After graduating from the design school at the University of Cincinnati just three years ago, NYC-based designer Laura Dawson scored two plum gigs: working under the avant-garde design group As Four, and a stint with Donna Karan. Leaving As Four in 2003 to launch her own line, Dawson now has a hand in dressing two of pop’s more brazen onstage performers, Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters and Brazilian Girls’ Sabina Sciubba. Although her women’s collection (ribbon-tied shorts, velveteen jodhpurs, leather harnesses, sliced satin jackets, and the like) is actually more understated and street-wearable than her flamboyant stage creations, it still holds fast to Dawson’s interest in dressing the downtown, club-going ingénue—women not unlike herself.
We catch up with the prodigious young designer before she flies off to Paris, to attend Moby’s rap party (those were her t-shirts he wore for last summer’s tour) and to shill her line to Colette.
Do you build each collection around a certain idea? I really am trying to capture…some girl walking through Tompkins Square Park with platform heels, tiger-striped tights, gigantic glasses, some expensive metallic coat. That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I take a lot of inspiration from nightlife.
Where do you go at night? “We Bite” at the Delancey is great, Scenic on Monday—Vietnam was playing last night. Nublu on Tuesdays for the whole tropical new wave with Kudu.
How did you get involved with the Scissor Sisters? My boyfriend was their tour manager for a couple of months last summer, and then I went out to visit him in San Francisco and was at the show. Jake was looking at some of the pieces that I was wearing. He didn’t really specify what he was looking for initially . . . but then he came to my apartment and brought a glam magazine and his copy of The Black Cauldron DVD. There was this NME, it was a retro glossy edition they did, and it was all pictures of the glam bands from the ’70s, and their totally insane shit..some old Rod Stewart, when he was still wearing silver lamé suits.
Was it just the glam, or also something you wanted to bring to it?
There were some things where I was just experiencing with shape, and some things where I was just trying to show off his body as much as possible because he’s very into that, and nearly naked a lot on stage. He has a lot of wardrobe malfunctions, ha-ha. He’s a gorgeous person, so I’m totally glad about that. He gets stuff from me and from Heatherette, and I think those are his two major . . . oh. Dior started giving him stuff for free, because they can. So that’s kind of a damper for me.
How was working with As Four? They were pick #1 of anybody in the world I could’ve worked for. I always thought that the work they’re doing will probably change everything about clothing within fifty years, but it’ll probably take that long to really filter out.
Did you ever try to crash on their big bed with them? [Note: All members of the design group, included a married couple, once shared the same bed.] A bunch of people do run in and jump on As Four’s bed . . . I realize, okay, everybody’s doing that, let me separate myself and make sure this person’s comfortable.
I’m not going to jump on As Four’s bed! So you did some styling in Paris and Amsterdam? Yes, I still do some styling assignments. I’ve been working with Sabina from the Brazilian Girls. I hope that in the future they have the budget to build a lot of some of the things Sabina would like to wear, because she has some extremely avant-garde and flamboyant tastes. She’s taking actually the loop coat, which was originally developed for Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters and just some of the more abstract pieces from the spring collection, before they go back out on tour.
You did something for Moby as well? Yeah, this summer. He’s a very particular client . . . so I just did a limited edition series of t-shirts that were prints, like black on grey, or gold on grey. I wasn’t even sure he would take the gold on grey, because it was more metallic and shiny, but he actually wore them every day.
Where are you currently selling? Jack Henry in Los Angeles, 52 Kenmare, Gigantic, Shady Wagwear, the White Rabbit designer market [Saturdays and Sundays, at the White Rabbit bar]. It’s a new one. I love it so much better than The Market NYC. It’s a smaller space, a lot more intimate, more like a boutique, and you can get drunk while you’re there cause they have a bar.
Where would you ideally like to sell? I would love to sell at Opening Ceremony; I would love to sell at Alife. Once my menswear line gets started, I love Odin. I would love it if Moss picked up some of my accessories and bags.
Can you talk about the process of getting your stuff into stores? Ha. I have no idea how that works . . . I called up Steven Alan, and they took a couple of pieces. Fred Segal called me in response to a look book I had sent them. I feel like it really just takes calling people about 5,000 times each.
So you actually just call up?
I send them look books, and call them repeatedly till they ask me to stop . . . It’s one of the hardest things to do, to have to call a hundred people a day and listen to 85 of them say ” No, go away”, and then turn around and still believe in what you’re doing enough, to still have peace of mind enough to be creative.