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just discovered a beautiful vintage lace piece and a few sequined pieces that I love– just beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces. What about closet staples? What would you say are three pieces in your wardrobe that you can’t imagine your closet without? Right now, I would say I’ve been wearing my Leigh and Luca scarves, because they just completely brighten my gray and black wardrobe. And I live in my NDC cropped suede moto boots, and probably anything cashmere right now. With those, I can build around just about anything. This is why we get along so well…we have almost the same closet! So, I think women that are really serious about fashion always tend to have sort of fun early memories of style. I’m wondering what your first memory of fashion is? I think it’s a tie between getting my pink corduroy Gloria Vanderbilt pants, or my first pair of Jordache jeans. Those were definitely my “I’m in fashion now” moments! So I want to talk a bit about the nitty-gritty of when you design a collection. How do you get started and where do you find inspiration? It happens differently each time, but generally I try to find something of interest to me that aesthetically motivates me and is going to keep my interest for a few months, while I’m living in that world. I create mood boards and surround myself with my inspiration. My spring collection was titled Stolen and was inspired by retro films about bank and jewel heists; Faye Dunaway and Ali McGraw, in Bonnie and Clyde and The Getaway. These heroines were intriguing, mysterious, risk takers that were always beautiful and stylish. It was inspiring to translate their lives and wardrobes into modern day.

My problem, I think, if I were going to be a designer, is that I would be too selfish. I’d always be going through my mental checklist of what’s missing from my own closet, and filling those holes by designing pieces for myself. I do that too, especially if I’m looking for something and can’t find it. I feel this need and nobody’s making it or they haven’t made it perfectly, so I decide to do my version of it.

My spring collection was titled “Stolen” inspired by retro films about bank heists” In addition to your mood boards and that general aesthetic you’re keeping to each season, is there anything else that you really like to have around you when you first sit down to design a collection? I like classical music; it helps me with my chaotic creativity. When I need to really focus, I get the classical playing and that gets me into my zone. When I think about Rachel Mara, there are a couple of things that really stand out for me in your designs. The first is your prints. I think you create and use prints in your clothing better than almost any other designer out there. Thank you. I would to love to know the process of developing a print and finding the inspiration for using them so beautifully.

It is a hunt to find those prints. I go to small European mills, and try to find something in their collection, which I can recolor or alter to make it my own. I also use vintage prints an old silk scarf, or a vintage piece, and I’ll rework that. I think prints are very personal, so I’m glad you like them. I’m sure, as many people hate them. It’s a really tough thing to get right and make something special that you would wear over and over again. The other thing I always notice about your collections is that your clothes are cut in a very unique way. When you cut a pant, for example, I find that it’s not just necessarily a typical, classic straight cut – it’ll be more unique, maybe with a slouchy waist and a fitted cut for the leg. Can you talk a little about that? I’m a pant person, not a skirt or dress person. So, wearing pants every day, you try to think about how to make them more interesting and still flattering. And I think there should always be one main thing that makes your look special – you don’t want to have too many things happening in one look. So if you can make the pants have some interesting style, you can really pair that with a simple top. Flattering pants are very challenging for people, different body types need different cuts of pants, and I try to have a variety that is elegant, flattering and interesting. How often do you repeat a cut or style from one season to the next? Well, if they work, and if they fit? Potentially, forever. But it is amazing with pants because it changes so quickly from season to season, you go back and look at it six months later and the rise is just an inch too short, and – you can’t just bring up the rise, you need to rework the whole thing. You go to put on your denim from a couple of years ago, and somehow they don’t seem right at all. I’m always sort of amazed when I look at runway shows, and suddenly a color palette, or a certain cut of pant is in every runway show. I imagine there’s a secret meeting happening at a coffee shop somewhere, where all of these designers are scheming together. I wasn’t invited. (laughs) Neither was I! But I’m wondering how that comes to be…it can’t just be coincidence. No, there are trend forecasters, for one thing, so a lot of big companies use forecasting to be on trend. But then I also think there’s this thing called the “Collective Conscience”, and everybody decides at the same time that something is great, and somehow it just spreads and everybody feels it, and…wants it… It gets out into the universe? Yes. I think so, it is a small industry, so there is a lot of crossover with designers working with stylists or consultants or forecasters that will work for multiple companies, and that plays a role. Being in Portland, instead of in New York or LA, are you able to participate in that collective conscience? Do you get the opportunity to work with a lot of other designers and get input from them, or does that even interest you? I’m pretty isolated. But I think I would be isolated no matter where I was. That’s the kind of person I am. I like to get into my mode, in my work cave, and do my thing. I do like to collaborate with stylists and photographers and am very interested in what other artists and designers are doing, more than other clothing designers.

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Profile for ABOUT FACE Magazine

About Face Magazine - Issue 01  

Portland's interview Magazine - In this issue we interview China Forbes from the band Pink Martini, as well as Rachel Mara, fashion designer...

About Face Magazine - Issue 01  

Portland's interview Magazine - In this issue we interview China Forbes from the band Pink Martini, as well as Rachel Mara, fashion designer...

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