Remember the old Johnny Mathis song "Wild Is the Wind"? It inspired Nina Simone, David Bowie and George Michael to do their own versions. Now that ditty also has influenced a couple of Chicago designers, Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters. They recently launched Creatures of the Wind, named for a phrase from the song lyrics. Their fall debut skews "a bit hippie, a bit folksy," says Gabier. Here, one example, an embroidered cotton and silk dress with a cotton jersey inset.
From a sister act to an interior-design doyenne, a new set of designers is hitting the fashion scene.
Backstory: Fashion may have been a big part of Julia and Natalia Alarcon's upbringing — their mother was a seamstress — but it was only recently that the sisters opted for a career in design. Both were involved in two very different — and "unglamorous," says Julia — professions until 2005, when they decided to enroll at Parsons The New School for Design together. Natalia did contract negotiations for engineering and construction companies, while Julia left a post as the assistant director of the Pittsburgh Zoo to go into industrial sales. "We both always really loved fashion," says Natalia, "so we finally decided, let's just do it." Both interned at Phi prior to launching their line, Lialia, in the spring, and Natalia also spent time at Reyes, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta.
Collection: "We wanted to put together a collection for someone who's tired of wearing jeans," says Julia. "Pieces you could realistically wear on the street, like a feminine dandy." To date, the collections have taken a cue from the Forties — a recent inspiration Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion" — as seen in trim sheaths, high-waisted skirts and tuxedo blouses. But the color palette is another story. "We were inspired by mold," says Julia. "You can get some really beautiful hues — chartreuse, purples and blues."
Stats: Lialia, a play on the designers' names, wholesales from $200 to $1,000, and is sold at Début in New York and Inago in Los Angeles.
Rose Anne de Pampelonne
Backstory: Rose Anne de Pampelonne's name might already ring a bell. She's a prominent Paris interior designer, who decorated the old Eddie Barclay house in Saint-Tropez and had a hand in the recent renovations at Paris' Hôtel Lutétia. It's appropriate, then, that her entrée into fashion came by way of interiors: She began by dabbling in cushion and lamp shade designs, which eventually led to her year-old ready-to-wear and accessories collection. And, not surprisingly, de Pampelonne notes that a home line is in the pipeline.
Collection: Rich, lavish embellishments are the focus. Her clothes feature traditional Indian zardozi embroideries (done with metal threads) and are accented by ebony, tigereye, rose quartz and turquoise. Exotic stone patterns, for example, decorate everything from a simple cashmere cardigan to more elaborate hand-dyed caftans and tunics. De Pampelonne even adds carved Tibetan prayer beads to the mix. But the designer makes clear it's not the spiritual elements she's after here, but the craftsmanship. "It's about respecting a lost art," de Pampelonne says.
Stats: Accessories wholesale from $270 to $360, and her rtw from $240 to $800. Retailers include Vivre.com, Scoop and Stanley Korshak in Dallas.
Creatures of the Wind
Backstory: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the city's indie art scene proved the jumping points for fledging line Creatures of the Wind. Shane Gabier graduated from SAIC a decade ago and, after working in Antwerp, Belgium, for designers Dirk Schönberger and Jurgi Persoons, launched his own eponymous collection in 2003. Now the Michigan native is also a professor at the school and recently teamed up with another SAIC graduate, Christopher Peters of New Jersey, to rework his own label into Creatures of the Wind, which will launch this fall. The curious moniker comes from an old Johnny Mathis song recorded by Nina Simone, "Wild is the Wind."
Collection: "A cross between both our aesthetics," says Peters. "Shane is more structured, and I'm much more cartoon-y and graphic." The result is a charming lineup underscored by an arty, homespun vibe — cotton eyelet blouses, geometric wrap jackets and tops accented with handcrafted macramé insets. The two have also collaborated with local artists. Fall, for instance, included the work of jeweler Ryan Davis and fiber artist Elspeth Vance. "It's a bit hippie, a bit folksy," says Gabier, "with a creepy Sixties commune edge."
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