Describe your personal style in three words:
"Spontaneous, affordable, mash-up."
What's your secret weapon, the thing you turn to in a pinch to bring a look together?
"In winter it's black tights. In summer, Madewell jean shorts. Year-round, it's a cluster of mismatched vintage brooches and stick-pins."
What are the five key pieces you find yourself wearing constantly?
1. "A tiny, worn-out drawstring suede pouch around my neck with bits of my mom's jewelry tucked inside."
2. "Dark Madewell Legging Jeans...I wear them 50% of my waking hours."
3. "A threadbare Mickey Mouse T-shirt and a sweatshirt with a screen-printed ribcage on it. Some guy passed me on the street last time I was wearing it and exclaimed 'nice ribs!'"
4. "3.1 Phillip Lim underpinnings."
5. "Shoes by LD Tuttle and Rachel Comey."
Tell us about working with Alexa Chung on her forthcoming Alexa Chung for Madewell line. How did you two collaborate and how did you decide to bring her on board?
"All of us at Madewell are huge fans of Alexa's. Her personal style is just so intuitive and individual and inspiring—she really does her own thing. I feel her brain is always exploding with ideas: When she was on vacation she faxed us some sketches of T-shirt illustrations, and those exact ones ended up going into production, literally straight from the fax."
Any exciting new Madewell products or news in the works?
"The biggest news is that you'll be able to shop Madewell online early next month at www.madewell.com. I can't wait! Absolutely everything in the line will be there, and if you want to find out exactly when it's all happening, sign up for emails now at the site. The Alexa Chung for Madewell collection will be there, too, when it launches this fall. I'm going to live in it all. Also, we're launching a partnership with Shareen Vintage, an amazing (and wallet-friendly) vintage dealer out of L.A., in mid-June. The L.A. Madewell will stock the collection, which was handpicked with Shareen and our design team, as will the NYC Madewell. Most of my vintage comes from her, so I'm super excited."
What's your best cheap score of late?
"A rhinestone skeleton-shaped pin with articulated limbs. When I walk it shakes like it's dancing. I got it for $10 at an antique store in Texas. Also: My friend's bathroom door. The graffiti artist Neckface scrawled all over it—he actually tagged her entire bathroom, from the shower tiles to the ceiling to the toilet seat—and when my friend moved out of her apartment last week I begged her for the door, which she gave to me. It's illustrated with a menacing man-creature sticking his tongue out plus a giant Yeti-like hairy arm that extends the entire length of the door."
Who would you say is your style soul-mate?
"I'm almost always inspired by musicians, both male and female. I think it's because their sense of style tends to be more influenced by their own vibe versus what's on the runway. Natasha Khan is the champ. She's fearless and just goes for it—feathers, lace, crazy fake monkey fur—then pulls it all together with a perfect smoky eye. I love Binki Shapiro from Little Joy's Jean Seberg-meets-Southern Cali aesthetic, and Alice Glass from Crystal Castles has the coolest pixie goth tombstone-hugger look. And Stevie Nicks, always forever. Particularly when she was with Lindsey Buckingham. They're my style couple crush."
Do you have a secret store that you're willing to reveal, or a favorite neighborhood shopping spot?
The Red White and Blue national thrift store chain is bonkers. They have tons of late '90s and early '00s stuff, which isn't my bag, but if you dig around you'll find some equally great '70s and '80s things. I get all my gifts at NYC's Kiosk. Erie Basin in Brooklyn's Red Hook has exquisite, offbeat estate jewelry. I like Malcolm Shabazz Market in Harlem for African clothing, fabric, and bags, particularly woven plastic bracelets and vegetable-dyed straw totes. And there's a guy in Houston who sells perfectly worn-in vintage cowboy boots for $30 bucks a pop out of a run-down gas station. He has like 10,000 pairs. There's a countdown clock to Burning Man on the wall that he made himself—it digitally tracks the days, hours, and minutes until the event. Oh, and a spot called Tienda Ho in Santa Barbara. From the outside, it's just a generic main street storefront; once you step inside it's like entering an in!
sane souk-like cave filled with millions of batik caftans."
Your style is really daring—is there anything you would never be caught wearing?
"I'll pretty much try anything once. I think I'm just hesitant to thumbs-down something because I've worn a million suspect things over the years—including a multicolor polyester wresting unitard, a cow-print hoopskirt, and a canary-yellow fake fur dress covered with decorative plastic birds. I guess it's just about believing in whatever you're wearing and really owning it, even if it's questionable."
Any reading material you can't live without lately?
"Every summer I re-read Here is New York by E.B. White to remind myself about where I live. It's short, so you can blow through it in an hour. I usually pick a humid summer night to tie into the setting of the book (it takes place on a hot August evening). I'm also in the middle of a few books at one time, including Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, and I want to read all of Adrian Tomine's comic series Optic Nerve. And I recommend DaVinci Code as a book on tape! (seriously). It got me through a long road trip."
Do you have anything in your closet that you could never bear to throw away?
"A Stephen Sprouse neon sequined strapless dress I found at a tag sale."
You are an avid vintage shopper. What are some tricks of the trade you could give to our readers?
"If it has that funky vintage smell, and it's so overpowering you won't wear the garment, skip it—nothing will ever take it out. Vintage stuff is rarely in pristine condition. Look at the flaws as a chance to breathe new life into the piece. I bought a bias-cut floor-length lace gown recently that was disintegrating along the bottom half. I cut it off and turned into a tank top that I wear constantly.
What song best embodies your style?
"'Time Enough for Rocking When We're Old' by The Magnetic Fields."