by Andi Teran
Conceived in a dorm and debuted at Barneys New York, Trovata's easy-to-wear collections use a vocabulary of cashmere and tweed, seersucker and corduroy to viscerally tell tales of wayward beach bums and young old-money alike.
As Fox's permatanned OC cast fades into last season, Trovata continues to amuse and inspire with witty characters and imaginative family sagas costumed in a Cali twist on classic American prep.
Refinery29 caught up with Trovata's four fathers—John Whitledge, Jeff Halmos, Sam Shipley, and Josia Lamberto-Egan—and found that this year's winners of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, anchored in their boathouse studio, are definitely here to stay.
How did you four get together and start designing?
Jeff: It just sorta happened. John and I went to high school together in Florida. We went away to separate colleges where he met Josia and I met Sam. We shipped our first season from John's dorm room. At that point, it was a tiny test collection, basically a school project. After it sold through, we figured "let's give it a shot." And three some-odd years later, that's where we are...still giving it a shot.
Your workspace is in Newport Beach. How does location influence your collections?
Sam: The office is nestled in the warm bosom of the OC. Somehow the four of us lucked out and rented an abandoned boathouse three blocks from the beach. I wouldn't say our "environment" inspires us as much as the relaxed lifestyle California is famous for.
How do you build the story and characters of each new collection?
Josia: First, we drink the mescaline. Then we read T.S. Eliot aloud to each other until one of us can't take it anymore and freaks out. We stick a pen between his teeth and lay him on a sheet of white lambskin. Whatever he writes down, we use. In truth, we all sit around the table and throw out ideas. Some parts autobiographical, other parts imaginative. Then it just kinda comes together.
Your Spring 06 collection is entitled "Von Campbell's Last Crusade." Who is Von Campbell and what does he wear?
John: Walter Von Campbell—the "Von" added for exoticism—a wannabe world traveler, wears battered oxford shirts, seersucker trousers, and lightweight cardigan sweaters. His dress is a motley combination of colors and fabrics, half explorer, half mismatched 8-year old.
Congratulations on your recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. Has this achievement had an influence on your new designs?
Sam: Our upcoming collection has been 'in design' for quite some time now and winning this award has been an amazing honor; however, we're gonna stick to our guns and continue on with progressing the collection, improving the product as well as adding to existing categories. The CFDA/Fashion Fund Award has been the single most important achievement for our company and we hope to do all of them proud.
The Royal Tennenbaums meet the OC? California boys Trovata reinvent the concept of West Coast prep.