In Stitches

Liz Collins and Gary Graham Get Ready for Fashion Week

Knowing that Gary and Liz cut their own patterns and worry themselves sick over every sample, I ask Gary what he would do if Kal Ruttenstein ordered 500 caterpillar-robot coats.

"Kal who?" The fashion director of Bloomingdale's. "Yeah, I'd make 'em. I don't think they'd sell, though." Liz says she did once make 500 sweaters—not all the same one—for Barneys. "We cranked them out—six knitters in the Providence studio I used to have. When it was over they all quit."

"But you know," Gary admits reluctantly, "factory doesn't have to mean bad. And it has to be in my future. I cannot sit down with an investor and say, 'I'm going to make everything by hand for the rest of my life.' " Though they're leery of growing too big too quickly, Gary surprises me by admitting that he harbors an affection for H&M, whose trendy disposable clothes are about as far from Gary's road warrior-angel confections as you can get. "It would be very interesting to do something for them. I wouldn't do it under my name or label, but 60-40 I would do it." For Liz, mass-market aspirations revolve around home goods: "Target, Pottery Barn, IKEA. I'd like to do window treatments."

Gary Graham models his caterpillar-robot coat; Liz Collins shows off one of her "aggressively feminine" blouses.
photo: Josh Farley
Gary Graham models his caterpillar-robot coat; Liz Collins shows off one of her "aggressively feminine" blouses.

So, when you're running a business on a shoestring, why dump a ton of dough on a fashion show, an event that Gary calls "an absurd Fellini extravaganza"? "My stuff on a rack can look like dirty laundry," he says. "When you put it on a model it makes more sense. Besides, it's important to have your fantasy. Fashion is fast! It's live! So many people are involved and you want them in the audience. It's a fun celebration!" Liz nods. "If you don't have a show you miss the adrenaline rush of seeing your work as a group; the whole story up there all at once."

"It's our artistic medium," Gary says, forgetting for the moment all about stuff like 8-percent-10. "It's a celebration and it's about rejoicing and it's so beautiful."

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