Morgan Widmer, the creator of Morgania, Ben Acklin, founder of Ocular, and Olivia Gianettino, the creator of OG Coleslaw, are all from West Virginia. Anika Ignozzi, the founder of OOH BABY, is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These four Appalachian fashion designers may come from the same region, but each has differing opinions on how those roots have defined them. Whether it be up-cycling garments with their unique designs or threading together something new, each creative infuses these roots into their design philosophy. One unique detail that ties the four together is that all of their brands have found their way into the same store in New York City: Art to Ware, a sustainable, wearable art gallery dedicated to one-of-a-kind garments. It goes without saying that New York City is a dream for an unending number of designers and artists. These Appalachians are breaking ground in the heart of it, bringing their home to the melting pot and illustrating what this region has to offer in unparalleled ways. 


KL: What does it mean to you to be an Appalachian creator?  

MW: When my roots show up in my work it often happens in the form of referencing archetypes from the area or using traditional Appalachian techniques like from quilting — but in my own way. This all just happens pretty naturally because it’s what I know. The more I am exposed to and learn about the world, the more new things I want to incorporate into my design process — but of course, my foundation of where I’m from never changes. I used to be embarrassed to be from where I am because there was nothing ‘fashion’ or ‘glamorous’ about it and it felt like no one understood me, but it’s kind of something I’ve started to embrace more than ever now. I like to combine things I like about subcultures with their opposites to see what it looks like because it’s fun to imagine two people who would never usually be seen together fused into one person. I kind of see myself as a fusion of a lot of different things — which has been confusing — but I kind of like it now and it gives me a unique perspective.

KL: Do you feel that your work is credited as “made by an Appalachian” or is that something that isn’t a part of your brand?

MW: I am from Appalachia and so I think that sometimes subtly shows up in my work because it’s part of who I am. But nothing in my work is usually ever really an ‘in your face’ statement. It’s more of a mystery and you’ll get to know more about it the more you dig in. 

KL: What has selling your clothes in New York City done for you and your brand?

MW: It’s helped me be exposed a bit more to a wider audience, and I don’t think many people from where I’m from would buy my stuff so it was cool to see that people do actually want to buy it. It just has to be in front of the right eyeballs.

Morgania original design by Morgan Widmer
Morgan’s newest design for Morgania completed at the London College of Fashion.

KL: Do you feel that your work is credited as “made by an Appalachian” or is that something that isn’t a part of your brand?

BA: I am proudly Appalachian, but Ocular is not specifically marketed as an “Appalachian brand.” I like to fuse my Appalachian ideals into my designs to come up with a product without boundaries. But my Appalachian roots are evident in my designs through ideals of nature, sustainability, sexuality and conformity. 

KL: Was selling your garments in NYC a goal for you? Why or why not?

BA: It was absolutely my goal to sell my clothes in NYC. Being from West Virginia, it can be difficult getting your name out there when a small percentage of the population is interested in art and fashion, whereas in NYC the majority of the population has an interest in these subjects. Therefore, it was amazing to see my work receive the attention and respect I wanted it to just by being in spaces defined for fashion and art. 

KL: What does it mean to you to be an Appalachian creator?

BA: To be an Appalachian creator means to use my memories and experiences of growing up in Appalachia and translate them into my work. Whether it is purposeful or accidental, all of my designs are influenced by Appalachia since it is what has made me, me!

Ben Acklin standing with models sporting his brand Ocular.


KL: How has being in an Appalachian environment impacted you as a creator?

AI: Creating for me at that moment in time [while living in Pittsburgh] was my environment. I just didn’t see the crazy stuff that I wanted to see in the area. Even in downtown Pittsburgh, I really didn’t see that much street fashion, hand-painted stuff. It was my need and want to see more expression in the everyday life that caused me to create this. So, just the lack of self-expression and personal style inspired me actually to put it out there for people to grasp. I think it really kind of tumbled into Pittsburgh now five years later, where I am an example of people that can express themselves for their career, make money and do the whole thing.

KL: What has selling your clothes in NYC done for you and your brand?

AI: The number one thing is the exposure that I get. My customer base is so much bigger now and sales have gone up. Everything is just more, you know, but that comes with more work, as well. Inspiration in my style is changing and evolving. So, you know, just more everything and figuring myself out as well along the journey as someone who no longer lives and creates in Appalachia.

An original OOH Baby painted jumpsuit sported by designer Anika.


KL: Tell me what it was like for you to have your brand showcased and sold in New York City?

OG: Getting my apparel in a store in New York City was and still is one of the biggest milestones in my art career. It was affirming to know that maybe my art was appealing to more than just my family and acquaintances. Being an artist in a small community is great because you really see support from people in your circle, but it’s harder to imagine a wider audience for yourself. Besides a few lucky breaks on TikTok, Art To Ware accepting my pieces was the first time I got to go beyond my circle. Beyond that, it also pushed me as an artist. I feel like I told myself I had to give it my all and push my limits to make things worthy of such a wide audience.

KL: What does it mean to you to be an Appalachian creator?

OG: I think the only differences between an Appalachian creator and a creator from anywhere else are the different adversities that people from smaller, lesser known places have to face. We may have to hustle a little harder than others in different ways. There’s definitely merit to facing hardships as an artist, and of course being an artist from this region has its own unique challenges.

KL: Do you feel that your work is credited as “made by an Appalachian” or is that something that isn’t a part of your brand? If not, why is that?

OG: I don’t think I’ve ever branded myself as creating “Appalachian art.” However, I think my work is inherently “Appalachian.” We’re all influenced by different things and my upbringing definitely influenced what I find beautiful and what inspires me. Growing up gardening, taking day trips to my favorite scenic places, always camping in the same cabin in the Appalachian Mountains, even the regional foods I grew up enjoying. All those things are extremely prevalent in the art I create.

To answer why I think I’ve never strictly branded myself as such, I think I’ve always been curious about the world outside of my West Virginia bubble, and those things inspire me too. I give all credit to the place I was raised and love where I’m from, but I also want my art to feel relatable to outsiders. There are a lot of things that connect us all and that is something that I think inherently comes out when I’m creating, as well.

Olivia Gianettino sporting her upcycled hand-painted clothing.