SCHOOL’S OUT
A TEACHER-TURNED DESIGNER PUTS COLOR IN THE CURRICULUM.

Byline: Marcy Medina

It’s not unusual for designers to have had several jobs before starting their own lines, but Chelsea Davis may be one of the few with a masters degree in education on the resume.
Davis, a Palo Alto native who studied at Columbia University in New York, said, “I got a job teaching, but after about four months, I missed fashion.”
Davis moved back to Los Angeles two years ago. And nine months ago, with her family’s encouragement, she started her own line, using as inspiration her background in retail and wholesale as well as her own experiences and tastes.
“I noticed there wasn’t a lot of color or variety in the marketplace,” she continued. “I’m a mishmash dresser. I wear checkered pants with a printed top. I’m also inspired by the way other people dress.”
Her first collection, in stores this summer, was more item driven than season driven. She sold the line — bright taffeta, doupioni, charmeuse, crepe de chine flounced skirts and tops — to Madison, Emma Gold and Bleu. And they sold out of their orders.
Encouraged by the retail response, she moved into a showroom across the street from the California Mart two months ago and hired an assistant, her high school friend Jennifer Turner.
“I was moving to San Francisco and getting overwhelmed with the business and Jenn was looking for a new challenge, so karma just took over.”
Although Davis didn’t set out to be a celebrity designer, a chance meeting with a television costumer led her to design pieces for Geena Davis and Mimi Rogers; and she’s scheduled a fitting with Cindy Crawford. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos also wore one of her dresses when she guest-starred on WB’s “Jack and Jill.”
The fall collection, available at Rinaldi’s Roberston and Brentwood stores, was inspired by London and is “all about mixing colors.”
The low-slung leather and suede pants and capris in solids and patchwork ($180-$220) are lined with contrasting china silk (purple with red, camel with green), and leather and wool skirts ($150-$180) have diagonal seams and contrasting waistbands. Tops ($50-$125) range from basic single-knit wool T-shirts to printed chiffon blouses to mohair turtlenecks with leather-trimmed bell sleeves. There are also dresses, which mirror the color and cut of the other pieces, priced $185-$225. Davis plans to add a few more items for holiday, but is wary of moving too quickly.
“It’s a challenge finding the right fabric and filling orders, so I’m starting out with trunk shows and small production schedules,” she said. “I’m developing as a designer, and I have to take it day by day.”

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