December 2, 2023


We Bring Good Things to Life

Fe Noel and Cristina Martinez’s Artsy Collaboration is the Best of Both Worlds

Cristina Martinez and Fe Noel

Some things happen for a reason—just ask designer Fe Noel and artist Cristina Martinez. This week the pair launched Fe Noel x Sew Trill, a dreamy, eight-piece capsule collection with an artsy sensibility. But before they were collaborators, Noel admired Martinez’s talents from afar. “I’ve been following Cristina from the sidelines for a long while, and I knew the day would come when we would collaborate,” she says. “Her art evokes so much emotion—it feels like she’s painting her heart out, and I love that. You can see that passion in her work [and] it resonates with me and probably with a lot of women right now.” Martinez’s abstract portraits brim with energy. The black and brown bodies depicted within them wear looks that seem culled from the runways. Her vigorous brushstrokes and enticing use of color is engrossing, and Noel was paying close attention to the artist’s progression.

The paintings were what initially caught Noel’s eye, but she didn’t feel compelled to reach out to Martinez until she started seeing her social media posts during quarantine. On her Sew Trill Instagram account, Martinez shares her life, work, and inspirations, all of which Noel felt connected to. “The way she was expressing herself, I felt, OK, this is the time,” she says. Upon sending off a quick email proposing the idea, she received a ‘yes’ almost immediately. “We sometimes laugh because I’m bad at checking my emails, and it normally takes me forever to respond because I’m always in creative mode,” says Martinez. “When Fe’s her email came through, it just stuck out to me right away. After I looked up her work and became familiar with her story, it brought me back to my love for fashion. The pieces she was making looked like art to me.”

The pair became fast friends. Their connection as women of color in fields that skew white and male, plus their mutual appreciation for design, led to creative breakthroughs. “We got to know each other through our art and work,” says Martinez. “When we started, it was a small collection using one piece of art; then it turned into a much bigger collection that uses multiple artworks. I think the change reflects how important it is for us to tell this story right now during these difficult times.” They felt compelled to address mental health, particularly as it relates to Black and Latin women, and decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from each piece to the Loveland Foundation, whose therapy fund brings access to treatment to underserved communities.

Working to bring the project to life during quarantine meant that Noel and Martinez were unable to spend much real-world time together; instead, they discussed ideas over FaceTime and shared notes. “Our entire creative process has been during the pandemic,” says Martinez. “We were limited as far as going into each other’s studios, so there was a lot of back and forth asking ‘what do you think of that?’”

Despite the logistical challenges, the collection’s mix of ethereal lightness and expressive illustration is beautiful. The pieces—babydoll dresses with bell sleeves and eyes that cry flower petals, wide-leg pants embroidered a face pattern, and lightweight hoodie robes—reflect a merger of Noel and Martinez’s styles. “I wanted to capture the essence of both,” says Noel. “To make pieces that were effortless and cool, nothing that tries too hard. Every piece takes on a life of its own. They can be mixed and matched to reflect your mood of the day. I dress based on how I feel [the clothing] is tied to our feelings.” Martinez echoed that sentiment and worked into the designs. “There are a lot of different emotions in the faces that are featured on the actual pieces,” she says. “And the idea is to embrace your reality and what’s going on around you.”

With the collection releasing just as the holidays approach, Noel and Martinez hope that their artistic collaboration can bring a little joy to 2020. “We were going to release it sooner, but with all the chaos that was going on with the elections and everyone still feeling uncertain and unsure, we kept pushing it back,” says Noel. “I love that we’re coming out with this now. It was important for us to give people something beautiful and happy to talk about, something joyful to end the year with. This is our gift.”