Down on the farm, a designer blooms

Move to New Hampshire proves inspirational for Emerson Fry

Designer Emerson Fry poses on her 100-acre New Hampshire farm. Designer Emerson Fry poses on her 100-acre New Hampshire farm. (Emersonmade)
By Nicole Cammorata
Globe Staff / November 4, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

New Hampshire-based clothing designer Emerson Fry, who launched her debut line of vintage-inspired garments in August, is the kind of person who uses your name when she talks to you. It’s endearing and personal, a quality you remember long after the conversation has finished. She’s the person everyone wants as a friend — and whose closet you’d most like to raid.

Together with Ryan, her husband of seven years, the pair make up EmersonMade: a stylish clothing and accessories line, and blog, based out of a 100-acre farm.

The EmersonMade line ranges from women’s skirts, tweed blazers, and dark denim to a classic nautical stripe shirt and sweet, simple dresses. There are also belts, patent leather pumps, patterned clutches, some men’s ties, a smattering of table runners for the home, and plenty of Emerson’s signature fabric flowers.

Before moving to New Hampshire, the pair lived in New York City for 10 years, where Emerson was an oil painter who dabbled in women’s apparel design. Then Ryan, the owner and operator of several technology companies, stumbled across an old farmhouse in the Granite State, where the couple spent their vacations.

“I called Emerson and told her we had to buy it,’’ Ryan says.

“I could hear something in his voice that told me this is our next chapter,’’ Emerson says.

So despite some cold feet, the pair packed up their city life and moved to the country to restore the house and run a certified-organic farm.

They keep ducks, chickens, and turkeys on their property and operate EmersonMade out of an old factory building in nearby Portsmouth. Most of the clothes are made in New York.

“As far as women’s clothing design, it was always my goal to make this my full-time job but I didn’t know how I’d do it because I didn’t like formal schooling,’’ Emerson says. “So I set myself to the task of finding a way. I said, ‘If there is a way, I will find it, and if there is no way then I’ll just have to make it.’’’

For the timeless, pared-down selection of items in the EmersonMade line, the allure is all in the details: a 1960s style tweed jacket ($238) has woven, mahogany-colored leather buttons; there’s a navy scoop-neck, spaghetti-strapped dress ($288) bespeckled with tiny, white twinkling stars; and thin-denim bell bottoms ($188) feature a high rise waist and an exaggerated boot cut straight out of the 1970s.

“Leaving something to the imagination and showing the poised, powerful quality women can have is very alluring to me,’’ Emerson says of the garments in the line.

A number of the dresses and skirts have pockets, a sweet detail that’s worth pointing out. An online description for one of these items, in Emerson’s distinctive voice, reads, “[what’s] more chic than a lady with hands in pockets waiting for her dreams to arrive and then some. [B]ecause they’re coming, all of them.’’

Since spring 2009, the couple have run a website (, peddling Emerson’s one-of-a-kind cloth flowers and limited-run garments. The most striking things about the site, though, may be the gorgeous and well-staged photo shoots, in which Emerson and Ryan employ themselves (as well as their many birds) as models.

Almost overnight, design blogs like Design*Sponge and Brooklyn Bride were abuzz with glowing praise for EmersonMade’s photo shoots. Shot mainly at the couple’s farm, the shoots feature Emerson’s elegant flowers — adorning everything from men’s ties to wedding dresses — as well as her wedding dresses and clothing.

When it came to designing the clothes, Emerson was inspired by movies from the 1930s through the ’60s as well as a certain former first lady.

“Jackie O. is such an obvious figure. I could really chew your ear off on that one,’’ she says.

While Ryan runs the business side of EmersonMade, the creative voice is all Emerson’s. “Our aim is to make the most beautiful, personal clothing for our beloved customer because she or he deserves the very best,’’ Emerson says.

Nicole Cammorata can be reached at