The Series' Ella Wiznia Talks About Making Something Out of Something

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

“I got yelled at for running in the hallway at City Hall. I didn’t fit in at all,” Ella Wiznia giggles to me as she tells me the story of how she pivoted from pursuing urban design to now running the Series, a brand that repurposes preexisting materials into wonderfully eclectic garments. What began as a bit of a survival tactic—a means to cope with recovery from an eating disorder—has spiraled into a series of pieces “for all bodies, for all beings.”

When we met, Ella generously turned my beloved childhood baby blanket into a chore jacket, and we caught up afterwards to speak on the genesis of The Series, its mission and making something out of something.

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Ella Wiznia in her studio with Series team members Ethan Gekow and Ava Pearlman / Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

Ella, Pre-Crocheting

Ella’s nascent days were spent punctuated by summers in New Hampshire, when she would tag along with her mother as she foraged for furniture to rehabilitate. 

“I always went to flea markets and antique stores and all of that stuff. I actually hated crocheted pieces. Like I had a visceral reaction against them where I'd be like, ‘Get that away from me,’” she grins to me, sitting in front of a mountain of kaleidoscopic crocheted garments and accessories in her Upper West Side home/studio.

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

I actually hated crocheted pieces. Like I had a visceral reaction against them.

- Ella Wiznia, Professional Crocheter

“When I was in high school, I developed an eating disorder, and that just really changed how I interacted with clothing myself. So places that I had always shopped at, while I was in treatment I was learning, when your gums look this way or when your shoulders are this way, that's actually a sign of someone who's starving or malnourished,” she explains, referring to those she grew up seeing in the imagery propagated by so much mainstream fashion.

“I just got really fed up with it. And through that, I was only doing secondhand stores because there were no photos to tell me how things should look, and it wasn't organized by size—that was where a lot of my obsessiveness went around, like what size I fit into.

“And so that just left me looking at materials versus sort of what the clothing looked like. And my mom, who was always really good at reworking things would be like, ‘Oh, I can teach you how to make this skirt into a shirt.’ I just became really comfortable in vintage oversized denim for myself as my body changed.

“Then in treatment, a lot of times people take up crochet and knitting. And because I had this sort of aversion to crochet and wool in particular, I started embroidery and I just started embroidering on my pants and anything really.

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

“Everything was always based on what the material was. So it started off with more bedsheets and vintage denim and stuff like that. And then I started working at a sewing school in Brooklyn. And the woman who I worked with—who owned it—taught crochet and needle point and shoe making, like literally anything.

“And through that I developed an appreciation for—like when I see these crocheted blankets, this isn't just something that's here. Someone spent 20 hours working on this, you know? And that opened my eyes to really thinking about women's work.

Each of these is a step, like a hand step, that someone took. You can't make this on a machine.

- Ella Wiznia

The embroidery practice started getting a bit out of hand.

“I literally remember having a rack of just denim that I had worked on, and I had a friend come over and she looked at it and she said, ‘Is this a joke?’”

So in order to clear some clutter and start, Ella started selling her work at the Hester Street Fair in 2016. She started her online shop in 2020, and began selling pieces through stores and other distributors. 

The Series

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

“I had the idea that—I wasn't really looking to make a clothing company; I was looking to make a series of pieces that were inspired by the materials,” she explains the name to me.

To date, everything made by The Series is handmade. As they’ve scaled, Ella has expanded the network of women who help to produce the garments, and she sees this practice of learning from and teaching people new practices as a major ethos of the brand.

“All of our pieces are made in New York, but we work with different women who have these incredible skills to make series of things. And however much material we have, when they're gone, they're gone. But not out of it being an exclusive thing, just out of it being like, this is how much material we have for it.”

The Materials

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

With the current distribution of the brand, some of the accessories are constructed using yarn made of recycled water bottles or other sustainable materials. That said, a wide swath of the pieces are still made solely out of reclaimed quilts, blankets and crocheted works. Even today, Ella finds herself at flea markets and thrift stores almost every weekend. “My dad is actually a shopping enthusiast, and he has now taken to sending links for sleeping bags from Craigslist, eBay. That's so fun. We do find some stuff that way, especially when my dad sends it to me.”

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

Once in a while she’ll meet someone who has a warehouse or barn that potentially has some materials to be pillaged, and she’ll make the trip out to see what she can find.

“I wouldn't do it if it wasn't with found, sustainable materials. I really just have this appreciation for the type of work that has been done for centuries of quilting, crochet, embroidery. There's so much time and story that's put into those pieces that hasn't really seen the light of day. It's just such an incredible form of artwork and I love being able to look at something and then keep looking at it and finding new things and finding new things.

There's so much time and story that's put into those pieces that hasn't really seen the light of day.

- Ella Wiznia

“I just think that it's really a form of artwork that hasn't been appreciated. You can go into a thrift store and a blanket or some sort of tapestry is rolled up and shoved in a corner, and that's someone's pride and hard work and time. And if I can bring that out a little bit, I'd feel honored, you know?”

The very best part:

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Zach Nelson / ONE37pm

When I ask Ella for her favorite thing about running The Series, she reflects on the network of women who she has been able to learn from and work with in cultivating this collection over the past six years:

"I felt like throughout college and even before and then after a little, I always worked with these women who I ended up meeting somehow and then working with. And I learned so much from them about how to be a person and also how to build a team around me, and I feel like in the last two years I have been able to use that in my own way. 

"It's been a really amazing process to have worked with the women that I worked with and then be able to create a space with other people where I get to wake up and be like, ‘This person's coming in, we're working on this thing, I can't wait to hear about their thing while we're doing this thing that we both love.'

"It's so cliche to say, but I really do get to wake up and be like, I can't believe I'm getting away with this today. I hated school and I was sad for a long time and… now I'm not, you know?"

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