The low-key line has long been among our list of go-to brands for wearable duds with a trend-forward vibe and serious street cred — and the fall '13 presentation is yet another chapter in designer Ellen von Dusen's experiments in quirky-chic. This year, she offered up pared-down graphics vaguely reminiscent of something your mom wore to the beach in the '80s, minus the perm and shoulder pads (take that as a compliment). The presentation on a quiet street in Williamsburg was as much a party as it was a chance to view the new collection, but we managed to find a quiet corner to chat with the designer on the night of her first-ever show.
It's your first show...what's the process been like?
"It's been really crazy. It was a learning experience; we figured everything out last minute...I feel good now, but it's a lot of work! It felt really crazy until about 20 minutes before we opened the door. We have a great team, and I trust everyone. We all have an amazing work ethic."
What inspired the graphics and geometric prints?
"I started by looking at sculptures and Matisse cutouts. I even tried to do my own Matisse-style prints, which was a great starting point. I also looked at a lot of '90s sportswear brands like Esprit and Benetton — Benetton in particular, I just love everything they did, especially the bold colors in their ad campaign."
Can you tell us a bit about the models? They seem like they're having fun.
"Some of them are friends, some are friends of friends, some are professionals. I definitely design for real people. I do a lot of the fitting on myself, and I'm definitely no model, I'm only 5'4" and my hips are wide! I wanted to have real girls because that's who I like to see wearing my clothes."
If you had unlimited budget, what would your ideal show be like?
"Good question! I'd probably have Weezer play, they're my all-time favorite band. Maybe an ice sculpture. I really like all the models I'm working with; I might keep them the same. Maybe I'd do it outside and have it heated, and then have an after-party at a pool. My line is casual and fun, and I'd want to keep that vibe no matter what."
What do you think about digital live streams and lookbooks as a smaller brand?
"I always put out a lookbook, and I've done a couple different videos. But it's nice to celebrate the collection and hang out, show everyone what I've been working on...it's cool to do it in person. And there's nothing like seeing the clothes on a model."