IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang
"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"
NAME: Erin Fetherston
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
Erin Fetherston, originally from California, attended UC Berkeley and later studied fashion design at Parsons Paris. After presenting her collection in 2005, Fetherston made an impression on the fashion world with her romantic and feminine designs. She went on to establish her brand as a favorite among the fashionably inclined and continues to show her ready-to-wear collection during New York Fashion Week.
TWELV went to Fetherston's Tribecca studio and showroom to see her collection in person and chat with her about designing.
Susan Schell: What gets you excited about fashion?
Erin Fetherston: I think the thing that gets me most excited about what I do, meaning fashion, is really women. I think it is a really special thing to make clothing for them. Ever since I was a child I knew that there was a certain magic in clothing and that when you put on the right dress, you can have a heightened experience of who you want to be. I feel like being a designer is a real privilege in that I get to help people have that kind of experience. That is what motivates me to do what I do.
SS: What is your favorite part of the design process?
EF: I love the initial creative direction – the concept portion of it. I always kind of think of myself as a storyteller when I'm designing a collection. I love every season thinking about “what is the story, what is the back drop?” In my own mind I always have a narrative, I don't know if that ever come across at the end of the day but that is what keeps me creatively engaged season after season. So I love doing the creative research, sourcing images, and just the whole inspiration process.
SS: What was it like studying fashion in Paris?
EF: I moved to Paris to go to Parsons after I graduated from UC Berkeley. Going there was so amazing because I felt like I finally, even after going to college for four years, for the first time I had found a community of peers who shared my interests and that was so refreshing. Being in a city like Paris was really special, it is truly a city for the arts. They have such an incredible heritage of fashion and haute couture and it is really present there, which is something I wish was more a part of daily life here. However I feel like fashion is so much more a part of their culture. Even the woman at the local boulangerie in the neighborhood I used to live in told me, "Oh yeah, my mom used to sew in the atelier for Christian Dior." People have much more of a first person connection to fashion. I'm really grateful that I got to have my beginning in Paris because I think there was a lot of nurturing around the idea of having a creative identity and point of view. They would push you to define your creative universe and your point of view, that was really emphasized.
SS: How would you describe your personal style?
EF: My style is feminine. I am definitely inspired by many references from the 60's and even sometimes 50's. I like to have some vintage references that can translate in a way that feels clean and modern. I don't think it is that interesting to replicate the past but I do think those references are always with me. My day to day look is feminine, polished, and clean. There is always somehow something a little bit playful, even if it is as simple as a little curl in my ponytail or little bit of extra eyeliner – I do like to have a sense of playfulness in the way that I put my own personal look together.
Even though I love dresses and my collection is very much oriented towards party dresses, of course I have days where I wear jeans and a little crew-neck sweater. But I would usually do something like tie a ribbon in my hair, I always feel like I need that extra feminine touch.
SS: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
EF: My aesthetic is also super feminine. I definitely have a romantic sensibility. People often describe my work as being ethereal and there is an ethereal side to it but there is also a clean, chic, and modern side as well. I'm always dancing between those two ends of the spectrum. It also depends on the occasion, when it comes to doing a gown, I love an ethereal gown that you can just imagine flowing in the wind but when I'm designing a cute party or cocktail dress, sometimes I like things that are a little more graphic and sharp. But it is definitely femininity with a playful touch.
SS: Do you have a favorite season to design for?
EF: I think I do enjoy Spring/Summer. It is kind of my favorite time of the year. I grew up in California so I enjoy warmer weather. I think everyone always feels a little more free-spirited in the spring and summer. Fall/Winter is a great season for fashion because clothing is so much a part of it with all the layers. That can be really fun but I always love when it becomes warm enough that you don't have to wear coats and can shed your layers- that is when it really does become all about the statement dress. When we are working on S/S it usually is spring/summer and I think that I just tend to be a little bit happier in the warmer weather and that somehow does translate into the collection.
SS: What are your summer must haves? What do you like to wear in the summer?
EF: Definitely the little white dress in many variations. I think that would be my number one summer essential. My summer off-duty look is very simple and classic. I like clean crew neck summer sweaters and I love a nautical stripy tee with jeans or little shorts. My personal wardrobe is actually pretty minimal. I think I appreciate a uniform approach when it comes to off-duty dressing but then when it comes to going to parties during the summer, that is when I have the most fun getting dressed. I love when I have a beautiful occasion or something to go to; I love wearing full-length gowns. I feel like summer is such a fun time for dresses because you can really show off your dress because there are no coats, or tights, or boots. I feel like in the summer the dress really gets to shine.
SS: What was one of your proudest moments as a designer?
EF: There are many ways I could answer that question because you certainly achieve milestones along the road. As a designer or someone trying to build a brand there are definitely milestones that make you feel like "oh ok, this is working" or "I have arrived," even moments where you feel acknowledged, or this certain store is carrying my clothes, or I was in this magazine. It is always a building process. I can remember very early on feeling amazed to just being recognized in the industry but I feel like in the long term sometimes it is the simplest things that feel the most rewarding.
We received an email to our e-commerce store from a woman who bought a dress and she wrote to me to say that she had been married for thirty years and had recently worn one of my gowns to a black-tie event and said that after her wedding dress it was the single best dress, her most favorite dress of her whole life. She felt like a princess wearing it, and that she wanted to thank me. She sent a photo of her and her husband and she looked so happy and so beautiful. It is not easy, always forging ahead but that made me feel very proud because it makes you feel like everything you are doing is actually impacting people's lives.
SS: I know you just recently collaborated with Cosabella. What was it like working with Cosabella and designing intimates/lingerie?
EF: I love my collaboration with Cosabella! It is an on-going collaboration and I think that because my creative universe is so feminine, dreamy, and romantic that all of my points of reference are easy to translate into the world of intimates and lingerie. That was a category that I had been interested in exploring for a very long time. I was very excited at the prospect of working with Cosabella, so creatively and conceptually it was a very natural category to take on.
From a true design stand point it has been an interesting exercise because you have such a small area to work with to express your ideas. When you really think about how small lingerie is, it becomes much more detail oriented and you have to be very focused. It has been a really fun thing to experiment with and I love the collaboration. I'm so happy that it will be ongoing. We launched this spring with a bridal trousseau capsule and some other fashion pieces. We will be introducing some pajamas and loungewear for next season and I'm really excited about that!
SS: What new projects are you working on?
EF: With our fall collection we did a great short film to go along with it and it was called "Charmed I'm Sure." As I said, when I design I consider myself a storyteller, so film has always been an important part of my work as a designer since the very beginning. It helps me tell the story and contextualize the clothes because I feel like people can better understand what I had in mind when I was making it.
It was a very cute short film, and we are now developing a digital series as an offshoot which will be minute long charm school lessons introduced next month. It has been very fun to develop, and I think it gives a lot of insight into my creative universe. It is playful, feminine, quirky, funny, and informative. It is an exciting project and I am developing them with a very good friend, Rebecca Fourteau, her mother is someone who is very important in my career. I’m very close to the photographer Ellen Von Unwerth. Ellen and I have done many projects and films and now her daughter and I are working on this so it is fun.
That is one thing that is exciting and I'm just looking forward to New York Fashion Week. The collection you saw today was our holiday/resort, but we are right in the midst of creating our spring summer collection.
↓CLICK BELOW FOR SHORT FILM↓
WRITTEN BY: SUSAN SCHELL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CHAMA