Richard Chai Loosens Up For Fashion's Night Out

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Richard Chai has been getting busy. The designer (pictured here with NBA player Russell Westbrook) who once helped launch Marc by Marc Jacobs sprung his own eponymous line in 2005, and it's been straight applause ever since. His 2008 collaboration with Target introduced his effortless, architectural designs to the mass market, and his 2010 CFDA Emerging Talent Award proved he was there to stay. The rising star got physical with his recent sporty-chic spring 2013 collection, which debuted on the first day of NYFW, with The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” playing on the runway as contemporarily-clad models drifted by. But we're thinking, with that schedule, it may be Chai who deserves the sympathy.

The designer finally got a break at a celebratory after-party, sponsored by his yearlong partnership with Effen Vodka. Guests of the party drank vodka and toasted both Chai’s recent spring collection and one-of-a-kind Effen-inspired gown, slated to make its red carpet debut in the near future. We picked his brain about architecture, makeup, and his love affair with grey (and trust us, he was into it way before everyone else).

First off, congratulations on showing your collection today! What type of woman do you envision wearing these pieces?
“I definitely would want a woman who is confident, sexy, sporty. Someone who can really show them off and have the confidence to do so.”

What about the sportier pieces? What type of woman were those designed for?
“The sporty pieces are meant for a girl who is strong, working out, maybe trying to shed some of that winter weight, and wear some great crop tops and dresses for spring.”

Your spring 2012 collection featured daring blue lips and heavy orange eye shadow. Why did you go for a more natural beauty look for this collection?
“The makeup for this show was definitely more subtle. However, the eye makeup was very graphic and interesting. It was a pretty natural look but with some great, grey eye makeup.”

Well, speaking of grey, your latest fall collection seemed to emphasize a sort of greyscale — something that appeared again in this spring collection. Is this your “grey period”?
“I think it’s always been a grey period for me, and it probably always will be!”

Tell us a little bit about this gown you’ve designed with Effen Vodka. What was your inspiration for the dress?
“I was definitely inspired by the simple, strong shape of the bottle, which then influenced the silhouette of the gown.”

Both your fall and spring collections have used Dr. Martens. How have the shoes complimented your collections?
“I’ve worn them and liked them for a while so it was just a natural choice, and I think they looked great with the collections.”

You’ve shown interest in the relationship between fashion and architecture. (For example, your “Building Fashion” project and subsequent pop-up store under the High Line.) How has architecture influenced you and your designs?
“Well, I actually used to study architecture. I wanted to be an architect, not a fashion designer. However, they’re both similar in their use of line and shape, and that’s what I’m interested in.”

Photo: Courtesy of DBC PR + New Media