As a young art student studying painting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Casey Dalene scored an internship at Marc Jacobs, and suddenly it hit her. In the fashion world, she realized, “somebody has to make all these fabrics.”
Curious about learning more, she enrolled in a textile and surface design program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “I was obsessed with manipulating the surface of a painting,” she says, “and my passion for texture and color played in perfectly when it came to fabric.”
The designer eventually moved to East Hampton to work for Elizabeth Dow, who had just expanded her well-regarded textile studio in Amagansett. Beginning in the sample department, Dalene later became creative director of textiles and wall coverings. While honing her skills, she dreamed of doing her own collection, finally coming up with “a cohesive plan” to launch her own business.
“I started looking through my FIT designs,” says Dalene, “some of which had woven diagrams that show when to move the warp and weft, and I was inspired by the little ‘x’ marks on the pattern.” The artist began experimenting with techniques like dry brushing, or using a tiny bit of paint so that the brush runs out of color to reveal the texture of the bristles.
To create her debut collection, By Casey, Dalene experimented with checks, diamonds, plaids, and stripes until she settled on a tightly focused family of patterns, using Photoshop to manipulate them so that they can be repeated for yards upon yards. The files are sent to a plant in Pennsylvania, where sample fabrics are printed. Dalene hangs these around her house, assessing the scale and making sure they will work for everything from drapery to upholstery to pillows. Then come color trials. “There’s definitely a color scheme in the Hamptons, from sandy neutrals to nautical navy,” says Dalene, whose line contains seven hues. Despite the seemingly complicated process, though, the artist’s goal couldn’t be more straightforward. “It’s about keeping my hand in the work, from painting to pattern to finished fabric.”