Nestled in the Philadelphia neighborhood, Kensington, is the studio space home to handmade bags designed by the brand ADW. Amidst sewing machines, assorted threads, dress forms and sourced fabrics, sits the brains behind the brand, Adriana Williams, thick in the throes of crafting ADW's signature handbag silhouette, the Gami. Derived from the word origami – the tote follows the same folding practice as the Japanese art form – the Gami debuted in late 2022, arriving almost a year after Adriana took a break from ADW to figure out the “why” behind her fashion brand.
"My 'why' is to create and enjoy it. To constantly learn and expand upon my craftsmanship while helping my loved ones and giving back to my community along the way,” the self-taught seamstress shares. "Overall, ADW's 'why' is to produce unique, quality designs that embody self-expression and remain true to ADW.”
Once her driving force in fashion was determined, it was full speed ahead for Adriana. The 26-year-old design talent released the Gami to rave reviews, embarking on a new era of ADW with the quilted design. Arriving in green and black shades in its initial debut, the Gami has since transformed, adopting a faux leather finish, fit for Fall/Winter fashion and coated in a charcoal gray.
With the recent release of the Charcoal Gami, Adriana celebrates the culmination of her creativity that dates back to her college days at Howard University, showcasing her dress designs in school fashion shows. Since her time at the Mecca, Adrianna has soared with ADW by collaborating with fellow creatives for her artwork-adorned Dub Tees, marking her first foray into homeware with kitschy goods, stocking her staple styles at Urban Outfitters and Macy's, showcasing her handbags at ComplexCon and cultivating educational experiences for the Philly community with Sew With W.
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To get the full scoop on the on-the-rise talent and understand how she handles her one-person operation and balances her 9-5 job with her brand, Hypebae sat down with Adriana Williams.
What was the creative process like behind the Charcoal Gami? In what ways did the creative process for this drop differ from previous releases of the Gami?
[The creative process] is kind of the same for all of them. [For the Charcoal Gami,] I wanted something that would fit for the Fall or the Winter and that wasn't quilted. [In general,] the Gami is inspired by my love for oversized puffers and large bags. My design process for the Gami started with making a pattern and finding the perfect materials. Finding materials for the Gami included the shell fabric, lining fabric and trims like thread and the tag. I'm not exactly sure if the pattern was made first or if I found the fabric first but once I saw the quilted fabric in black and army green, I knew I had to have it.
From there, I constructed a Gami sample which I wore for a bit to test it out. After that, I began bulk production which is acquiring yards and yards of fabric, a bunch of spools of thread and tags. My initial thought for the Gami was a large bag, enough space for everything I need on a daily basis; 2 laptops, 2 phones, AirPods, planner, pens, wallet, lipgloss and more. During production, I expanded it to a smaller size that I knew would be the perfect bag to run an errand or a calm night out.
What keeps you motivated to continue your creative craft especially while juggling your 9-5?
I am constantly motivated by my urge to create, learn and achieve every goal I have for myself. My 9-5 teaches me a lot about the fashion industry, particularly production and sourcing. After my 9-5, I know there's a million and one things on my to-do list for ADW and just the thought of that keeps me motivated. I get a great deal of satisfaction from crossing things off my to-do list. I think overall, I'm blessed and having something to look forward to, something to design, sew, curate and achieve is enough to keep me motivated.
Can you tell me more about why it's important for you to have a community-centric aspect to ADW with Sew With W, particularly in Philly?
It’s important for me to have Sew with W, a community-centric aspect in Philly particularly because it's home. I have a gift that can be taught and shared. I also find it important to have Sew with W because sewing builds patience, independence, self-control, creative expression and can even combat depression. While sewing is an excellent skill to learn it can also provide new career opportunities. In Philly, we lack those resources and outlets so Sew with W's mission is to aid and give back in that way.
In what ways does ADW set itself apart from its peers in the space?
I think what really sets it apart is that it's all handmade in-house [by me.] I'm hands on with it and I think a lot of other brands, the designers aren't as hands on. [Also, it's] how true and authentic ADW is, being as though I was raised in Philly and I'm making these bags right in my hometown neighborhood and I'm trying to build my skill set and this brand right here. [Additionally, I] really try to give other people opportunities, so sourcing seamstresses in the city or getting help from people in Philly. I [also] think the product and the craftsmanship of the product sets itself apart.
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In 2023, the Gami bag became available at Urban Outfitters and Macy's, how does that feel and what do you hope comes next for the Gami and ADW in general?
It feels great. Some days it doesn't hit me for some reason [maybe] because I move around a lot but seeing it on there being as though I shop at these stores, I visit these stores, is amazing. I [would] really like to gain more retailers that I have in mind. I wouldn't mind going over to Nordstrom or retailers and boutiques. I'm really interested in boutiques across the country or even in different countries. I'm hoping it leads to more collaborations and whatnot.