Divine Feminine

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Based in L.A.'s gritty-hip enclave of Echo Park, designer Kristin Dickson has been bringing an even sunnier perspective to the SoCal fashion scene. With cleverly thought-out shapes, fresh lines, and a mix of unexpected details, her finely tuned collection called Rowena Sartin has been steadily gaining notice among dressers of purpose.
Like most young designers, Dickson is shaping her own view of modern relaxed femininity, one that is all her own. "I like to look different and customized from everyone else," she says. "And I try to express that in my work."
The self-taught designer studied art history and Spanish at Boston University. After a two-year stint as fashion apprentice, Dickson took some time off before launching her own line in spring 2006, which she named for her maternal grandmother. "I just went to stores last May and dropped off my books," the designer says when referring to getting her line first picked up.
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Memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as loads of personal family photos and slides, quilts, letters, etc. are among the many lines of influence for the designer's trapeze-style dresses, scoop-neck jumpers, ruffled baby-dolls, and drop-waisted shifts. The spring/summer 2007 collection, titled Humboldt Street, is a pretty panoply of cotton-linen, silk, and cotton voile. Her palette, which is decidedly simple and clean, bends toward natural flesh tones, black, white, and gray, which ultimately allows the novel silhouettes to take the center-stage.
Inspired by photographs that Dickson discovered in a family photo box, the collection is based on candid shots of her grandmothers in their housecoats, which happened to have enormous utilitarian pockets. "That was the point of departure," says Dickson. "I also tried to incorporate more geometric style lines and collars. I like a little bit of exaggeration, be it in a collar, a sleeve, or in the volume of a dress."

I try to think of each collection as a composition…this is how I re-make a memory with my designs."
—Kristin Dickson, Rowena Sartin



Humboldt Street is the graffiti-laden locale where the designer's lookbook was shot. "It was a really beautiful, disheveled spot. I wanted to call the collection Humboldt Street to give it a place, and a place that wasn't family related. I try to think of each collection as a composition…this is how I remake a memory with my designs."
The upcoming fall collection is a mix of jacquard and silk dupioni and the silhouettes center around less-obvious sleeve cuts. She says the fall designs are all about higher volume and dramatic draping. "I'm calling it Monday-Friday, based on the idea of a dress as an obvious uniform," says Dickson. "Odette from the movie Band of Outsiders was also an influence. I think the deep innocence of her character captures what I want my designs to speak."
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Of course, at the end of the day, Dickson crafts what she herself wants to wear. "I don't make an expansive collection, but rather a group of dresses that I try to make special," she says. "Maybe you'll only like one out of seven, but I'm okay with that. It's just clothing!"
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Rowena Sartin is available in New York at Albertine, 13 Christopher Street, 212-924-8515 and in Los Angeles at Creatures of Comfort, 7971 Melrose Avenue, 323-655-7855. For more information, go to www.rowenasartin.com
Photographs by Vivian Joyner
The remaking of memories in Rowena Sartin.
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