Written By , on August 13, 2007

The fashion industry is always turning out a new trend. For the past decade, it seems handbags have constantly been on the cusp when it comes to the topic of what we want, yearn for, and absolutely must have. Since the arrival of Kate Spade’s Sam bag some years ago, there’s been this ever-turning tide of It bags which, for better or worse, have dictated the lives and purchases of women across the globe. Thankfully, it seems this time is gone. With the rise of independent designers who use quality materials under ethical production, the handbag world now has a lot more to offer than a logo and shocking sticker price. Designer Rebecca Minkoff debuts the latest edition to her collection, The Matinee, this fall and Papierdoll got a chance to catch up with her on what’s hot and what’s to come in the never ending world of bags.

What prompted you to become a bag designer?

I started designing clothing at 18 and began my handbag line with my signature Morning After Bag in 2004. My friend, Jenna Elfman, was starring in a movie a few years
ago, and she wanted me to design a bag for the film, and that’s how it began. Then, as the bag became more and more popular, I added the Morning After Mini
and the Nikki bag. The bags just took off and now I have 6 collections and about 20 different styles.

What is your philosophy for design?

I believe in the little details that make things unique, whether it is a handbag or a piece of clothing. For Spring 2008, my line is full of details, with custom hardware and some custom leathers from Italy. I want people to appreciate that these bags are handmade here in NYC and are versatile enough to fit every girl’s lifestyle.

Do you design bags with one theme in mind for the season?

I don’t usually design with just one theme in mind, but I will have an idea for a design concept of certain bags and ‘families’ of bags, and then I go from there. For example this season, I based some of my designs off of vintage leather jackets and vests; it makes the design more interesting, and reminds me of certain people or events.

What are your favorites from the fall collection?

This season it is all about ‘The Matinee’. This bag is amazing and so different than any other handbag. Its fun, and it has a little bit of attitude. The bag has two hidden pockets (zippers covered by reversible flaps) on either side, to hold all of those unmentionables.

What is your favorite leather to work with?

I love working with different kinds of leathers, but stick to what’s best for the design of the handbag, what I know will age well over time. Right now my Fall 2007 collection includes cowhide and goat from Italy. I’ve used lamb in the past as well, and when I first started my handbag line, my bags were typically canvas and leather.

Is it difficult to guess how different leathers will look (slouch, stay structured, etc.) once the bag comes to life?

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell how certain leathers are going to change over time, but I have never looked back at a leather I wasn’t happy with due to quality or color. Leather can be sort of unpredictable sometimes with how the color or texture changes, which makes the bag more unique to one’s lifestyle.

How important is hardware to a bag?

Very important, I use brass because I love the aged look and it isn’t super shiny, which gives my bags that vintage feel.

What does it feel like when you see someone carrying one of your bags?

I still get excited and sometimes stop them on the street and ask them how they like their bag, and where they bought it from.

The celeb factor: blessing or curse?

Blessing. It’s cliché but true, all press is good press.

Can you tell what sort of bag a woman would like when you meet them?

The focus today isn’t on what a woman is wearing, but what bag she is carrying. I can tell from one’s personality what type of bag they would like, since my bags seem to have individual personalities that women like to and can relate to.

What is the best way to care for our bags?

Use it! Over time the leathers I use get very soft and supple, the bag becomes very comfortable. Also, polish the hardware. My hardware is 100% brass, which tarnishes. So don’t be afraid to scrub it with some brass cleaner, carefully though, as to not get it on the leather.

What do you think of the ever-booming bag market?

I think that it’s very interesting how trends change over the years, from clothing, to shoes, to jewelry, to bags. It is crazy how intense the desire is for handbags from ‘Indie’ labels such as myself. Everybody seems to want that bag that doesn’t scream designer, but is more about style and quality than the label.

Is there any room for it to grow?

I think there is always room to grow, women will always want handbags, and the need for new styles will always be around, as well as old favorites. In the near future I plan to re-launch clothing as well as shoes and expand my line into a global brand.

Do you think the bags being made in New York will grow as a selling point for your bags?

It is definitely one of our selling points, there are so many designers that are producing off shore and people place the mentality that it might be of lower quality. By producing here, I am able to see my handbags in the process and make changes accordingly.

How does it feel to be one of the few designers that keeps production local?

Having production local, like said above, allows me to work on the design concepts and samples for future seasons during the whole process and make changes when needed. Also maintaining a close relationship with my factory and production team is important.

And now a word from


Written By , on July 20, 2007

One can practically find beauty in anything. Mathew DiSpagna just happens to create that beauty through his jewelry collections – DiSpagna Designs. Mr. DiSpagna is not your typical jewelry designer. He has hanged with Phil Lesh, bass guitarist of The Grateful Dead; is a massage therapist; and a painter that dabbles in oil pastel, abstract art. One would wonder how he even has the time or energy to make such beautiful and spiritual creations. Just chalk it up to him being a ” jack of all trades and still a master of one”.

Papierdoll: So how did you get started in jewelry design?

Mathew DiSpagna: If you told me two years ago that I would be designing jewelry, showing that jewelry in fashion shows and meeting people who wanted to wear my jewelry, I would have asked you if you were out of your mind. But somewhere along the way I picked up a pair of pliers and galvanized steel wire and decided this is the right career path for me. Some people get high from the gym, others from beer with their buds on a Saturday night; I make jewelry.

PD: Where does your inspiration come from when you are designing each piece?

MD: I am inspired by the fact that anything is possible. The beauty of this art is that there are little boundaries. That fact alone allows me to continuously push myself further and further. Each piece I create is very different from the next, and each piece is a reflection of the emotions I feel as I am creating. I am also inspired by dance, music and light, as well as abstract arts.

PD: If your collections could be described as a particular dance, music or light what would they be?

MD: Dance, Spinning, Dead Head terminology, look it up. Music, Indobox, defiantly Indobox, download them. Light, Laser Show, preferably Led Zeppelin at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA, Dance, music and light; every Sound Tribe Sector 9 show I have ever been to.

PD: Any jewelry designers that you are just enamored with?

MD: Since I consider fashion and jewelry design an art, I am enamored by artists who work with various mediums. One artist who comes to mind is M.C. Escher. Escher had such a unique style of art using lithograph and wood mediums. His work is mind altering and gives the viewer of his work a different perception, sometimes multiple perceptions all in the same piece of art. One other artist, if you will, Frank Gehry. Gehry is another mind altering artist, but he took his art to architecture. Designing such buildings as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, his unique style is unmatched.

PD: At a time when it seems very ‘trendy’ to be more in touch with the spiritual side of life and be concerned about the environment do you think your collections couldn’t have come at a better time?

MD: If being spiritual and environmentally conscious is a current trend, then I think everyone should get on the bandwagon. My jewelry in fact says a great deal about the time we live in. It is a fusion of the earth and everything natural with industrious and technological advances. The raw stones represent all things that are natural and ancient and the metals represent all things modern and contemporary. We live in time of binaries and polar opposites and we are beginning to omit words like versus from our vocabulary. We seem to be in a transient time where we are just learning how to fuse the physical with the metaphysical.

PD: Have you ever experienced or had a client experience any healing properties from your jewelry?

MD: I have had clients tell me that the first time they put on a piece of my jewelry they feel a warm wave of energy that radiates from wherever it lands on their body. Beyond adults, I have also found that children are the most receptive to the healing energy. I met a woman who had an 8 year old son who was immediately in awe over my jewelry. I am currently in the process of creating him a custom piece. Yet, none of this surprises me because many children these days have a Rock Collection, as well as a Nintendo Wii.

And now a word from


Written By , on July 8, 2007

rochelle ThwaitesSome say great ideas are the products of intention and careful thought; some say they’re born of flashbulb moments fueled by inspiration; and still others lay claim to a sense of prophetic insight, perhaps from a mystic or dream.

Rochelle Thwaites, an L.A.-based interior designer turned handbag designer, decided to refocus her career in 2004 after just such a dream. “I woke my husband up at 5:00 a.m.,” Thwaites said. “He was not happy, he just thought it was another one of my crazy little ideas.”

MimekiApparently it wasn’t that crazy, because three years later Thwaites is launching her first collection of personally designed handbags — named Mimeki after the Jamaican word meaning “I made it” — and the fashion industry is taking notice.

The Mimeki style is one that any modern woman can relate to: Classic meets funky, creating a well-balanced blend that appears chic, not tacky. The silhouettes are just predictable enough not to be outlandish, but always adorned with unexpected embellishments that set each bag apart. Whether it’s a strip of python or ostrich skin to highlight a basic patent, or a metallic tassel to add a little panache, these bags have character.

But why spend money on an expensive bag, only to discover a season or two later that it’s not only out of style, it’s an embarrassment to be seen with? Not so with a Mimeki bag, which is practically guaranteed to remain elegant through the years. Take the Sahara mini satchels: Their boldness relies on contrasting colors, textures and stitch patterns, rather than impractical shapes or transient trends. The corners also fold up to expand, and double-sided compartments turn this average-sized bag into an incredibly useful accessory.

MimekiYou definitely can’t miss the line of Kennedy bags, which will make a statement no matter how you decide to wear them. Named after the inimitable Jackie Kennedy, these totes are absolutely gorgeous with their hard oval handles and exotic skin trimmings. Even the large black-on-black tote, free of superfluous trinkets, can act as the perfect accent piece.

Mimeki’s inevitable success relies on a formula so simple, but which few designers consistently adhere to. Not only is each bag uniquely stylish, they’re each also uniquely functional, referencing the hectic lives of women everywhere and the need to own a bag that can properly accommodate. Every tote is conveniently divided into smaller sections that make for easy organizing, and certain clutches and small bags gracefully unfold into equally beautiful — though greatly expanded — versions. Several styles are also made in a variety of sizes, with the distinct purpose of providing a matching set of bags for women who tend to carry their lives around with them all day, especially in large pedestrian cities like New York.

Functionality also demands durability, and Mimeki bags are built to withstand the day-to-day wear-and-tear that our accessories are forced to endure. “When I design a bag, I abuse it to see where it’s weaknesses are,” Thwaites said. She’ll overuse a single bag for a few months, just to be sure of its design quality. If it doesn’t pass her post-production test, Thwaites scraps the style and heads back to the drawing board, so you can always be confident that her bags will hold up no matter what.

MimekiAnd if you’re like most fashion-conscious women, a broken or worn-down bag is almost as upsetting as finding your latest purchase in the hands of another hundred on-the-ball shoppers a week later. Because Thwaites retains total control over design, local production and mindful distribution, your bag will always be unique. There are never more than 50 bags made in each style, and for the upcoming Fall collection, those numbers will shrink drastically, down to about one dozen.

Breaking into the fashion industry isn’t easy, but Thwaites was determined to see her dream unfold in reality. “Fashion is saturated with great designers, how am I going to fit in?” she asked herself. For three years she traveled the world for inspiration, acquired a solid foundation of knowledge and collected mountains of samples to begin the design process. Thwaites usually considers herself an open book, and found it frustrating that so few people were willing to share their design experiences with her directly, for fear of losing competitive edge in such a fickle market.

But Thwaites survived the uphill battle — even without detailed, expert advice — and thank goodness she did, because there’s only more to look forward to for Mimeki. A men’s accessories collection is in the works (including messenger bags, laptop cases and belts), canvas bags will surface next Spring for those who’d prefer to steer clear of leather goods, and Thwaites has even toyed with the idea of launching a line of shoes as well.

Beautiful style and quality design are required in high-end fashion, but the pieces we remember are always backed by an individual, maybe two, who bring something new to the design process. In this case, that person is Rochelle Thwaites.

“I know how much I put into it — it’s not just another product, it comes from passion,” she said.

That passion seems to pour from Thwaites, and I can only imagine how it will be reflected in her work as she leads Mimeki into the future.

And now a word from


Written By , on June 5, 2007

Matt Bernson knows shoes. Even more, he knows all about how to make a woman feel comfortable and incredibly chic with his amazing collection of sandals and flats. Still at the beginning of his career, Bernson’s designs personify that effortlessly cool beauty of Liat Baruch, Olatz Schnabel, or any other disgustingly chic under-the-radar member of the glitterati. Luckily, we were able to catch up with Mr. Bernson and he gave us the lowdown on creating incredible shoes that embody all we hope to our summer will be.

PD: What inspires you?

Travel. The Ocean. My Fiancé’s style. Talking with the women that buy my shoes and tell me with all their heart what they want and cannot find.

PD: Which of your shoes do we need to live in this summer?

The SM Gladiator in distressed gold upper/tobacco insole. You can just slip it on. It is simple but there is more to it than a regular sandal. And when you add comfort, you can’t go wrong.

PD: What goes into constructing a chic thong sandal, as opposed to a random rubber flip-flop?

Amazingly I have no idea how to make a rubber one so it would be hard to say what the difference is. I do know that they pour rubber into a mold. With a hand made “chic” flip flop we take months to try and perfect the placement of the contact points so that it is instantly comfortable when first worn. We source non-abrasive materials for upper liners. It is imperative to make the
toe post as thin but sturdy as possible (no body likes a sandal blowout). Plus there needs to be something interesting or novel so as to give it that “must have” appeal. In short it takes time and attention to every detail.



PD: Your line has this understated cool-girl vibe happening, how do you achieve this?

Usually we come up with a design. Then start adding to it due to some insecurity that our initial concept isn’t good enough. Then we look at this sandal or shoe with all this stuff on it and then we strip that all away until we are back to the original idea. When it is simple, wearable but has a unique personality or definite style we know it is good.

PD: Do you think flat sandals are appropriate for evening?

I know that they are.

PD: We’ve gotten a sneak peek at your fall collection, and besides being impressed, we see it’s still all about flats. Do you think this trend is becoming less of a trend and more of a staple? If so, what does a gal need in her wardrobe of flats?

With all I hear about the pain and distress caused by years of wearing high heels and the relief women get from putting on comfortable but stylish flats it makes me think flats are here to stay. But the pendulum is likely to swing dramatically in the other direction. In five years the flat will be out and 6” stilettos with super pointy toes will be all the rage. As for “must have flats”
I would think that every girl should have a pair of black ones, a pair of brown ones and a fun color that they don’t match with anything else their wearing.

And now a word from


Written By , on May 10, 2007

The title is a bit of a misnomer.

There’s nothing mad about Leah Chalfen. She’s quite sane and she has a story to tell through the various designs of her hats. An often overlooked accessory is now making a resurgence and Chalfen is one of the designers at the forefront of this resurgence.

PD: You’re seeing a lot of younger artists in the music industry and in films wearing hats, do you think that hats are making sort of a comeback?

LC: I would say in today climate of competition younger artist are seeing the value of hats as an accessory in making themselves stand out. This took place in Hollywood in the 20’s and 40’s when younger stars and starlets wanted to create a character-a personality to be recognized by their glamour and their hats and it was successful. Hats back in those days said something about the personality of the person and that’s probably what is repeating itself today and the fact that we have to make ourselves stando ut. Hats are a brilliant accessory since they highlight the face, and the face is our ultimate image of our brand.

PD: Do you think that Millinery is a process lost on up and coming designers and design students?LC: Yes- because fashion designers are mainly focused on garments and Millinery is the field of hat design and accessories. It is far and few between the people who decide to dedicate themselves to just accessories and breaking that down that further just head wear. Todays society doesn’t have such an extreme need for- it’s a conscience accessory something extra- we don’t need a hat we need shoes. We don’t need a hat like we need a bag- women need pocketbooks- it’s a niche industry basically- it’s a supply and demand.

PD: I see on your website that you teach at Parsons.

LC: I do and it was an attempt to diffuse the knowledge and this semester knowone signed up because all the students chose classes that focused on the garment industry. It hasn’t taken hold in terms of popularity as far as in fashion schools.

And now a word from


Written By , on April 3, 2007

photos by Reka Nyari

What makes Queue so special? That’s a question I repeated over and over again prior to meeting two designers I now call the wonder twins. Wonder twins because of their dramatic transition from athletic intensive sport which dominated their Spring 2007 line to sport chic which is a keystone of their Fall 2007 line.

With the fashion world embracing casual lux lines like a long lost lover, Queue could not have better timing. The girls design casual pieces in luxury fabrics making almost everything versatile enough to wear dressed up, down or both. The best part of this pair though is their energy – their positive spirit comes across when talking to them, observing them in their design element or simply watching their interaction with each other.

I sat down with them just after they designed their most recent line (Fall 2007) and wanted to get to know Lucky and Sarada Ravindra, the designers of Queue. Read below:

How are your friends reacting to your move to New York?

Lucky: They’re glad that they can visit. laughs

Sarada: I don’t think it’s a surprise for anyone.

Why do you say that?

Sarada: Because it was the natural progression. It was bound to happen. We talked about it for awhile and we weren’t ready. But I think we’re ready now.

Do you think of yourselves as New Yorkers already?

Lucky: We were born there but that doesn’t mean we’re New Yorkers.

Sarada: I don’t think that we identify with one place. I mean, we live in Miami, but people here don’t think of us as actually living in Miami. They always ask us where we’re from.

Why is that?

Sarada: I don’t know maybe we don’t dress how they do, I don’t know.

Well, how do you dress? Let’s say you’re going out for a night on the town, what do would you wear?

Lucky: It’s a complicated question, it completely depends on our mood and what we feel like wearing. We definitely dress more like we’re from New York. I guess we fit in more in that sense. A great pair of heels is definitely in. That’s definitely something that you will see us wearing if we go out. We love heels.

What do you see as the main goal for the Queue fashion line?

Lucky: I don’t really see any boundaries. I mean, the brand evolves as we evolve. It’s hard to pinpoint, but our line definitely reflects a lifestyle. I mean we could get into everything from accessories to shoes to men’s and kids.

You said that the line evolves as you evolve, can you explain what you mean by that?

Sarada: We’re still considered “new” on some level; I mean we’ve only been in the industry for three to four years now …Lucky interrupts Lucky: But when we first started we didn’t know what we were doing on some levels. I mean it was a whole new thing for us, we didn’t go to fashion school, we had nothing to do with the industry at all and it was a lot of trial and error.

Your line is getting all types of positive reviews, are you afraid of success?

Lucky: It’s nice obviously to see that someone likes what you’re doing and someone appreciates what you’re doing.

Sarada: We are dreaming of the success that’s right around the corner. But I think of anyone reaching a certain point in terms of success with people responding to your product there’s always going to be criticism but that’s part of the idea of dealing with success and I think that we’re fine with that.

Lucky: I guess at some point we do know that it might get to be overwhelming but I think we think about that when we get to that point.

How do you know when you get to that point?

Lucky: When the line can financially sustain itself I think.

Sarada: We want to be able to put out a good creative product consistently. I think that’s when we reach the point of success.

Have each of you ever designed something that you did not want the other to see?

Lucky: No. We always share our ideas. We’re pretty open with each other. We’ve never really had to hide creative ideas no matter how off the wall we would think them to be individually.

Which designer would you trade places with in a heartbeat?

Sarada: There isn’t anyone we’d trade places with in a heartbeat. We’re completely comfortable in our own skin. And we’ve never wanted to be someone else even for a minute. However, we do have a tremendous admiration and respect for many designers.

Favorite place to be on a Saturday afternoon?

Sarada: Home. We’re very much home bodies and that’s the place where we feel most comfortable. I mean, it’s definitely quiet time. We get to think a lot, we spend time with our friends, watch movies. Basically we love to be home.

You normally model your own clothes, and you stay in great shape, have you ever considered using outside models for your line?

Lucky: We have thought about using other models for the line, we started doing it at first not because we saw ourselves as models. The brand was about an idea that we were trying to project in terms of lifestyle. It was convenient for us and it seemed natural for us to just do it ourselves.

Sarada: But with the growth of the line, and in terms of putting the brand out there, we have thought of using other models Lucky interjects: And probably will and probably will as the line progresses into different seasons.

Coming from an athletic background, how do you feel about the whole skinny model issue in fashion now?

Sarada: It obviously has always been a part of the industry that the girls look a certain way when walking down the runway, or when they model the clothes. However, health is a serious issue and a lot of these models don’t lead healthy lifestyles at the same time a lot of them do, even though they are very thin. A lot of women that aren’t even that skinny suffer from bulemia, so it’s not necessarily the fashion industry that should be nailed or put down as a result. I think that we need to pay attention to the issue, but I don’t think laws need to be made or restrictions need to be in place regulating models.

You are athletes as well as designers. When you put a line together, does your design process go in the direction of making them athletically fit or do you use some other convention?

Lucky: Not at all. The only element of our athletic background that goes into the brand really is a level of comfort and the fact that the clothes have to be functional. Who wants to wear something that is uncomfortable or not easy to wear or not able to fit into your lifestyle? It’s more of the sports chic aesthetic that comes into play when we’re designing our line vs. the functional Sarada interjects Sarada: None of the clothes are really made to exercise in; I mean you could do yoga and some of the less strenuous exercises in some of our pieces.

Talk to me about the transition between your Spring 2007 line and your Fall 2007 because there seems to be this dramatic departure in terms of look when it comes to the line. What exactly happened that caused this?

(silence)…

Sarada: I’m collecting my thoughts for a sec. laughs

Sarada: Well, I think the first thing that hit us when we started designing the fall season is that we were going to look back at Spring and see what we can do from there and we weren’t happy with Spring; primarily because it wasn’t the direction we wanted to take or move forward with. The Fall line is more of a reflection of where we wanted to go in terms of the design aesthetic and how it reflected us personally.

Lucky: I think that’s something we also didn’t think about when we were designing in the past. We never thought about how we felt about the line personally. We created what we thought the market wanted. With the Fall line, we went with what we wanted to do and we decided that if we were going to continue doing this, we would do it based on how we wanted it to be done.

With that said, do you think you’re going to have the same jump when you transition from Fall 2007 to Spring 2008?

Sarada: Spring is definitely going to be an extension of what you see for Fall/Winter.

As a designer, what do you think of the whole internet phenomena, and do you feel it benefits you much?

Sarada: The internet is one of most valuable marketing tools…considering the amount of people that have access to it.

You have used cashmere in your sport collections, what first attracted you to explore and experiment with cashmere?

Sarada: Cashmere is luxe and comfortable, both are elements of the Queue aesthetic.

Are you intrigued by any celebrity’s style choices and who would benefit from wearing Queue?

Sarada: Intrigued? No. However, there are celebrities that have a great sense of style. Anyone would benefit from wearing Queue, the line is chic, versatile, and comfortable.

With a career in law already accomplished, why switch to designing?

Lucky: Although we have law degrees we never pursued a career in law…so, there was never a switch. We started the line while we were in our second year.

What’s the worst pre-designer job you ever had?

Sarada: You know I can’t ever say we’ve had a worse job. Because all we’ve ever done is play tennis and go to school. I can’t say we ever had a worse job, because when we were training we weren’t working anywhere.

Lucky: But if you really want an answer, I can say that there were times in our tennis career where we wanted to quit and just didn’t want to go on any more. There were times where we forcing ourselves to play tennis and we really didn’t want to do it.

What is your most irrational fear?

Sarada: I don’t think we have an irrational fear.

Not afraid of heights or gnomes or anything like that?

Lucky: (laughs) No I’m sure we’re afraid of something I just can’t think of anything.

What do you think of designers that go down market in terms of creating lines affordable for the masses?

Sarada: I think that’s great. I think that unfortunately there are a lot of people that can’t go out and afford high end clothing and these are very talented designers that are creating a high end line for a mass market. I also think it’s great that more people are going to be able to buy things from these great designers.

Do you think moving from Miami to New York is going to change your approach to design?

Lucky: Maybe, I mean we’re always open in terms of design and putting together new items for our line. So moving to a new environment might definitely change what you see from us.

To view more of the Queue Fall line visit online at www.sportqueue.com

And now a word from


Written By , on March 10, 2007

Student. Designer. When associated with fashion design, these two words can be a curse. An instant flash of over-the-top, overeager fashion engulfs the brain. For some, the words represent a pit-less plot, a graveyard of such, where creativity comes to die. Of course the opposite can also be true and Chailie Ho, 25, is proving this. Only recently did she decide to pick up a needle and thread, let alone create entire garments. Born and raised in Hong Kong her vernacular is as soft and delicate as the work she creates. In just a short period she’s had stints for legendary names like Clements Ribeiro and Hussein Chalayan. The designer has also had work shown in various exhibitions across London and in Denmark. In just a few months she’ll graduate from arguably the best fashion design school in the world, London’s Central Saint Martins. With her degree in foresight and a pulsating ambition, she just might be ready to take on the industry. I sat down at Match Bar in Central London to have a chat with Ms. Ho and of course a sip of Earl Grey. (I know, I know’ tea in London. How original?)

So how long have you been designing?

Two and a half years.

Wow two and a half years? Do you mean seriously designing, or was this the first time you picked up a needle and thread?

That was the first time I picked up a needle and thread.

What made you get into design?

Well, I actually began in fashion retailing, and then I just decided to get into design. I’ve always been into drawing.

Did you have any design challenges at first?

Oh I had so much trouble sticking to one idea. It is very hard to commit yourself to just one idea when you want to do so many things. The way people work here it is just so different than my country.

In what way?

In my country, when people design they add a lot of different elements and copy a lot of different stuff, then add it all together.

And here?

And here it’s more focused on one idea and how to keep developing it.

So here you kind of start with nothing.

(laughter) Yes.

There’s such a difference between eastern and western design techniques, do you think that is why?

Yes. The west has so much more of a fashion history than us. That history has had a longer time to develop than ours. In China people do have [a lot of] history in individual design and creative design but in the west they have [hundreds and hundreds] more years. And how people think in the
culture too, it’s just different.

When you came to London to attend CSM was this the first time?

No I came here before when I was 18.

So what made you choose London, instead of New York or anywhere else in the world?

Well I was going to try F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology) but [instead] I just chose Central Saint Martins.

How would you describe your most recent work?

It’s very quiet and soft. I like to play with layering and movement. I enjoy designing something that attracts the hands’it makes you want to touch it.

Are there any designers you’re particularly inspired by?

I like the work of Roland Mouret. He just had this way of using fabric that was just amazing and also Balenciaga.

What do you like about Balenciaga?

I like the original creations and the work from [Nicolas Ghesquiere]. It’s so balanced and structured and the cut’it’s just all a perfect match.

Well, I bet you where very happy when Balenciaga made such a strong comeback a couple seasons ago?

Yes! I was ‘it was amazing?

So how would you describe your personal style?

I dress for work, so, very comfortably. But I love to dress up when I get the chance; like when I go out with my boyfriend or hang out with friends.

Do you design a lot of personal items for yourself?

Actually I don’t. So far most of my work is course work. it only happens when I need something fast. Like if I need a bag to go with something.

When I need it it’s like OH MY GOD’and I sew something
quick.

Ha!It must be good to be a designer?

Oh yes!

So who have you worked for recently?

Hussein Chalayan.

How was that?

When I interned for Hussein Chalayan it was amazing, I went to Paris to assist for the show. I was in the studio. It was great.

Chalayan’s work is so theoretical. Especially all the mechanical aspects, as a designer are you interested in that style?

I think designing a mechanical dress is interesting, but right now I am more interested in the possibility of the fabric. I looooove fabric.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the increase in eco-friendly fashion. Mostly because of global warming and natural disasters. Do you have any thoughts?

I think when we (designers) design we should always be concerned with the production and how the design is made. It’s all about minimizing the waste. This is everyone’s responsibility.

So what’s after graduation?

I was thinking about doing a masters degree but I’m still not sure. I do want to go to New York though eventually. Who knows? Many people think that designing is glamorous but if you’re into it, then you know it’s very hard work. As a designer we of course expect to earn some money, but not a lot.

So anything else you want to add?

Not many people have the opportunity to do something creative in life. I think the work of a designer affects a lot of people. I want to fully experience this industry. Even it takes my entire life, I want to be apart of it.

And now a word from


Written By , on February 6, 2007

It was destiny really. Meant to happen. This magazine held a contest to find a standout emerging designer and several designers stepped up with pieces that ranged from quirky to simply unwearable. One designer in particular designed several pieces that captured our attention. We looked through the photos and just had to meet her.

We flew her up from Jacksonville, Florida, talked, and unanimously decided that she was to be our new muse. Zula Khramov is a designer of many talents but is singularly focused on creating a line for the woman who recalls the grace of yesteryear. She abhors the dress down for every occasion theory that is slowly becomming an axiom in today’s culture. She is dedicated to her family. She is not afraid to try new things and it shows with her fall line. Read on for the full interview with this dynamic designer.

Papierdoll: Was it scary starting out knowing that you had to support a family and that you had all this pressure to succeed at designing?

Zula Khramov: It wasn’t scary, but it was very exciting. When you start a line from scratch with nothing going on it is very, very hard. But when you already have a studio like I had, it was the next natural progression to start designing. It cost a lot of money and time, it was a lot of work. The most exciting part of it is actually building a piece from the start, going through the design process and then actually seeing the finished product. Doing that I get so excited it’s hard not to design again and again.

PD: How does it feel to be a smaller designer in a large designer world?

ZK: Of course I would love to live in Paris or New York or even in LA because it is where fashion actually is and you can feel it. You can go anywhere in those cities and see it immediately. It’s good because designers have to know exactly what’s going on right now in the fashion world. But the other side of that, is that living in a smaller city like Jacksonville allows me to be away and also have less outside influences on my design decisions. I also get all the women’s magazines so I am still in touch with what’s going on in the fashion world. I also travel alot.

PD: So can it be said that you feel good about being outside of the big cities?

ZK: Not really, but I am trying to find a bright side. laughs If I ever have to be in a place like New York, of course I will make my move, but right now I am happy being where I am. I live in a great, interesting city and I have family and I have children. It’s a better environment for them. My business is very important, but family always goes first.

PD: What does your family think about the work that you do?

ZK: Well, my children are 10 and 8 so there’s not much they can think about the work that I do right now. But they are very proud. Whenever they see publications or pictures with my designs on the web they get very excited. For them it’s a bit fantastic. They don’t know much about about it, but what they see they like. But one day when they grow a little more I want them to be a part of it.

PD: Are you a risk taker by nature?

ZK: I think so, I think so. I mean of course I’m not crazy, so I would not risk a lot of money for an idea, but by nature I would risk it if the risk is measured and calculated. I wouldn’t do stupid risky, I would do risky in the sense that there is a good amount of hope that it would turn out ok.

PD: Do you take risks when it comes to designing?

ZK: Yes and that’s a different kind of risk. Again, there are two ways to look at it: one, you don’t want the line to be boring, the other, you don’t want to go too much over the edge because you have to think, who is going to wear it?

PD: How many collections have you done so far?

ZK: Well the one that I am going to show right now is called Jeanius, it’s my 3rd, it’s my 3rd season. I only count the ones I’ve done in my American existence. So far I’ve done 3.

PD: What about before America?

ZK: Before America I had designed 12 years prior and it was really the beginning of what I was doing. Now I am going deeper in terms of the designs I want to create.

PD: Do you have a personal favorite in terms of collection?

ZK: Well, the collections are like my children I love them all, but I am most involved with the current one. The one I am doing right now as in the this point is time is always my favorite one. Whatever I am doing right now is always my favorite, ask me tomorrow and it might be something different.

PD: Is Zulastudio making money yet?

ZK: Yes, of course. I can’t say I am selling statewide, but I have some of my pieces in LA, in DC and in boutiques here in Jacksonville.

PD: In checking your website, it says that you’ve won several awards does winning awards mean anything to you?

ZK: Of course, I would be lying if I said no. It’s always surprising it’s always pleasant, because it’s appreciation. So I am very happy about them. Especially being a foreigner in this country, whenever that happens it’s more than winning in my own country because I am always suprised and I am grateful.

PD: What’s the fashion scene in Jacksonville like?

ZK: Well, honestly laughs, I cannot say anything about the fashion scene in Jacksonville. The city is growing and it’s generally thought of as a place for seniors, but it’s growing and there is always something going on here.

PD: Do you hate it when people compare your line to something else?

ZK Everybody hates it. If you tell a designer “it’s so Prada” or anything else you can tell that they might be irritated. So far though my line hasn’t really been compared to anything else.

PD: What made you decide to move to the United States?

ZK: Well, it’s very romantic, my husband decided he wanted to move to the US and I really didn’t care where we were going. I plainly moved for love.

PD:Being married and having kids does that have any influence at all on the way you design?

ZK: No, It doesn’t influence the way I design, but it does give me a lot of support. One way to look at it is that people who don’t have families or are in their early 20s and design have a lot of time and ability to make moves, they don’t have these things to hold them back. When I have family, when I have children, you know what’s important in your life. So if designing doesn’t work out for me, I still have my family, and if it does,I have my family who will share with pleasure and joy my success.

PD: Do you ever get tired of looking at your own designs all day?

ZK: No, but sometimes I feel like I am not good at all, then a friend will say, it’s not that bad. I feel any real artist in general sometimes go through that stage where they feel as if what they do is not enough. I think great work comes from hesitation, from doubt, and sometimes self disbelief, but it gives you a push to design something interesting.

Does sexuality play a role at all in your designs?

ZK: Well, I design for women. And any woman I think wants to attract men. That’s what we do women attract men, men attract women. And I wouldn’t believe people who say no. So of course I am always keeping in mind that this dress is supposed to attract men.

PD: Do you think being in Jacksonville limits your visibilty to the fashion world?

ZK: No. Not with the internet, not with airplanes,I mean I can be whereever I want to be and it’s not a problem So, no, I don’t think so.

Zula Khramov designs for her own fashion studio. You can view her complete works at Zulastudio.com

And now a word from


Written By , on January 8, 2007

If the turn of the year is a time of year-end round-ups, it’s also a time of looking forward to the What’s Next. And if there is a line that is ripe and ready for a big 2007, it’s Church + State. Their distinctive little dresses, leggings, separates, and cropped jackets for women, jackets and shirts for men have clean, modern lines with cute, idiosyncratic details.



Finalists in women’s ready-to-wear at the 2006 Gen Art Styles International competition, Church + State were one of two lines mentioned in the WWD article on the event as “worthy competitors,” for their, “two sweetly Mod-ish cream-colored frocks” out of a field of dozens.

A skirt plays a big role in the story of Church + State, both as a launching point and a statement of where they are now. It was a skirtthat brought the two together (both as companions and design partners) after they’d been friends for years. And it is a skirt from their fall 06 collection that summarizes where the line is now. The wool skirt is draped on each hip with two side-cowls that make an amazing, relaxed take on volume while the back of the skirt features a little curved piece of horizontal piping from which tiny gathers fall. It’s this kind of typically unusual detail for which Church + State have become known, the kind of detail (like their covered buttons—sometimes clusters of them—and raw-edged bias-cut ruffles) that compels you to look again.

Spring looks like trapeze tunics and little shifts embellished with layers of little ruffles just haphazard enough to have an edge over smart little leggings finished with Church + State signature self-covered buttons. And look for further experiments with unexpected draping.

We met Nathaniel Crissman and Rachel Turk recently in their live/work space in SE Portland. There’s a Marcel Wanders carafe on the coffee table, the smart, tailored black-and-red plaid men’s quasi-military jacket (with two rows of fabric-covered buttons) Nathaniel recently designed for himself over the back of a chair. The long cutting table dominates the next room.

What did the GenArt experience do for you? How did it change things?
R: Well, it opened our eyes to the way things could be for us.

N: It got us to spend some time in New York, walking around, visiting boutiques, getting really positive reactions to our designs that we were wearing.

How did you begin working together?

Rachel: We’d known each other since 6th grade, went to high school together. We’d always been friends.

Nathaniel: She’d been away at school. We got together at Christmas. I made her a skirt she liked. It was based on her favorite skirt, but I kind-of tricked it out. At the time we were listening to a lot of Ben Harper and …

R: …and he embroidered the lyric all the way around the inside of the hem.

N: …and she loved it and said, “Let’s make a million of these!” I was in the apparel program at the Art Institute, and there was an open call for a benefit fashion show. In six months we had a name and a collection. After the show, we took the collection to Seaplane (Portland’s seminal independent boutique). That was four years ago.



PD: But how did you start working together? What made you decide to collaborate besides the fact that you were in love?

N: Well, yes being in love had something to do with it. But it didn’t cross my mind not to. I’ve always appreciated her aesthetic sense. She was always a good dresser. I would always ask her opinion about things. And besides, when we got together, I was still learning. I wasn’t set in where I was going or wanted to go.

We have a very similar aesthetic. It helps us when we’re doing something, we both know when something is good, when we’ve nailed it.

So tell me about your process now. How do you work together?

R: We both work from sketches. Pick key pieces for the collection and design around that. We always have too many ideas. We’ll say, “Well maybe we can use something like this next season.” They keep piling up…we’re out to Spring 08 now.

N: Our design process is still pretty organic. Usually we’ll start with design elements and both go play with them. Or we’ll have separate ideas we want to use and we try to mesh them.

R: If we do have different ideas, we sometimes try to explore them on our own.

N: Especially if the other one of us isn’t sold on the idea. Sometimes the ideas in a sketch…I can’t get the piece how I want it (or can’t explain it the way I want to Rachel) so I have to make it up.

We may have a sketch that we’re working with and we’ll go to find fabric for it. Then we might find another fabric next to it that inspires something else. When we get down to the nitty gritty, we do sketches to show the other person and go from there.

So does one person shepherd his or her idea through the process? Or do both of you work on all of the ideas?

N: We do work together, but up until the very end of the design process, it’s still like, “Are we going to do my idea? Is it going to make it?” But by the time we present the collection we don’t think of it as hers or mine. We pretty much forget who did what.

We can’t imagine working together if we weren’t also “together.” We can be brutally honest with one another.

R: It must be hard not to be on that level where you can be so honest, so that you can do what’s right and not come out hating the project in the end.

Your line was originally called “anther. pistil.” How did you choose the name and why did you change it to Church + State?

N: Well Rachel had been an environmental science major.

R: And it reflected that we were making boys and girls clothes, and the two of us…it was more conceptual.

N: But there was a lot of confusion about the name. Getting people to spell it right…people’s first reaction was, “what?” It was all lower case with two periods. It just never was printed right.

R: And there is another line of hats called Pistil. Oh, and once someone wrote about it as “another pistol”!

N: So as our aesthetic evolved, it made sense to have a name that reflected that. And Church + State…

R: …when we hit on that, we knew it was right.

All of your pieces have great memorable names. Your Spring 06 collection was called “the happys, the sads, and the buttermilks” and had pieces like the pale-blue quilted “south by southeast” and the peach knit “cupcake.” Where do the names come from?

R: Sometimes they’re spontaneous, like Nathaniel looked at this check fabric we were using and said, “check, please.” And sometimes, we pull from a list I keep in my sketchbook where we brainstorm names. For a while we were doing 2-by-2 names like “bread + butter” and “heaven + earth”.

“god + country” “sixes + sevens”

R: I like that facet of having a name for a piece. It reflects its design, adds to it, to its charm.

N: Sometimes we attach a name to a garment because of its aesthetic, sometimes its just a cute name we like. Like we had this idea about a Southern barbecue so there was a “gravy” dress and “grits.”

R: People hold onto the names. I just recently had a woman ask if we had anything new like the “Preacher’s daughter” because she loved it so much.

How do you talk about your work? How do you describe it?

R: Well we’ve kind of boiled it down to charming, pretty, and wearable. Another article just quoted us as saying, “We just want to make pretty clothes.” And that’s true but…

N: But that’s not all.

R: Endearing.

N: Authentic. It’s more of a feeling. We haven’t been able to articulate it really. There are feelings we have about the clothes. And when we do come up with words to describe the clothes, we want the verbal to match the visual. And I think if you see it, you’ll get it, but I don’t know that the words can say what the clothes say.

R: We have certain things we use, like bias, layered ruffles and fabric-covered buttons. The perfect Church + State garment is a combination of aesthetic—that first rush of seeing it on the hangar; fit, it has to fit right; and quality and construction. We see our customer looking inside the garment to see how its finished.

Where is your line right now?
R: Seaplane in Portland and Impulse in Seattle. We’ve realized that the shops that would be good fits for us are few and far between which was kind of surprising.

PD: So where do you go from here?

R: I’m working on our business plan.

N: I think it’s going to come for us incrementally. We’re concerned about not getting ahead of ourselves. When we come out, we want to make sure our work is what we want it to be.

R: We also want to make sure our work is accessible.

N: But we’re ready to make the next move. For a while we were thinking we wanted to build capital to be able to make the next move…to contract out the sewing.

R: We’d still do all the patternmaking, but we could only sew for two or three more accounts. We’ve talked to a factory in NY.

N: Her dream is to find this family that would do our sewing for us, love it like we do.

R: I have a background in production. I did design and production at a mass market lingerie company. The company was so small we did everything, merchandising, everything.

N: For near future, we need a baby step. Need someone to do sewing for us. And we need to get our fabric situation right…price, but also to have the resource set up so that we have a reliable source of fabric to be able to go back and get as much of the sample fabric as we need.

R: Eventually we’d like to have our own store…stores.

N: We see in the next six months our website will come online, we’ll have our look book out for fall that will include some of our spring pieces as well. And we’ll be ready to talk with some of the boutiques that have been interested in our line.

And now a word from


Written By , on December 4, 2006

I often note the parallels between a designer and her work, but I’ve never been as struck by the congruence of a designer and her collections as with Carin Rodebjer. It’s almost uncanny. The descriptions I used in my review of her Spring 2007 collection are (perhaps if given a clean slate) the exact words I would choose in describing Carin herself. Carin is indeed “highbrow, but not stiff— [one of the] women who have come into their own,” speaking with thoughtfulness and vision for her work in a way that lends credence to her artistic process without sanctifying it. She leaves the same impression as her clothes, a strong presence derived “hints of intellectualism—and playful genius.”

How many shows have you done in Sweden?

I’ve done 12 collections and from that I’ve done about 5 catwalk shows. In Sweden, we have the Elle designer of the year awards and we’ve won the award twice. Then, Elle does these catwalk shows during the awards and we’ve done the catwalk shows there as well.

You’ve studied in New York at FIT correct?

Yes, I’m actually a dropout (laughs). I started my label while I was in school. I sold to a few stores downtown (New York) and to a couple of stores in Sweden. Then everything started going so well, and so I dropped out.the last semester.

What are your thoughts on starting internationally as a designer and then coming to New York and working in this space?

I think it’s good to be in your home country when you start your business because you have all these connections and you start on a solid ground. For me that was more so the case because Sweden is a small country, the only thing you can do is work and focus on what it is you’re doing. But on the other hand, since it’s so far away and so small, you have to go to places that are urban and that are bigger.



Who would you say should wear Rodebjer?

I don’t want to be narrow minded with my collection. I want all kinds of people buying my clothes. Women between 25 and 65 are buying my clothes. It’s quite a wide age spectrum, which is fun, I love that. I don’t think it should be about age or social standing or location. It’s all about state of mind.

What would you say is most “Swedish” about your designs?

I think it’s that there is still some function to it. I mean, I like design, but it has to be wearable. I want to use fabrics that are comfortable.

Was there one defining moment in designing when you realized that this is what you definitely wanted to do?

I think it has gone step by step actually; because when I was a child, I always expressed myself in clothing. I think coming to New York actually did a lot for my confidence. That was really a turning point for me because when you come from a small country like I did, it seems as if people are always trying to put you down, but when you come to New York, people are saying you can do anything if you set your mind to it. They’re like why not do it, go for it. I have always been very into to reading biographies and reading about Chanel, the old Balenciaga and Poiret. So there was plenty of influence there. I was also inspired by Norman Norell. While still in school I saw a FIT exhibit on his designs, and I found that I could easily relate to him and his work.

At New York fashion week you had Diane Von Furstenburg, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and then Carin Rodebjer in the same space. How did it feel being mentioned in the same breath with these great designers?

I am so focused with what I am going to do; with my presentation. I wouldn’t try to compare myself with other designers. I just try to do the best that I can. I don’t compare myself with other designers. It doesn’t make a difference for my work.

Are you ever worried that what you sketch out won’t come out as planned?

Yes, sometimes since it is always a struggle with time. But by now I feel quite confident that I know what I am up to. I know what kind of fabrics and garments my factories can handle and that makes it a lot easier.

Without giving away too much, what’s the story you want to tell with your next collection?

Without giving away too much (laughs). I know the silhouette is a lot about rectangles. Rectangles one by one or on top of eachother. I always have a strong vision about what silhouette I want to work with.

What role does emotion play in your design?

I am an emotional person, of course, it is important. For spring, I wanted to have an easy going relaxed way of looking at things. I wanted to encourage people to feel more free and not be afraid of what they want to wear. For fall it it is more about structure again.

What’s in your IPOD?

I’m listening to Bright Eyes, Magic Numbers, a swedish band called The Concretes. Lately I have also been listening to Salomon Burke, Guy Clarke an old American folk singer.

When you walk down the street in Manhattan what do you like to see on women?

Well that’s the good thing about New York, you can leave your house and see so many different things. I can’t really choose what I like. I go uptown and see these old ladies dressing in wonderful pieces, really high quality. You go downtown and you see women wearing street styles and I think it’s inspiring, all of it, and I wouldn’t push people in one particular direction. My collection is a lot about balance too. You can dress it up or take it down. It’s all about your personal preference.



In terms of fashion, compare walking down the street in Stockholm to walking down the street in New York.

What you see in stockholm is that people are very concerned with trends. People are very trendy. It’s less about the individual and more about the style of the moment. You basically see the same type of thing. In New York there’s not just one convention. It’s all very different.

As a European designer, why is it that you never showed your collection at one of the major fashion weeks there before New York?

For me it was easy, I love New York and I feel it is modern in some ways; and in Europe I find that it is all about convention and doing things in one way. In New York it is all about expressing yourself in different ways and finding your own way to express yourself. I wanted to do things my way and not follow in the steps of others. I love Paris and I love going to the Paris weeks there it’s just different in New York so I love showing there.

What do you say to people who say that fashion can’t be intellectual?

I think that fashion can be intellectual. I mean some people call fashion art, but I call fashion, fashion. It is what it is. It’s an expression and when you express something, there is a thought about it and it has deeper values. For me it is definitely intellectual.

Where do you see the line 5 to 10 years from now?

Well, I wish that I could still live in New York by then and that we have our own stores. We´re actually planning on opening a flagship store in Stockholm, where we started. That’s going to be really fun to show a full collection and keep working and be more clear with what I want to do, Then possibly opening other stores. I want to build a solid fashion house, to the best of my memory I don’t think we’ve ever really had a Swedish fashion house so I want to be able to offer perfume, accessories in addition to the traditional fashion items. I want to tell the whole story.

And now a word from


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