Nov 29, 2010
How did you get started as a designer?
I started out as an art major at Reed College, and I loved creating sculptures. I did a final project on sculptural clothing, which led me to want to create something artistic, wearable, and functional. So, I studied fashion design and patternmaking at Otis to learn more about the technical side of clothing design. I worked for a number of designers in different areas of fashion. After my last job as an associate designer at Monique Lhuillier I launched my first collection. That was a couple of years ago and that was something that I always dreamed of doing.
You studied sculpture, painting, and photography before going into fashion. How do these backgrounds factor into your designs?
Sculpture plays a huge role in my design inspiration and process. I begin a lot of my designs by draping fabric on the form. I approach designing a dress as I would a sculpture and try to create elements of balance in the design. My fabric selection for a collection reminds me of creating a color palette for a painting. I think that art and fashion are intertwined in so many different ways and I’m happy to be able to incorporate my artistic background into my designs.
Tell us about your style and where you draw your influence from?
My style mixes up feminine, flowing draped dresses and tops with more structured and tailored pieces. I try to create a contrast of elements in my designs and add an edge or special detail to each piece, whether it is through adding industrial like snaps to a jacket or embroidering a delicate metal chain onto a dress. I also like to dress up pieces with jeweled and ribbon belts, cuffs, and accessories, which began my new accessory collection for the spring. I draw influence from a combination of everything that I see around me; art, vintage fashion, architecture, music, people on the streets, and places that I visit. Sometimes, I don’t even realize how much something has influenced me until I see traces of it in my designs.
What has being a designer taught you?
Being a designer has taught me to solve problems in an organic and experimental manner. There are always challenges in working with different materials and trying to mold them into your vision. I’ve learned to experiment with new techniques to create my designs and allow them to evolve organically.
What’s on your inspiration board?
Fabrics are so inspirational to me. My inspiration board is filled with swatches of fabric, trims, and samples of vintage beading. This past accessories collection was also art deco inspired, so my inspiration board is filled with images of art deco architecture and other images of flappers in the 1920’s.
Can you tell me about the fabrics you used and why you chose them?
My Fall/Holiday collection mixes lightweight, luxurious silk jersey, charmeuse, and chiffon with heavier fabrics like metallic jacquard, wool gabardine, and multi colored knits. I try to mix different weights and textures in my collection. I choose my fabrics based on their quality, uniqueness, pattern, and the feel to it. When looking at a fabric I always ask myself if this is something that I would be happy to wear. I look at fabric selection like I am creating a collage of textures that will contrast and compliment one another.
Who are your style icons?
I have a number of style icons. A few of them are Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Marc Jacobs, and David Bowie.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop?
I love shopping at boutiques and vintage stores around LA. Some of my favorite boutiques are on Third Street, by the Beverly Center. I like the House of Petro Zillia and Polkadots & Moonbeams.
What’s the one article of clothing or accessory that you think every guy or girl should have in their closet?
Everyone should have a great unique belt that they can just layer on top of their outfit to give it that extra special touch.
How do you feel that art, fashion, and music influence each other?
Art, music, and fashion influence each other in endless ways. They are all intertwined to me. I can be completely inspired by a song that I hear, a painting that I see, or a concert that I go to because these art forms are such a part of our daily lives we can’t help but be influenced by them. By influencing individuals these art forms influence one another with the strong impact that they have on our culture and society.
When you were a design student your work was featured in a window display at Neiman Marcus. Do they carry your stuff now?
It was great to have my work featured in the window of Neiman Marcus as a design student. It is not carried there now. As of now, my collection is sold at a number of boutiques and on my website. I just created an online store. In the future, I hope to sell my line to department stores as my company grows.
Your line is carried in boutiques in California, New York, and Florida. What process did you have to go through in order to get picked up by a retail outlet?
Up until recently I worked with Emerge Showroom. They traveled around and got my line picked up by a number of boutiques throughout California and Florida. Unfortunately, they recently went out of business, and I’m looking for a new showroom to represent my line. I have also gone to a couple of trade shows to display my line. I went to the Train show in New York, which is where I met the owners of the New York boutiques that carry the line. That was a great opportunity to meet a number of buyers in one place. I would like to reach out to more boutiques, but it has been a challenge to do so in this economy as many storeowners are afraid to take a chance on a new line.
What are the biggest challenges facing independent designers?
It’s a challenge for independent designers to really get their line out there. When you are just starting out as an independent designer it’s difficult to have the budget for PR, sales, and trade shows that many of the larger corporations do have.
What advice do you have for designers that are just getting started in the industry?
I would advise designers to do what they love, create new collections, and just face challenges as they arise. Overall, creating my own collection has been one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my life.
For more on Lisa Felsenthal and to buy her designs visit http://www.lisamichellecollection.com/
Interview by Nikki Neil