Pamela Thompson: The Designer's DesignerJune 2, 2008
She has a cat named Moby (after the musician), hangs out with Betsey Johnson on Christmas and is a cookie-baking fool during the holidays. Meet veteran designer, Pamela Thompson. After years of designing for everyone else, Thompson is turning a new leaf and branching out on her own this summer. Though this is the first collection for her self-titled label, she’s no amateur. While some designers debut with gimmicks and ride on the backs of previous labels they’ve worked for, Thompson doesn’t. Her “previous employers” are noted as afterthoughts to the bigger picture. That bigger picture being: Hey! I have a new label and it’s pretty damn cool.
As a contemporary designer she approaches her craft with a no-holds-barred aesthetic. To put it plainly, she designs confidently. Her inspirations are clear. Her choices of color are brash, yet they somehow manage to work. Whether this can be attributed to her Club Kid history or just current state of mind is anyone’s guess.
“I loved the club scene in the mid 1990’s. I think it will always be something I carry with me. I loved those days because people were not afraid to express themselves… It was such a celebration of creativity,” she says with enthusiasm.
Though, this isn’t to say she takes her work so serious that the fun is stripped entirely. No. No. Quite the contrary. In her debut collection the dress is king (actually it’s sole court as the collection is only dresses.) The timing for this is impeccable, as the dress has returned this season with a vicious vengeance against our forsaken jeans. Her knack for these garments can be traced back to her previous life as a head designer for Betsey Johnson. But it seems Thompson’s intuition is also on par, as the inspiration for her this collection is heavily inspired by marionettes. Those beautifully eerie puppets from era’s past, which inspired many recent collections throughout Europe and Japan (they also have that doe-eyed, lifeless Olsen twins expression.)
“I was given a chalk doll from 1919 (I named Lillie) by my friend Jeffrey and I was so inspired by her. I love vintage dolls and knew that my first line should revolve around her. The collection is called Dolly Kingdom and was also inspired by some 1970’s Sarah Moon photographs as well as by silent movie star Mary Pickford.”
This collection is a vignette of three unique dresses: the Debonair, Menagerie and Wonderland. The Debonair Dress is hand-printed on black chiffon charmeuse. It’s full sweep hemline and large scallop is a creation made for twirling. The Menagerie Dress is a lavender silk chiffon, with a skirt of nearly thirty free-floating panels and a bow tie belt. Lastly the Wonderland Dress is a puff sleeve cotton/silk.
“I fell in love with designing dresses after working for Betsey. I love that dresses are a complete outfit in themselves and make a statement about the woman wearing them,” says Thompson.
But to really appreciate Thompson’s deft hands and wild imagination, review her background. She was responsible for creating best-selling pieces for Betsey Johnson, many of which are still being sold after her departure a short while ago. She was also head designer for label Heatherette and continues a collaborative relationship doing web design and t-shirts for Anna Sui. (for over a decade mind you.) Needless to say, Thompson’s debut as a designer has been a long time coming. And while her past successes might seem to give her an advantage over the countless other wannabe Sui’s, that’s certainly not the case.
Delusions of grandeur are long gone as the reality of waking early and working into the wee hours have become commonplace.
“The money aspect and having enough time in the day are the two hardest parts. It is so important to plan ahead. My husband and I are financing the line ourselves, so our capital is limited,” she says. “That is why we have planned so carefully to make certain we have the money to not only produce the collection but to make sure it fits and is sewn perfectly. We are starting small to manage it properly and building it as our customer base grows.”
Whatever the future holds for Thompson one thing is certain, her knack for transforming the styles of yesteryear (or yesterdecade…) into deliciously modern gems is intrinsic. From tapping international influences, to knowing exactly what types of garments will be in high-demand, it’s clear her ear is to the pavement. When asked about the possible directions the next collection might venture, she said:
“I will always have a modern/vintage approach to my [work.] For my next collection for spring 2009 I have been very influenced by the mystery of twins; of which evoke symmetry, mirror images and kaleidoscopes.”
Wherever she takes us, we’ll look forward to the ride.
photographer: Michael David Adams (www.michaeldavidadams.com) Makeup: Viktorija Bowers (www.viktorijabowers.com) Hair: Oliver Chomienne, Model : Kara Searle – Elite)