On the cusp of New York’s Spring 2006 Fashion Week, we check in with three talented young designers aspiring to those hallowed fashion-show tents—discussing the concepts behind their clothing lines, where to buy their collections, and what inspires them now.
“It’s really funny, ’cause since I launched the line, people will call me and ask, “is this Laurie Loo?” says designer Laurel Wells. “It always throws me off.” If her line continues to do well, she’ll have to get used to it. Her mom’s personal nickname for her is pretty evocative of the Southern romanticism the 26-year-old designer flirts with each season. The spring 2006 collection is no different. “I was inspired by the main character in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. The book was banned when it was published because it seemed dangerous that women were starting to admit that they weren’t happy with their roles as mothers.” Beyond what she imagined the clothing in the book to look like, Wells said she also tried “a symbolic, visual representation of the characters, so I used a lot of leather straps and buckles, a theme of restraint. But then I used a lot of sheer, light fabrics. So it’s a juxtaposition of restraint and ebullience at the same time.” The Atlanta, Georgia, native favors the demure and stiff collars, pastels, and Victorian corsetry of the 19th century, but only if she can combine that ruffles-and-lace vision with one of the sharp-tongued future. For this past spring, “I did a photo shoot with a photographer who, when we were looking at the model, said ‘she looks like she’s ready to jump on a white horse—only the horse is made of chrome, and she’s going to outerspace.’ ” Wells was ecstatic. “That’s exactly what I was going for.” Laurie Loo sells at Emerge NYC and online at mightyflirt.com, pieces range from $90 to $400.
Ah, if only a degree at a prestigious art school made all our Flashdance dreams come true, but for furniture-design major Chuck Stolarek, it wasn’t so easy: Life after Rhode Island School of Design was a shitty minimum-wage job at a Michael’s craft megastore, where he’d break down bawling in the puff-paint aisle. Perhaps all Stolarek needed was a change of field. After switching to fashion, the 26-year-old’s playfully twisted line of clothing was picked as part of Gen Art’s Fresh Faces fashion show in Los Angeles its first year out. Humorously entitled “Wooden Mustache,” Stolarek’s apparel for adults indulges the inner, slightly perturbed child. It’s a charming youth cut short in a wash of reverse stiching, off-kilter color pairings, and curiously unfinished appearances. In a coat dress from his Fall 2005 collection, one side of a kid’s Peter Pan collar gets stretched out larger than the other; Spring 2005 featured a skirt with a button-up sailor front in grey, brown, and pea-soup green fabric—paired with a surgical-scrub-colored top. Though his more recent Spring 2006 line abandons this Hansel-and-Gretel dystopia for a more grownup, body-conscious fit, the aesthetic remains the same—contrasting the mundane with the bold to simultaneously unsettle and enchant. What kind of woman is he looking to dress, we wonder? A brave one, with “no understanding of the concept ugly,” Stolarek asserts on his website. Well, that is a child—albeit, one who stands apart from the rest. Wooden Mustache is sold at Sodafine and Nypull, with pieces ranging between $100 to $400.
Given the current political and environmental climate, we’d all like to feel a little more secure these days—but unlike Rebecca Turbow, few of us set to creating our own clothes with that in mind. Her Courregès-inspired line of apparel, “Safe Clothes,” purportedly protects the wearer both physically and emotionally—even though that claim might be interpreted with tongue planted in cheek. This interest in safety sprouted while Turbow was still a senior at the Massachusetts College of Art, working on her final project. In her 2004 collection of space-age-reminiscent ensembles, Turbow attached soft, astronaut-like helmets to coat dresses, and tunics and dresses with impressively stuffed torsos or circle-shaped pads of fabric to provide extra cushioning around the stomach, heart, and other vital organs—all, in white and green. “A lot of products that are for sensitive skin use that color,” says Turbow. “It fits with my idea of safe, because it’s supposed to be a very soothing color. That’s why they use it for hospital scrubs.” For her 2005 collection, “I got into more wearable clothing, but the [feeling safe] concept is still there. It’s supposed to be very comfortable, soft, very durable, and make you feel really good.” Seems like less a line of bullshit from a designer who actually wears the clothing she makes every day. Which means spotting her on the street can’t be too hard—just look for a green-and-white lady hurtling down Clinton Street. We imagine she looks minty-fresh. Rebecca Turbow’s current line for Gigantic Brand is in its Tribeca store and online, prices ranging from $40 to $65 for shirts and dresses; other pieces of hers are available through customer order on her website, rebeccaturbow.com.Safe Clothes