasn’t the easiest choice to make,” says designer Patricia Voto. Nevertheless, the New York-based creative—who’s spent the past decade working with the likes of Joseph Altuzarra, Rosie Assoulin, and Gabriela Hearst to bring their visions to life—knew the time was right. Today, with the launch of One/Of, an upcycled, ready-to-wear brand “born from vestiges of heritage brands and designed for evolving modern life,” Voto has drawn on her vast industry experience to create a line that’s sharp, sustainable, and entirely her own.
Voto’s debut collection features a tight edit of fourteen pieces (eleven garments and three accessories) rendered in sumptuous upcycled fabrics from fashion capitals around the world. “I’m really lucky to have had a lot of great partnerships with various mills over the years,” Voto says. “I reached out and asked, ‘Hey, do you have any leftover fabrics? Maybe an order got canceled or you overproduced…whatever you have, I’m interested.” Since her materials are finite, each One/Of piece is a limited edition and made to order. There’s enough fabric to make five slouchy wool suits in orange checks, for instance, while whoever snags the Cydney, a voluminous shirtdress in forest green brocade, will be the only person to own it.
While conceptualizing One/Of, Voto looked to her own treasure trove of a wardrobe. “[I have] a lot of old Dior, pieces I've bought from the ’40s,” she says. “Beautiful, classic shapes that are still so relevant now; timeless, really.” When thinking about how to bring these inspirations into the 21st century, she took special care to ensure that each silhouette would flatter a variety of bodies. “I'm trying to be mindful of making really easy, comfortable pieces for any size,” she says. In the end, though, the final result is pure Patricia. “It's funny—when people look at the collection, they say, ‘Oh, this is very you,” she says with a chuckle.
The launch of One/Of is a full-circle moment for Voto, who enrolled in the Parsons’ product design program while interning at showrooms and design firms around the city. “You'd get these orders for 20,000 or 30,000 units of something, and I’d be asking questions to my boss: ‘Who's making these clothes? How come they're so inexpensive? How can you get fabric that costs this much?’ And working backwards from that, I’d say, ‘Well, wait a minute. Something here doesn't add up,’” Voto recalls. She went on to complete a thesis on sustainable fashion, creating a luxury ready-to-wear collection that highlighted artisan craftsmanship around the world.
After graduation, a friend of a friend asked Voto if she’d be interested in interning for Joseph Altuzarra, whose eponymous brand was just getting started at the time. “He took me under his wing, and honestly, it was such an incredible experience. I am forever grateful for and indebted to him for saying, ‘Yes, you, I'll work with you,’” she says. In the years since, she’s logged stints with Brock Collection, Lisa Marie Fernandez, and more, but all throughout, Voto continued to dream of one day striking out on her own. “I wanted to take the time to really immerse myself in learning every aspect of what it takes to run a business,” she says. “It took me ten years, and now I'm here.” Though she’d always dreamt of creating a clothing line centering sustainability, Voto cites her time working with Gabriela Hearst—whose eponymous label is known for its planet-first policy and impeccably crafted designs—as what encouraged her to make the leap.
For months before the launch, Voto flew back and forth to Europe to see Loro Piana yarns and textiles by the storied Maison Bucol in person, shipping her picks home from the hotel since she wouldn’t be able to board a plane with bulky bolts of fabric in tow. Once she’d traveled the world to find all the high-end fabric castoffs she’d need, or, as she puts it, done “lots of schlepping,” she decided to produce the line locally. “As a product developer, you really spend a lot of time with factory owners and workers and pattern makers,” Voto explains. “And you fall in love with everybody—or at least I do.” Seeing as how this past year has been a particularly difficult one for New York’s Garment District, Voto—who’s self-funding her business—is as proud as she is grateful for the chance to have worked with local firms. “It goes both ways. I need them as much as they need me, and that's why it’s such a strong partnership.”
Now that One/Of is officially open for business, Voto is eager to discover which shapes resonate with her customer. “I've found that with each brand I've worked for, they have their core, or carry-forward, or evergreen—each merchandiser has a different word for it, but essentially, they have particular styles that they do each season, and they update it whether by color or material, and clients love it,” she says. “That's my hope, taking those best practices and applying it to one very small collection.”
As for the designer herself, she’s partial to the Norma, a full-skirted, off-the shoulder dress that comes in inky beetled linen or autumnal floral chiffon. “What I really love is the versatility of the silhouette—in different fabrics, it appears to have totally different lines,” she says, admitting to having worn hers frequently over the summer, sometimes two days in a row. She’s also particularly fond of the Sharon, a slightly structured drop-shoulder swing coat that comes in a trio of fabrics. “It has that Pygmalion effect, that transformative quality of clothing that can make you feel so different.” Speaking from personal experience, slipping on the jet black tweed version instantly transported me to someplace polished, far removed from the monotony of my unending quarantine. Reader, I bought it—after all, it was one of a kind.