LOS ANGELES — For designer Todd Oldham, creating fashion didn’t end when he sold the trademarks for his name six years ago to Jones Apparel Group.
Although he has since reacquired them, Oldham has focused his energies on the fashion of home interiors in recent years — from his two-season project for Target to his long-term contract with La-Z-Boy.
“I’m not really into the idea of investment furniture for everything in your house. ‘Sofa’ and ‘investment’ don’t belong together,” said the 42-year-old ultimate outsider, who spoke to an audience of more than 300 people last month at the California Market Center as part of the Otis College of Art and Design’s “Inside the Designer’s Studio” series.
Patterned after “Inside the Actor’s Studio” on the A&E network, Otis’ version puts fashion department chairwoman Rosemary Brantley in the interviewer’s chair — a giraffe-print sectional from Oldham’s La-Z-Boy collection — and features an audience of mostly students from the fashion school based in the CMC building.
Oldham’s collaboration with the furniture maker offers some 300 textile options, making it more in-line with the temporary whims of fashion than old notions of furniture as quasi-permanent fixtures.
Although it has been six years since the boyish designer from Corpus Christi, Tex., put out his ideas on the fashion runways, he has remained in the public eye through his home design collaborations, including air time on MTV’s episodes of “Crib Crashers.”
This April, he will release his second book, a how-to on midcentury-modern furnishings called “Hand Made Modern” (Regan Books/HarperCollins, $29.95).
The book will offer doable step-by-step instructions on making home accessories — vases, pillows, throws and furniture — end tables, daybeds and room dividers. It also includes essays on midcentury pioneers such as Charles Eames, Eva Zeisel and Charles Harper, among others, some penned by Oldham himself as well as journalist Julia Szabo.
He kicks off a national book-signing tour April 15 with a “Today” show appearance in New York; in Los Angeles, he’ll stop at Barnes & Noble on April 21.
And there are other partnerships in the works for this year, although Oldham and his team are reluctant to reveal them just yet. But they will have to do with interior design, and they will come out of his design lab in Manhattan’s SoHo.
“Manufacturing is a real bitch,” Oldham told the Otis crowd, “so I admire anybody who can do it well. Our business has become a lot more streamlined and profitable since we stopped doing manufacturing. Knowing what works and what doesn’t is the great basis of good design.”
Oldham recalled during the hour-long talk that he got his knack for working on interiors, and exteriors, from his family. He described them as “amazing free spirits…Putting up Sheetrock and putting beads on a dress are very similar,” he said.
So will he ever go back to frocks?
“It’s good to never say never,” said Oldham, admitting he doesn’t follow fashion much anymore, although he is a fan of Built by Wendy and Isabel Toledo. “But I don’t know what I have to say in it, I don’t know what I could bring to it. I think it’s your time to bring some nice new ideas to the table,” he told the students.