Interview: Joe Segal of Pretty Snake
You've seen them on Tumblr, you've seen them on Project Runway and now you can see them all over the Urban Outfitters website! Of course we're talking about the Pretty Snake Crazy Kitty Sweaters! Here we talk to Joe Segal, the designer and man who makes those magical cat prints come to life with fuzzy sweaters and 50,000 (yes I said 50,000) googly eyes a year.
My name is Joseph Aaron Segal, but you can call me Joe. I'm the creator of the fashion lines Pretty Snake and World of JAS. I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts and eventually landed in Providence, Rhode Island where my career in textile and fashion design materialized. I work full time designing and making my fashion lines here in Providence as well as teach a computerized knitting design course at Rhode Island School of Design.
When and how did your first "Crazy Kitty Sweater" happen?
The very first Crazy Kitty Sweater was born while I was working on my MFA in textile design at RISD. I was working on a textile collection inspired by a historical Indian tunic that was part of the RISD Museums Costume and Textiles Collection. I learned that the tunic I looking at was created to ward off the evil eye, and eventually I came to the black cat as a source of inspiration for my project. The Crazy Kitty graphic was originally a tiny painting I made inspired by an old collectible tin full of kitties and then I first knitted it as a wool dress in 2009. When I realized that knitting graphic sweaters affordably was super hard as an emerging designer, I decided to print the cats on pre-existing sweaters and that's when the phenomenon began!
Why cats? Do you have any of your own?
I love cats because they can be cute and loving while also being really weird and mysterious. Somehow, I actually don't have any cats, but my good friend — and only full-time employee — Hannah Abelow, brings her cat Pablo to visit sometimes! I like to think though, if I wasn't surrounded by kitty things all the time, I'd have some real ones.
I couldn't believe it, but I completely bought out my first source of cat eyes. Now I import about 50,000 cat eyes a year!
How many goggly eyes have you ever use on one sweater?
Well, the average sweater has 16-24 eyes, but for one of my looks in my Northern Quilts collection I used about 300 eyes. The I've also made wedge shoes completely covered in kitty eyes!
Since you're known for such a unique item, how do you feel you will branch out in the future to create new, cat-free creations?
I actually have an all new cat-free collection out right now! I used cake icing to create a colorful photo realistic print collection that is available in all sorts of dresses, skirts and leggings. You can find the collection in my web stores (links below!). I'm super excited about my next collection coming out in December: it's inspired by curiosity cabinets.
Sorry we can't help ourselves: give us the dish on Project Runway! What was is like?
Project Runway was just as crazy as it looks on TV! You have think fast and be good at working with all sorts of personalities.
1. Your favorite judge: I wasn't expecting to think this, but I thought Heidi Klum was a great judge! She was always surprising me because she really appreciated the more artistic and conceptual approach to fashion design.
2. Most embarrassing moment: I feel like I'm always doing embarrassing things, we even call it "JAS-ing it up" while working at the studio, but somehow I managed to not have a stand-out embarrassing moment. I'm sure if I were to ever go on the show again I'd do some embarrassing things now that I'm comfortable with being on camera.
3. Something we might not know about the show? One of the coolest things about the show that you don't see, is that a lot of us are still really close friends! Even a year later, I talk to a bunch of my fellow Season 11 cast mates regularly.
Where else can we find you on the Internet?
WORLD of JAS, Pretty Snake, and on Instagram @prettysnake!