Saturday, October 15, 2011

Samantha Sleeper // An Exclusive Interview!

Out of our darkest and most trying moments, often arises our most beautiful and creative accomplishments.  As with many of us, this has in more ways than one been the case with New York based fashion designer, Samantha Sleeper.  Here is an industry where not only do the best alone survive - the best entails a wildly inimitable combination of talent, technique, heart, and guts.  

Born with the hands of a goddess, the eyes of an extraheavenly Creator, and a mind as sharp and deep as Everest is high, this left Samantha with one-down-three-to-go as of her birth in 1987.  Graduating second in her class from Parsons in 2009 with work experience at one of the oldest couture lace factories in France under her belt is enough to say she achieved the training and expertise in technique.  

So what about the heart and guts?  Here's the firsthand word of Samantha on the subject of her passion, inspiration, and the courage it takes to make a mark.

EM: When did you decide you wanted to become a fashion designer?
SS: I decided I wanted to be a designer when I was 8... flipping through Vogue while my mom was getting her hair done on Oak St. in Chicago.  At 11 I visited Parsons and FIT and chose my future school!

EM: With age, experience, and exposure, how has your inspiration evolved over time? 
SS: A lot of inspiration stays consistent season to season, like the Bauhaus.  Growing up in Chicago, I was surrounded by Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van Derroe buildings which undoubtedly formed my design point of view.  I find inspiration everywhere; a lot of times it comes from an emotional place, a dream... There's an underlying darkness in the "story" that's created for each season; an impending doom, or the possibility of something not being quite right, but then it's resolved by having really beautiful surprises.  Lots of quiet, elegant moments thrown in.  My inspiration has evolved to include a lot of other artists, painters, and architects.  Historical costume references and textures.

EM: To whom do you aspire most?
SS: I aspire to be like my mother, to build a business like Ralph Lauren and retain artistry like Lee McQueen.

EM: What is one of the most important lessons you learned during your time at Parsons?
SS: At Parsons I learned discipline, and to show up on time!  (I'm still working on that one).  And to work extremely long hours on little sleep.

EM: Can you recount the conceptual inspiration you explained in the design of your first collections out of college, for the label N PRPA? 
SS: For the launch of N PRPA, I had a dream of a girl who lived in a post apocalypse world and she had these flashes of memories: manicured lawns, housing complexes.  She turned these flashes into a vocabulary of texture, and armed herself with it, wearing it on her sleeve.

EM: What's the story behind your debut eponymous collection?
SS: This season I was inspired by Rothko, Jasper Johns and the nostalgia of a classic American summer.  The color palette stayed true to the red white and blue with pops of firework color.  There is a great balance of hyper feminine dresses and handsomely tailored separates, playing to the duality of women as well as creating aspirational and utilitarian pieces.

EM: Admitting there's no right answer to this difficult question, what do you feel has been your greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
SS: It's been two years since I graduated and there are very different highs.  Seeing my work on the cover of Women's Wear Daily or on a celebrity provides one sense of accomplishment, but I think the greatest high is acquiring a list of stockists that you love.  It's thrilling knowing that real women will have the possibility of wearing the pieces, and with each new store, the line gets exposure to a whole new group, and that I'm very thankful for.

EM: When it comes to building a wardrobe, what's your philosophy?
SS: When building a wardrobe, I think having incredible accessories is so important.  Pieces that carry you from season to season and are a true reflection of your personality.  Then there are key pieces every downtown girl needs, like a motorcycle jacket.  Ultimately its about having an authentic personality.  If you are confident and happy, you'll be radiant in what ever you wear.

Below some images form Samantha Sleeper SS12:

Here, view the complete Samantha Sleeper SS12 Collection.  You can also check out her complete website here.

The Cultivate has published a few wonderful articles - plentiful of collection and backstage photos - on Samantha Sleeper: her ideals, her career, and her collections... All definitely worth checking out.  On her design techniques, her background, and her MO: The Cultivate introduces Samantha Sleeper.  On her SS12 presentation, complete with backstage peeks: Samantha Sleeper SS12 Presentation"The Cultivate is a platform providing access to cult brands and the designers behind them. Discover and Own. ("

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