Aimee Grubel's Sampleline occupies that delicate space in fashion reserved for Japanese Harajuku girls, where the seemingly ad-hoc is born of successful calculation. The Indiana native may pull from a mishmash of sourcesVictorian-era detailing, the sculptural focus of Commes des Garçonsbut the end product never devolves into some shoddy take on ragamuffin chic or the well-traveled "wasted minstrel" copout. It's largely a factor of knowing when to indulge and when to reign in: "I always use neutrals in with my color," says Grubel, who incorporates into her designs a wide range of colors and texture. "The tan brings the peach to a sophisticated level."
Grubel's greatest strength is her cut-n-sew sweaters, amalgamations of Italian fabrics that glide across the figure instead of obscuring or clinging. Most popular in the warmer months: the Sampleline tube dress, which sweeps the floor in a furl of jersey. "My line is about 50 percent knits or more, which is unusual," says Grubel. "I love adding flexibility to the garments. I drape a lot of my clothes . . . that's where the Japanese influence comes from." Her skills in knitwear, honed from years designing intimate apparel for DKNY and Carole Hochman, have garnered her a clientele that includes Helena Christensen and Shirley Manson. But Grubel, who first learned how to sew at her local 4-H club in Rossville, Indiana, is more impressed by her line earning any non-coastal appeal. "I fully expect to sell in L.A.; I really get a kick out of it when the showroom calls me and tells me they picked up a store in Nashville." We suppose there's a sublime joy in knowing you've made that victory lap full circle.