Mandy is an incredibly amicable person, with design talent and know-how that far surpasses her peers. Her feel-good fashion is not only an ode to her optimism, but a call-to-arms for sustainable practices in the fashion industry. Mandy is unmatched in her ability to create ethically produced high-fashion garments that exude the pleasures of the simple life, while lasting a life-time.

Mandy practices design professionally under her own label, Kordal New York ( and at J.Crew ( where her work is sold and published internationally. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati’s highly-ranked school of fashion design, where she attained the coveted CFDA Illustration Award.


Tim Karoleff:  What is design?

Mandy Kordal:  Design is problem solving plus aesthetics.

TK:  Why does design matter?

MK:  Design matters because it touches every aspect of our lives:  the way we engage with clothing, food, technology, media, etc. In a world where there is a loss of connection, design is something that can help bring people together.

TK:  How might design help people?

MK:  Of course there are many ways in which design has been helpful, but being in the fashion industry I’ll focus on what has affected me the most. Most people don’t realize this, but the textile industry is the second largest pollutant next to oil. With the rise of fast fashion we haven’t been able to keep up with the amount of garments being thrown away every year. It’s been incredible to see designers partnering with scientists and engineers to come up with creative solutions. For example, fabric being made from ocean plastic, or garment RFID tagging that can effectively recycle garments to be processed and used again as new fabric. Through collaboration designers have been able to implement systems that will hopefully leave a positive impact on our environment.

TK:  How might people – the general public – contribute to better design?

MK:  Voting with your dollar! I think it is so important to show larger corporations what the general public wants through their purchasing power. Supporting designers and innovators through your purchases is the only way for large corporations – who are typically just focused on the bottom line – that environmental issues and fair wages are important and worth spending a few extra dollars.

TK:  How would you describe your work/practice/ideologies?

MK:  It varies so much depending on the time of year. But, in general, when I’m approaching a new collection I start by being inspired by an overall feeling or mood. A lot of times I’m inspired by films or historical textiles. After collecting some inspirational images to keep me grounded, I begin working on the textural elements. Being a knitwear-focused brand, I work a lot with our knitters to come up with new stitching techniques. After that I begin sketching. I sketch flat garments by hand and pin everything up on a board. I usually take a few weeks to stare at the board and re-arrange some things before passing off technical packages to our production room. Then it’s a waiting game – the sample process can take up to six weeks to see results. The best part is when the samples begin to arrive and I’m finally able to see the collection in its entirety. It’s really exciting!

TK:  What are your main drivers or tenets?

MK:  Simplicity, comfort, artistry, and sustainability.

TK:  What is the most interesting aspect about the world we live in?

MK:  People and nature.

TK:  What current global issues matter most?

MK:  The global issues that are most important to me are environmental. I’m very aware of the resources we are depleting and feel a responsibility to be as vocal as possible, considering I work in such a wasteful industry. I would love to see a law passed that requires all goods being imported to follow the same laws we implement here on domestic goods, such as minimum wage and basic safety requirements for workers. I would also love to see a “take-back” program required for all fashion brands, where it is the company’s responsibility to offer customers a way to recycle their garments at the end of the product life cycle.

TK:  What aspect(s) of nature are currently intriguing you?

MK:  I recently read a quote by Rebecca Solnit which talked about our relationship with nature. She says, “I kept coming back to this hike for respite from my work and for my work too, because thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them.” I absolutely love this. I’m hoping to do a few more hikes this summer and can’t wait to give myself that time to walk, think, and just be in a quiet space. I think it’s so important.

TK:  Any particular buildings you’ve been noticing a lot lately?

MK:  The new World Trade Center station by Santiago Calatrava is really incredible.

TK:  What is your current fashion?

MK:  When I’m in the studio it’s very casual and comfort is key. I typically wear my red Vans and a pair of high-waisted jeans with a tee-shirt. If I’m putting a bit more effort into things, I love a good high-waisted pair of cropped denim, a pair of No. 6 clogs, and one of my Kordal spring-knit tanks.

TK:  Fashion has a much different timeline from other design practices. How does this affect your process?

MK:  The majority of larger fashion brands work on a four season delivery calendar:  Resort, Spring, Pre-Fall, and Fall/Holiday. I only deliver collections twice per year, Spring and Fall, which works much better for me at my current capacity. Of course there are times when I wish I could spend a bit more time developing a garment and can feel a bit rushed, but in general this way of working is best for me. I work best when there is a deadline and when I have a full schedule, otherwise I could linger on a project forever.

TK:  What have you been researching lately?

MK:  I have been preparing for a class I’m teaching this Fall at Parsons which will focus on textiles and sustainability. I’ve been looking into all of the events coming up in New York this September for Textile Month, as well as articles focusing on textile innovation and history.

TK:  What artist(s) have you been into lately?

MK:  Sol LeWitt. His permanent exhibition at Dia Beacon is one of my favorite places in the world.

TK:  What books are you currently reading?

MK:  Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang. It’s so incredible and eye-opening. The author lives in Dongguan, China for three years, following girls that work in the factories as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines and create a better life for themselves. I also recently read, Pastoralia by George Saunders – one of my absolute favorite authors.

TK:  What have you been sketching a lot lately?

MK:  I am actually just finishing up a design project for 1Hotel, which is opening up a new location in Brooklyn Bridge Park. We were selected to design the staff uniforms, which has required a lot of fashion illustrations for the concept boards, as well as technical sketches for the sample makers.

TK:  What recent life event has had the most profound impact on you?

MK:  I recently spent a month away from New York in a quiet little beach town in Florida with my boyfriend to do some work remotely. The change of pace was so important and I didn’t realize how much I needed it. Without all of the distractions of the city I was able to feel more creative and productive while also being able to spend some quality time with friends and family.

TK:  Why do you design?

MK:  I love it.



“A Conversation With” is an exploration of contemporary culture with an aim to discover the stylistic tendencies of our time.


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