New York loves the young and lucky, to be sure, and few transplants have made quite as early an impact as designer Katie Gallagher. The up-and-comer, like so many other RISD kids before her, made the move to NYC just last summer, and within a few months of her arrival she stepped straight into the fashion melée by launching her line during New York Fashion Week. Not that she was a stranger to attention—she and her designer boyfriend (and fellow RISD grad) Nikolay Saveliev were featured in Interview before she'd even graduated. Press attention and burgeoning It-girl status aside, Gallagher has serious chops. She just showed her second full collection of futuristic, femme-bot clothes, and maintains the strong, unified aesthetic she's been cultivating since she was 14 (the Pennsylvania native always dresses in a variation on the layered, body-con theme, and keeps her hair a cool gray-blonde). Gallagher invited us into the Chinatown one-bedroom apartment-cum-studio she shares with Nikolay and her cat, Sveater, and let us in on some secrets to her singular style. Hint: Her go-to undershirts are actually pantyhose!
Above, left: Katie in her home-studio wearing the Rigor half jacket, Lobe leggings, and Idol shirt, all from her fall 2010 collection. Above, right: A dress made from handmade springs that Katie made for her first project at RISD. Enlarge Image
Above: Katie and her boyfriend Nikolay at a fish market near their apartment in Chinatown. Katie wears the Pastiche leggings from her spring 2010 collection and the Banded jacket from her fall 2010 collection with Topshop shoes. Enlarge Image
What are five key wardrobe pieces you find yourself wearing constantly?
1. "Black La Perla bra (undergarments don't seem to be especially important to what's worn on top, but for me they are perfect layering pieces.)"
2. "Black tights with the crotch cut out and the toes cut off."
3. Oversized black shirts, usually my own designs."
4. Tripp jeans, they are cheap and also a really great fit...very tight and they never fall apart."
5. My black Bat dress. This dress is from my spring/summer '10 collection, and it's great for layering.
What's the story behind the armored dress in your apartment?
"Metal was the result of my first project in the apparel design department at RISD. We were to create a wearable piece made from unconventional materials. I decided to make my piece out of metal springs. Originally, I had contacted a guy in PA (my home state) about manufacturing thousands of springs for me for very cheap. A few weeks into the project, everyone was slaving away, and so was I. I got an email from the guy—his factory had blown up, so he couldn't make me my springs. I had a meltdown, but wouldn't give up this idea of the springs. After hunting eBay for hours, I got to work on making the springs myself with an electric drill and some plexiglass dowel rods. The dress was pulled for both Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness."
Above: On the street near her apartment. Enlarge Image
Tell us about your inspiration behind the fall line...
"I did a landscape painting to help me understand the color palette that I was imagining. After I have lots of sketches and the beginning muslins for the individual pieces, I love going fabric shopping, and I come up with the textiles that I want to use. Basically, I like to draw everything out then try to re-create what I've drawn three dimensionally. This requires pretty obscure pattern-making and lots of problem solving."
What inspired those crazy claw nails the models had at your show?
"I found an image that I had saved a long time ago of a girl's hand with gnarled nails. I really wanted to re-create the image in some way on my models for the show. My friend Mayaan of The Lake and Stars and I figured out exactly what to do: light acrylic nail tips on fire and then paint them gray!"
Above, left: In her bedroom wearing a ThreeAsFour dress. Above, right: In a park near her house wearing her running outfit—the Hallow hood jacket from her fall 2010 collection, spandex leggings, Asics running shoes, and bear mittens (when it's cold). Enlarge Image
Do you design for yourself?
"I try to create what I would love to be wearing myself. In most cases, this is extreme versions of what you'd actually see me wearing; but it all works pretty hand in hand."
How do you get your hair that color?
"I'm naturally very blonde; so when I dye the entire thing cool blonde and use the right toner, I get a blue/gray hue. It's basically what happens to the grandmas you see that have light pink, purple, or blue hair. They had a little chemical accident with their color and the toner mixture...or they're just really cool."
Above: Sveater the cat licking his chops in Katie's studio. Enlarge Image
Tell us a little about your apartment.
"Our apartment is a tiny one-bedroom, but it has huge windows with lots of light. I live here with my boyfriend Nikolay and our cat Sveater. Having my apartment as my workspace is difficult, being that I cut everything on the floor, and we eat where the laptops are and own two chairs—but I manage fine!"
Above: Katie in her bedroom wearing a ThreeAsFour dress. The shackles on the bed behind her are a prop from a photo shoot she and Nikolay did. Enlarge Image
Who do you find inspiring from a style perspective?
"I don't really have anyone I watch—I'm terrible. I've been wearing versions of the same thing since I was 14; it's just gotten purified."
What's your style theme song?
"My last show had a lot of Current 93 and Coil on the soundtrack. The next one is going to be a bit more Eurodance-y. Hi NRG remixes. Nikolay is good at picking these."
Above: The windowsill in her studio. The funeral sign was a fortuitous street find. Enlarge Image
What reading material can't you live without?
"I just went through Yukio Mishima's Sun & Steel again for design inspiration."
Above: On her rooftop wearing a vintage cape and the Bat dress from her spring 2010 collection. Enlarge Image
Above, left: Nikolay and Sveater in the studio. Above, right: A glow-in-the dark sculpture, "The Ghost of Ferile Cat," that Nikolay made Katie for Christmas. Enlarge Image
Above: On her rooftop wearing a vintage cape, the Bat dress from her spring 2010 collection, and Dior Haute Couture "white crocodile" shoes. Enlarge Image
Photos by Kava Gorna/Jed Root