Tuesday is for updating our blog of the week! Recently, Elaine Perlov, a fashion designer in Brooklyn, contacted me about her blog and although I tend to stick to featuring only art + home design blogs, I couldn’t refuse Elaine because her blog covers a broad range of topics based on her life as fashion designer and I find peeking into her world most inspirational.
As an interior design consultant, many rooms that I create are based on fashion or things I see in fashion magazines, from photo shoots to the colors and patterns I spot on the runway or in a local clothing boutique. Although decor8 is a design blog and Elaine doesn’t create home decor items, her fashion inspires those of us in other creative professions and others who simply love beautiful things, which is why I’d like for you to meet her.
Prior to this interview, I didn’t know much about Elaine. Since we’ve had a chance to chat, I’ve learned about her passion for design, how serious she is about her career, that she actually lived in Boston at one point in her life, and that her creativity runs very deep… She dips into many pools, including a literal one, to find her inspiration and joy. I want to thank Elaine for writing to me and I hope that everyone enjoys the conversation that we had about her life as a fashion designer.
decor8: Hi Elaine! I’m so happy you’re sharing your world with all of us. Can you please tell us about yourself?
elaine: I am a fashion designer (gee) and I live in NYC (Brooklyn to be exact). I started my company some years ago in Boston, built the business and decided it was time to make The Big Move to see what I could become in New York, the city with limitless possibilities. My husband and I moved here a year ago and we love it.
decor8: That seems to be a trend with so many creative types relocating to NYC for a chance to get their work out there. High five to you for taking the leap and actually relocating to live your dream. In addition to your relocation, what would you like to share about your background, training, work experience, etc?
elaine: After all these years running my company, I have tried a little bit of everything in the fashion industry. Trade shows in NYC, Las Vegas and LA. Solo fashion shows in Boston at The Cyclorama and The Castle at Park Plaza when I was sponsored by Dewar’s for five seasons. I have sold to majors like Wet Seal and to hot boutiques like Antique Boutique, Patricia Field and Fred Segal. I have learned while doing, and it has worked out pretty well, with many nice surprises along the way. Like when I got into Vogue magazine. That was quite nice. I never studied fashion formally. My focus in college was Japanese art history and language (plus I had a second major in English). If there was a single turning point in my life, it had to be when I went to Japan. All that I make today is still inspired by all that I saw there.
decor8: Thank you for sharing that, you’ve had many successes. In addition to your visit to Japan, what else has inspired your creations?
elaine: So many things! A lot of my designs are strongly influenced by the construction. Figuring out the puzzle of putting together a garment fascinates me just as much as how it drapes on or shapes the body. I am always pleased by the unexpected design details that grow out of the process of figuring out which piece attaches to which, and in what order.
decor8: How do you develop your design ideas?
elaine: I take notes on my ideas. They mainly come to me while swimming or in dreams or on the subway. I like to go for a swim while I am working on ideas and just let them flow out of me. Then I take notes and get right to the pattern-making and fabric. If I draw my ideas first, the designs tend to become nice drawings and don’t get made as quickly. I like the immediacy of making things, skipping over the over-planning step.
decor8: How do promote your business?
elaine: When I am not working, and I get to chatting with someone about what I do, I always have stickers on hand to give them. When I am doing a show, I give them a sticker so they can investigate my website further when they get back to their computer. So basically, stickers. I do a lot more than that, but that is the short funny answer.
decor8: Do you participate in fairs, trunk shows, etc? If so, which ones and what do you enjoy about these events?
elaine: I love doing the Market NYC in Nolita (I will be there on Sunday May 21), because you never know who will walk in that door. I met the Editor-in-Chief of a national magazine the first time I did the show. She bought my Geisha Top and Cherry Blossom Pleat Skirt. The following week, I met a publicist who wants to carry my line in her L.A. store. I also love talking to customers, seeing what they pick up, and of course seeing how the pieces look on them. It is so important to connect with customers one-on-one. Web sales are great, but I also need to see the pieces on them in person, and the markets provide that for me.
decor8: How do you overcome obstacles?
elaine: Obstacles come up all the time when you have your own company. I like go off and reflect about it in the pool and then grit my teeth and slog through it.
decor8: Being in NYC, an unlimited playground for designers, where do you go when you need to find inspiration?
elaine: Shopping! To Saks for luxury quick-fix inspiration. To design stores, museums and art galleries for ideas that need a longer simmer.
decor8: What do you want your customers to know about you?
elaine: I want them to know all about my concept of Modular Dressing. I gave a talk at Design Within Reach on this very topic, you can read it here. In short, I want them to know that my clothing design is economical and useful. You don’t have to spend a lot to look good and have designer pieces that you love. Maximize your minimalism!
decor8: In addition to your design studio, you’re also a blogger. Tell us about that…
elaine: As it turns out, I love blogging! I started my blog to find out what makes me me. That is why I left the topic more open-ended. (My blog is about all things fashion designer, where ever that may lead us..) I talk some about my designs and about my concept of “Modular Dressing” as well as the design world that inspires me. I love talking about art in everyday life, as well as great food finds, funny things that occur to me, shoes, you name it. Basically all the things that make me tick, which are constantly revealing themselves to me in a rather stream-of-consciousness way.
decor8: I like that, it’s more of a public diary, a peek into your world. That must draw your customers closer to you as well, it’s so nice to get to actually know the person behind a design, whether that be clothing or home decor items, furniture, etc. Besides what you’ve mentioned, what else do you like about blogging?
elaine: I love writing. And thinking about things beyond fashion. Blogging helps me organize my work day, and gives me a forum to air my many views. I like having a record of my inspirations, so I can go back in dig into my trough of ideas and get some projects started again. I am definitely in a period of self reflection, re-design and rebirth with this big move, so the blog is a useful tool. I also love love love the fact that people read it. Especially when they read it, and then click over to my website and then mark it as their favorite! Yes, that is always exciting.
decor8: Do you have favorite blogs that you check out daily – which ones and why?
elaine: I check out yours (decor8) all the time to see what pretty things in the world you have found. Happy Mundane for a dose of daily life with a certain elegance. Jodiverse. Excellent writing with a terse “so there!” type of funny. Kyria Abrahams for a similar type of funny, but a little more outlandish at times. Design Observer for some deeper critical analysis. Greedy Goose and Chubby Hubby for great recipes and beautiful food photography, both from Singapore.
decor8: Now that I know more about you Elaine, I’m curious to see how you organize your work day as a designer, blogger, wife… Can you give decor8 readers a glimpse into a day in the life of Elaine?
elaine: Sure. I love this question. I took a class this past Fall called “Grow IT!” for women in business, and we had to describe our workday (for the purpose of analyzing it and making it more productive). So here goes: First thing, I set the egg timer for 30 minutes, turn on the computer, prep the workroom, eat breakfast and coffee, check emails and blog. That is my easing-into-the-day 30 minute warm-up. Then I get down to serious work for the morning which could be cutting quantities for my sewing assistants, filling custom orders myself, following up with stores via email or phone, checking web orders, etc. Then I break for lunch and a swim, come back and work for the rest of the afternoon. And then maybe blog some more… Yes, I am hooked on blogging. That is my basic day, but everyday is a little different. Some days involve working with a seamstress, some are travel days to source fabrics. Some are product development days.
decor8: What is the best way to spend a Saturday in NYC?
elaine: My husband and I love to wander all over the city doing whatever comes our way. We walk like crazy, exploring food markets, art galleries, street fairs, in particular. A few weeks ago, we focused on 1st Ave and walked from 42nd St to 90th, exploring and eating along the way. What can we say, we like to explore rather encyclopedically.
decor8: Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
elaine: When Tom Ford stepped down from Gucci, I lost interest in the big names. He was the one, in my opionion, who consistently made women look strong and sexy. His designs were always minimalist and evocative. I do like Marc, but mainly I like his bags. Theory is nice too. But day-to-day, I am mainly in my own world seeking inspiration from other sources beyond fashion.
decor8: I like to wrap up interviews Elle Decor style. What are ten things that you can’t live without?
elaine: Oh cool. They do that in Domino too. I want to be featured on the back inside page of Domino magazine where they ask that of hot designers. Actually I was, on the back page of Lucky magazine… Since you aksed for “things” I will leave out the obvious sappy stuff such as my loving wonderful husband, family and friends. My list in no particular order: swimming, mint shampoo, iced coffee, peanut butter toast, city life, controlled nature (not nature-nature because that is just to wild for me), my unlimited subway pass, Indian food, but then again also Italian, Thai, Japanese, Korean and Middle Eastern food (I am counting all of those as one. ok?), and smelly candles, preferably citrus-floral-based natural scents.
Terrific Elaine, thank you for stopping by and sharing your life as a fashion designer with decor8 readers.
Elaine’s blog will be featured on decor8 in the left column in blog of the week until May 23rd. If you would like to be featured in our blog of the week, please send an email to decor8blog[at]yahoo[dot]com. Thank you!
(images from elaine perlov)
decor8 contributor, Anh-Minh Le, wrote to me last night about Amy Ruppel and her blog. Of course, we’re big Amy fans (see post from 4.14.06), but did you know she has a blog? Best part, she posted some photos of her home in Portland, OR recently that I just love. I don’t know about you, but I’d win the peeping Jane award because when I take walks at night, I dig gazing into the homes I pass. It’s so interesting to look at how others arrange things, don’t you think? Peek into Amy’s space. She has lots of great photos of her lovely nest right here.
(photo from early bird show)