by Erin Wylie
In a time when every other socialite, reality star, and celeb fancies him/herself a "designer," Caitlin Mociun's lack of fashion fervor would seem to seal her fate in the ranks of unknowns. "I almost stopped after spring—fashion was not my passion," she admits, referring to Mociun (pronounced "motion"), the print-based clothing line she created in the summer of 2005. Despite her distaste for conventional fashion channels, fashion people are paying attention.
Leaving Nevada City, California, at the age of 12, Caitlin Mociun followed her family all over the world, attending schools in Kuala Lumpur and Prague, and finally landing stateside again to study textile design at the Rhode Island School of Design. But not for long: "After my junior year I decided 'I'm never doing apparel again: I hate this!' I wasn't getting any good feedback from my teachers; one teacher in particular called my stuff 'pretentious'."
Mociun's more esoteric undergrad creations not withstanding, her current line is decidedly without airs. Eschewing traditional patterns, Mociun designs in a seemingly self-taught way. "I often buy something at a thrift shop and use it as inspiration." Her second most popular dress, a versatile linen baby-doll tunic/dress, was based on "an ugly old Laura Ashley dress."
As buyers from Brooklyn to Japan will attest, Mociun's clothing is merely a canvas for her wonderfully bizarre prints imbued with a sense of naîveté. Intrigued by the outcast and misfit, the spring collection, inspired by Mociun's childhood dreams, is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak with fluorescent "monsters"—hairy long-legged creatures—darting across shirts. For fall, she turned to art brut illustrator, Henry Darger. "He wrote this 15,000 page novel, with illustrations, and no one found it until after he died," Mociun says. "He created an insane world with children versus adults—and it's actually pretty violent." Bright child-like colors and minute details from Darger's art are fodder for Mociun's prints: A child's Christ-like halo resembles a set of teeth when printed ad infinitum on a shirt and an abstracted pattern from a map of Darger's imaginary world appears to be oversized Pop Art eyelashes.
While Mociun remains a one-woman operation, sewing and printing everything by hand in her Brooklyn studio ("I've been printing on the kitchen table until a month and a half ago," she says), she isn't destined to be an outsider for long. "Steven Alan just picked up my fall line and said, 'We have to look into factories.' But I'd like to stay in the market that I'm in—boutiques," she says. "I don't feel like I have to be that big." And though she may not strive for celebrity herself, it still amuses her. "Mischa Barton bought like four of my muumuu dresses," she says. Of her accidental profession she confesses, "I'm starting to like it more."
Fall collection photographs by Kara Healey
How newcomer Caitlin Mociun takes an Outsider approach to fashion.