Grass Roots

The Falls spring/summer '07 collection
High Falls, New York is like any other upstate town: scenic, quiet, maybe a little nondescript. Yet, when the film crew of Splendor in the Grass rolled into town in 1961 the falls became the backdrop for the torrid affair between Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. It's therefore only fitting that Falls, the latest product to come out of the area, is injecting a healthy dose of sexy into the normally staid category of sweaters.
The men behind this feminine new collection, Leong Ong and Phillip Leeming, both studied fashion, both did time in corporate design, and both finish each other's sentences. "I came to New York right after graduating from St. Martins—the same year as McQueen, and worked at Ralph Lauren," recalls Leong. "But at the end of the day, I just wanted to do something more personal." Phillip was in the same boat, but at Kenneth Cole, and describes his tipping point slightly differently. "I just had enough of black jersey!"
The Falls fall/winter '07 collection
So, like most designers, they started with a side project called Ong, a complete women's collection that even spawned its own retail outlet near High Falls, where they own a home. "The problem with Ong was that it was too big," admits Leong. "But we discovered that the sweaters were really successful," Phillip adds. "So we decided to give them their own identity."
"The Ong girl is more delicate and refined," says Leong. "And the Falls girls is a little edgier and not afraid to be sexy," says Phillip. Next, they headed to their stitch library and began to put together a line of oversized cardis, skinny camis, and mini dresses—all made of superfine cashmeres and cottons. "We wanted to see how much more we could do with the sweater," explains Leong. "But we wanted everything to have really fine finishes and contrasting proportions." The result is a debut spring collection of '20s boudoir-inspired pieces whose lingerie edge easily makes the transition beyond the bedroom. A pleat stitch dress strikes a curvaceous silhouette, while their lace-stitch camisole looks as good with jeans as it does with the teeny hot pants they produced to go with it. "For summer, we're even doing a cashmere bikini," says Phillip. But the design team knows that knit swimwear may not work for everyone, so they have the batwing cardigan, tight at the wrist but voluminous in the arm, worn against the skin or with one of their wide knit ribbed tanks, to work as the perfect layering piece.
The Falls fall/winter '07 collection
Looking forward, layering will remain a key in the collections for summer and fall. "We are adding in some jersey pieces, new shapes, and some accessories, but we didn't want to reinvent the wheel," says Leong. "Besides," adds Phillip, "We want our pieces to be wearable ten months out of the year—it's not always about keeping warm, it's about expressing a feeling of warmth" And with a pair of knit hot pants under one of their romp-worthy dresses, heating things up this spring shouldn't be a problem.
Falls knitwear is available in New York at TG-170, 170 Ludlow Street, (212) 995-8660 and Steven Alan, 103 Franklin Street, (212) 343-0692.
The sinewy, cinematic sexiness of Falls knitwear.

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