Byline: Kathleen Nicholson
NEW YORK — Paris Gordon has dressed soap opera stars and country & western singers. Now she wants to dress women all across America.
The 35-year-old designer, who has worked in television since leaving the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1984, has just launched for fall her first signature collection of dresses and eveningwear.
The 30-piece collection, wholesaling for $170 to $900, will be sold in her showroom at 110 West 40th Street. Gordon has teamed with former marketing executive Lisa Middleton, an entrepreneur who started Captive Design and Middleton International, two home and commercial products companies. Gordon and Middleton project $1 million to $2 million in wholesale volume for the first year.
The collection will be sold to specialty stores around the country. For fall, she’s secured orders from Mieka in Cedarhurst and Woodbury, N.Y., and Boca Raton, Fla.; Gus Meyer in Nashville; Helen Ainsen in Darien, Conn., and Entoto in Great Neck, N.Y.
After creating a small garden party capsule collection for spring/summer, Gordon put together a fall collection that, not surprisingly, she calls “very Hollywood.” Perhaps her inspiration to design came from a shopping trip she made to New York when she was 10, with her mother, Pauline Gordon, a former model. Disappointed with the offerings at retail, her Gordon took her daughter to the nearest fabric store and helped her make her own patterns and her own clothes.
She apprenticed for Victor Costa while she studied design at El Centro High School in Dallas and then traveled north to New York to study at FIT. She also set up a business making sportswear that she sold at a SoHo flea market on weekends.
“I’d supervise production during the week and then sell all weekend long. I made enough to pay for my college education,” she said. Still, when a best friend landed a job on the soap opera “Guiding Light” and needed outfitting, Gordon was happy to oblige, especially since she was hoping to become a costumer, and the studio was right next to the school.
After FIT, Gordon freelanced for several design firms, while keeping her hand in TV. While the filming schedule was grueling, Gordon feels dressing up to 150 actors per episode gave her great experience for dressing middle America.
“Traveling, you get to see what everyone wears out there,” she said. “Women want to be sexy and beautiful and enhanced.”
She decided to open her own business after she read Oleg Cassini’s book “In My Own Fashion” while stranded at a friend’s home during a blizzard last year. She jotted a note to Cassini asking him to lunch.
“I felt like a kindred spirit and told him I needed a mentor,” she said. Cassini agreed and when he met with Gordon, he told her she was “courageous.”
“That was all I needed to hear,” the designer said. Within the year, Paris Gordon Collection was born. Gordon calls her designs “sexy and sophisticated, yet understated.”
“Everything I do needs to say elegant and classic, but not boring,” she said.
For fall, there are bias-cut diva dresses in midnight blue, dark brown or black double georgette that she shows with jackets that feature removable ostrich collar and cuffs, and brown silk ombre dresses, some with off-the-shoulder mink collars. On the flirty side are iridescent floral chiffons, wraps and shifts.