A Torrance–based Clothing Designer Infuses Responsible and Sustainable Sensibilities into Each Item of Apparel She Creates

Layer by layer.

  • Category
    Fashion, People
  • Written by
    Jennie Nunn
  • Photographed by
    Laura Malandrino

For most of us, the process of buying a sweater or scarf is as rudimentary as going to a boutique and hand-selecting a piece from the rack. But for Torrance–based fashion designer Ami Hatami, it’s a multifaceted approach that goes way beyond that.

Ami, design director and founder of Camille Reau, hand-selects small, family-run mills and artisans that use natural and traceable fibers. She established the ethical clothing line in 2018 and focuses on handmade, sustainably crafted cashmere and merino wool layering pieces.

“I wanted to work with mills that sought to be ethical and sustainable, and had a green manufacturing ethos,” says Ami. “It was important for me to gather a supply chain that supported responsible production— from fiber to finished goods. The ultimate goal was to meticulously source and design classic pieces with quality and construction that will stand the test of time while minimizing our carbon footprint and giving back. By eliminating the middleman and going directly to the mills, I am able to provide high-quality products without the high retail markup.”

Ami, who majored in fine arts with an emphasis in sculpture and public art at the University of Southern California, tried her hand at everything from welding and bronze casting to ceramics and woodworking. She even built a violin. Before launching her company, she worked for the likes of Robert Rodriguez and Tommy Bahama.

“Seeing something that you have envisioned come to fruition is an exciting moment.”

“I love working with my hands to create pieces, which naturally made me fall in love with the sculptural aspect of fashion,” explains Ami, whose industry idols and inspirations include Alexander McQueen, Sonia Rykiel and Dries Van Noten. “I loved that I could create design for movement, and how it can move and flow. I started focusing on sweaters. They are pieces that can be worn together or separately, tying in the rest of your wardrobe. It’s like the cherry on top.”

With a 12-piece capsule collection featuring men’s double merino wool crewneck sweaters and half-zip cashmere sweaters and women’s cashmere blend capes and infinity scarves, Ami’s designs are knitted in factories in China and Italy, while the yarn is culled from Italy. She utilizes all-female skilled knitting artisans in Bolivia.

“Through almost 20 years of sourcing and research through all the companies I’ve worked for, I’ve watched how the industry is evolving and being influenced by the sustainability trend,” Ami says. “The mills we work with that spin the yarns are ones that adhere to the detox and Cradle to Cradle Certified programs, making sure their quality, humanistic approach and sustainable practices are held to the highest standards.”

Last year, she donated proceeds to The Water Project in Kenya to help build a protected spring for clean, safe drinking water. “Giving back has been important for my family ever since I could remember, and my grandparents fostered the idea that it was essential to humankind,” explains Ami. “I’ve been in search of my own place within the fashion industry for years, and it was only natural to create a line that gives back from the source. I believe that while focusing on material health, the recycling/material reutilization and fair working conditions, I am able to give back to many people without having to just donate money. I’ve found partners who care about the environment and their workers because they understand that destroying their local environment affects them on a personal level. It is their communities that are affected, and they are doing their best to try and change the trend of the fashion industry.”

Beyond the research and careful selection of like-minded artisans and factories for every single handmade item, Ami takes pride in seeing her pieces come to life. “Seeing something that you have envisioned come to fruition is an exciting moment,” says Ami, who plans to expand her collection next season to include easy-to-wear dresses and separates. “If wearing one of my pieces makes someone feel confident about themselves, it drives me to continue to design. I am continuously inspired by the empowerment of women and clothing that makes them feel and look good.”