Studio Visit: Where Fort Makers’ Unique Pieces Come Together

Every aspect of Fort Makers production -- from painted ready-to-wear to artworks and furniture -- is produced in-studio by founding members Nana, Naomi and Noah.

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Catherine Blair Pfander
Shared passions for art, design and style compelled Nana Spears and Naomi Clark to join forces in the summer of 2008, when -- along with furniture designer (and Naomi's spouse), Noah James Spencer -- the Fort Makers project was born. We caught up with the gals in their sun-drenched Brooklyn studio to watch the creative process in action.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
"The name took us a long time to decide on," says Nana, who'd worked at Barneys as an assistant buyer before pursuing Fort Makers. "We were looking at things related to Bauhaus, and people working together in a craft-related way, but that had been done before. So our take on it was more childlike; kids make forts, of course. But there was a funny connection with real forts ... groups of people in the wilderness, living together and leaning on each other, and in the same way we're putting all our 'smarts' and our efforts into this big project, together." Here, a look at their neon-splashed mood board.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
Today, the Fort Makers umbrella encompasses everything from art installations to blankets, ready-to-wear and home accessories -- all of which is produced by hand in their Brooklyn studio. The collaborative process works like a charm. "Nana studied media, so she's always tuned into any trend that's bubbling below the earth," laughs Naomi, whose hand-painted abstractions give each Fort Makers piece an immediately recognizable look. "We both inspire each other. One of us will get an idea, and share it with the other, and then we go into these excited-brainstorming-sessions." Here, a look at one of their embellished blankets.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
Fort Makers' earliest ready-to-wear undertakings -- specifically hand-painted silk shirt dresses with a slouchy silhouette -- were produced in conjunction with Lauren Nevada, a close friend of the brand (and notable up-and-comer in her own right). Since then, Nana and Naomi have gone on to produce three fully realized collections, complete with silky tunics, button-downs and scarves.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
Hanging in the studio stands a rack of their latest shirt dresses, each one completely different from the next.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
We were especially fond of this pink-splashed number. Here, a closer look at its colorful collar.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
On the day of our visit, Naomi was hard at work painting a striped motif on a long piece of fabric destined to become hand-painted ties.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
"She's probably the most prolific artist I've ever seen or heard of," laughs Nana, referring to Naomi's super-human ability to paint for hours on end (and still produce consistently terrific results). "Last week, I did 60 yards," says Naomi, who says she works best in "20-minute spurts," allowing her to switch gears between different Fort Makers projects.
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Catherine Blair Pfander
A look at the finished ties. "We get a lot of great feedback from the guys," says Nana. "Our bartender friend, he wears one all the time."
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Catherine Blair Pfander
"As an artist, one of the hardest things for me is restraint," says Naomi. "I love the act of painting so much that sometimes, having multiple projects to work on can disperse that energy a bit."
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Catherine Blair Pfander
"We're our own factory," says Nana. Quite literally, all aspects of Fort Makers production are carried out by the trio. "I think I would like the challenge of a huge order from a Barneys or a Bergdorf, for example," says Naomi. "It would be up to us to get it finished. And we could do it, I bet."
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