They may not be superstars yet, but actresses Samaire
Armstrong and Ever Carradine boast the fashionable flair many of their Hollywood peers lack. They’re fresh. They’re stylish. And — you guessed it — they’re ready for their close-ups.
This story first appeared in the June 17, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
LOS ANGELES — Samaire Armstrong doesn’t have a blockbuster movie coming out, but her chic L.A. style is getting plenty of notice. And unlike most starlets, who live for a designer’s sample closet, Armstrong actually designs — and sews! — the looks she wears to fashionable parties around town.
Naru, the 22-year-old actress’ line of colorful tops and skirts, sells only in the tiny local boutique Naked. But that’s not because Armstrong’s clothes aren’t in demand. She makes it all — her own clothes, pieces for friends and for the store — with the four sewing machines crammed into the Studio City apartment she shares with her boyfriend, producer Jonathan Pavesi, and their three dogs, one of which, a Pekingese called Arthur, was rescued from the Osbournes.
At her favorite coffee shop, just down the street from her place, Armstrong, dressed in jeans, a Naru T-shirt and electric blue Patricia Field pumps, explains how she became her own favorite designer: “I grew up in Sedona, hours away from a mall. My mom used to design clothes, and I started sewing in high school. It’s all about creating what you can out of what isn’t available.”
After graduating from high school in 1998, Armstrong enrolled at Parsons for a summer, then went on to the University of Arizona to study theater. But Armstrong is driven by DIY, and soon found that school wasn’t for her. “After a year I was like, ‘Why am I going to school for this when you can just go do it?’” she says. She moved to L.A. and, after nine months of auditions, landed a regular part on “Freaks and Geeks” shortly before the cult show was canceled. Small roles in “Party of Five,” “X Files” and “Not Another Teen Movie” came along. But Armstrong admits that sometimes the audition-and-wait lifestyle gets tiresome. “There’s so much downtime in acting that you have to have something to keep you sane,” she says. “For me, that is sewing. I make clothes because I think it’s fun to dress up.”
Armstrong also knows how to think on her toes. She came up with the name Naru after she was photographed by WWD at a party two years ago. “I had to think of a fashion credit right away so I called my dad and asked, ‘What is the Japanese word for becoming?’” she says.
Of course, Armstrong herself is still becoming, so she’s quick to dispel Hollywood stereotypes. “People think if you are an actress you’re always rich and you’re always working,” she says, “but it’s not like that at all.” Like any chic young professional, Armstrong has found a way to make her fashion budget last: making her own clothes, while spending money on purses, shoes and jeans. “I don’t think I’ll ever master the art of making jeans so I’ll pay $300 for a pair I like,” she says.
Yet there are some stylish concessions Armstrong will never make. “I’ll wear jeans until they are dead,” she says, “but I won’t wear them with the same shirt.”
LOS ANGELES — Ever Carradine isn’t sure if she’s having an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Her finger is swollen and her face is a bit flushed, but it’s hardly reason to turn down a fashion opportunity like checking out the new cache of vintage gowns at Decades on Melrose.
“I am a little bit obsessed with clothes, and especially shoes,” says the 28-year-old actress. Currently Carradine is on a mini summer break, having wrapped her new FX series “Lucky” and the dark horror spoof “Dead & Breakfast,” due in theaters this fall, and she’s taking the time to enjoy her favorite pastimes: hiking, yoga, gardening at the Laurel Canyon house she shares with musician Coby Brown, and, of course, shopping.
“I know what I like and don’t like,” she says, flipping through the racks. “It might look like I’m kind of all over the map, but if you’re comfortable in your clothes, they fit your needs.”
Usually, Carradine’s tastes run toward quirky, girly designers, like Miu Miu, Mayle, Anna Sui, Marni and Chanel. But of course, she loves vintage. “Check out this dress,” she says, admiring a long white gown by Loris Azzaro. She already has a pair of white Chloé ballet slippers on hold at Diavolina.
Decades owner Cameron Silver glides in to make the sale. “When you are tall, skinny, blonde and have a radiant personality,” he says, “it’s really hard not to look good.”
There’s also a vintage Gucci equestrian-style bag, the perfect accessory for another one of her passions, horseback riding.
For Carradine, loving fashion might come naturally, but acting is in her blood. She’s the daughter of Robert Carradine, whose scores of acting credits include “Revenge of the Nerds” and “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” Uncles Keith and David are both screen icons, the latter starring in the Seventies “Kung Fu” TV series. Martha Plimpton is Ever’s cousin. And John Carradine, her late grandfather, appeared in hundreds of Hollywood classics.
“If you hold up pictures, you can see the resemblance,” says Carradine, who has never shied from revealing her links to the industry.
“I was lucky to have the last name that I have,” she adds. “It didn’t help me get jobs but at least people want to meet you or they are curious.”
After graduating from Lewis and Clark in Portland, Ore., Carradine moved back to L.A. to join the family business. And she returned to the sunnier climes not a minute too soon. “It rained so much my first quarter that my hair turned brown and I lost all my freckles — it was bad,” she recalls.
Still, Carradine landed her first role within a week, on “Diagnosis Murder,” which she calls “completely forgettable.” Regular TV gigs on comedies like “Veronica’s Closet” followed, as did film roles in such movies as “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”
“Dead & Breakfast,” her most recent comedy, boasts a cameo by Uncle David. “It’s totally campy and really gory,” says Carradine. “I took a couple of pictures of me covered in blood and everyone in the photo shop was sheet-white when I picked them up.” Not nearly as much fun as the costumes she wears playing a neurotic real estate agent in “Lucky.”
Carradine describes the role in fluent fashionese: “I get to wear a lot of Dolce & Gabbana suits!”