Interviews

Thursday, April 3rd 2014

Talking Sunglasses with Karen Walker

One of New Zealand’s most influential talents, fashion designer Karen Walker is known for her high casual collections and juxtaposition of contrasting elements. Her sunglasses give off a self-assured air—both feminine and masculine, sophisticated and eclectic, soft and fierce. We talked to Walker about sunglasses and the concept behind her latest collection. 

Shopbop: Your pieces have a huge cult following. What is it about your designs and creative outlook that inspires such fierce loyalty?
Karen Walker: Our customers know that we don't compromise, and that each season we deliver a very unique point of view.

SB: Do you have any tips for picking out the perfect pair of sunglasses online?
KW: Karen Walker customers like to experiment and try out new ideas. Every new style we put out is like a new adventure, and the thing that our customers have in common is a great sense of imagination and individual style. I think that trusting in your imagination is a great way to shop online.

Alternative Karen Walker sunglasses.

SB: The concept and partnership behind your latest collection, Karen Walker Visible, is very cool. Can you give more details?
KW: We’re working with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative to create work in community groups of micro-artisans located in the urban and rural areas of Kenya. Every pair of eyewear from the new collection comes with a wearable pouch made by the Kenyan artisans, and to give a glimpse into the world that the work is coming from, some of the artisans themselves are this season’s campaign stars. 

SB: You’ve been a designer since you were 18. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
KW: Do it if it feels right.

Shop Karen Walker sunglasses.

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Wednesday, April 2nd 2014

Totes & Charms: Talking Bags with Sophie Hulme

Sophie Hulme launched her label in 2008 after graduating from Kingston University. An avid collector of vintage clothing and old trinkets, she finds inspiration in the stories these items tell, as well as in the beauty of everyday objects. We talked to Hulme about handbags and her expert melding of past and present design.

Shopbop: How did you get your start in fashion design?
Sophie Hulme: I loved drawing and painting as a child, which led me down the art and design route. I've also always collected things, which gave me an appreciation of beautifully designed objects.

SB: From toy robots to 1940s clothing, you love collectibles. What is your most prized collection?
SH: My antique gold charm collection. It started when my Nan gave me a gold charm bracelet when I was younger, and I've looked for them all over the place since.

SB: A unique trinket accompanies the products in each of your collections. What is the inspiration behind these, and which has been your favorite?
SH: They are generally inspired by everyday recognizable things. I like the idea of taking low-value items and molding them in gold. I think my favorite was the gold chip fork—my friends all use them whenever they get fish and chips!

Sophie Hulme bags and trinkets.

SB: Your bags are simultaneously modern and timeless. What elements do you implement in every design in order to achieve this?
SH: I like to make sure they are really functional, and that all the elements add to the function of the bag as well as the form. I think this makes them more timeless. I also try to make them beautifully designed objects that aren't trend-led, so they can't date.  In terms of the modernity, I just make sure they are unique so they feel new and exciting.

SB: Which bag from the spring collection will you carry most often? How will you style it?
SH: I love the chain mini envelope bag, which I wear as a cross-body. I like that it can go from day to evening and that it is small but deep, so it can still carry everything I need!

Shop Sophie Hulme handbags.

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Tuesday, April 1st 2014

Dynamic Design: Talking Jewelry with Bex Manners

Bex Manners of Bex Rox knew she wanted to be a designer at only 7 years old. Today, her label is world-renowned—coveted for its innovation, intricacies, and rock-and-roll edge. We talked to Manners about her background in fashion and the cultural influences behind her bold designs.

Shopbop: How did you decide you wanted to design jewelry?
Bex Manners: Since I was 7 I knew I wanted to be a designer. I still have hundreds of notepads full of sketches and swatches of the pieces I wanted to create. Growing up in Menorca, I used to sit with my friends and weave friendship bracelets to sell on the beaches for fun. It wasn't until I moved to New York in 2005 that I realized I was going to actually make my childhood dream come true. I worked as a stylist assistant and reworked vintage jewelry for shoots. People would stop me on the street and ask me where my jewelry was from—I sold the pieces straight off my neck and wrists! Magazines were being inundated with customer calls asking how they could get ahold of the jewelry in the shoots. Bex Rox was then born.

SB: Bex Rox is known for its innovative designs such as magnetic fasteners and glow-in-the-dark rings. What do you believe the label offers that was previously missing from the jewelry market?
BM: Bex Rox offers a sense of play with quality. When I first came out with the magnetic fastening it was a novelty (my grandmother was over the moon!). I then thought, hang on, this is for the modern-day woman who does not have time to mess around with fussy clasps! What she wants is one click and she’s off! Bex Rox also allows the customer to have her own sense of creativity by mixing and matching her necklace to her bracelet using the signature magnetic clasps. Bex Rox is not trend-driven—it has a sense of personal and timeless style.

Handcrafted Bex Rox jewelry.

SB: You were born and raised on Spain’s Balearic Islands. How has that culture influenced your designs?
BM: Growing up barefoot in Menorca gave me a sense of freedom that has influenced my designs in every aspect and element. From the color and fabrications to the durability and wear, the brand’s concept is about being free-spirited, dynamic, and fun.

SB: Bex Rox jewelry is colorful, bold, and anything but ordinary. What is your advice for everyday styling?
BM: Try not to think about it too much—just mix it, layer it, stack it, and walk out that door with confidence!

SB: What is your favorite piece from the collection and why?
BM: This season I developed the Maasai long chain necklace in Nairobi, Kenya, with the Maasai tribe and local artisans, which is a new direction for Bex Rox. Having said that, this piece in particular is a showstopper that I wear over a denim shirt and slacks for a cool, laid-back look.

Shop Bex Rox jewelry.

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Monday, March 31st 2014

Talking Bags with Rebecca Minkoff

At only 18 years old, Rebecca Minkoff moved to New York City to chase her dream of becoming a fashion designer. Now, nine years after the introduction of her iconic Morning After Bag, she continues to please fans with her trusty totes and satchels. We talked to Minkoff about her latest collection and the evolution of her label into a lifestyle brand.

Shopbop: Your break into the fashion industry came with the introduction of your “I Love New York” tee in 2001. What inspired your shift in focus from apparel to handbags? And then what brought you back to apparel in 2009?
Rebecca Minkoff: I had made the MAB—my first handbag—for a friend, and I got a lot of positive feedback from editors and stores so I gave it my all, concentrating fully on that one style. By 2009, I was ready to dive back into my first passion: ready-to-wear.

SB: What makes a Rebecca Minkoff bag special?
RM: All of our bags are very thought out—we focus not only on the exterior details but the interior as well. It’s important for me to have a staff member wear the bag and tell me how they liked carrying it. Was it comfortable, how was the strap, were there enough pockets, and so on. The functionality of a bag is just as important to me as the design.

Rebecca Minkoff cross-body bags.

SB: How did you decide to introduce shoes and other accessories into your line?
RM: We wanted to keep evolving Rebecca Minkoff into a full lifestyle brand. Shoes and jewelry are important accessory categories that allow you to express your personal style.

SB: If you could design a bag for any woman in history, who would it be and why?
RM: Coco Chanel. Wouldn’t that be something!

SB: You started your own label at the age of 21 and worked your way from the ground up. What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
RM: Keep at it. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

SB: Which bag from your collection do you believe belongs on every woman’s arm this spring?
RM: The Finn Clutch certainly lends itself to this spring’s big fringe trend.

Shop Rebecca Minkoff handbags.

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Thursday, March 27th 2014

The Best of Both Worlds: Talking Bags with Reece Solomon

Since 2009, Reece Hudson handbags have embodied classic street style while maintaining the craftsmanship of a luxury product. Every bold, edgy design utilizes the finest materials, ensuring durable, functional wear that’s perfect for daily use. We spoke with the brand’s founder and designer, Reece Solomon, about the importance of quality and the inspiration behind her latest bags.

Shopbop: What inspired you to design handbags?
Reece Solomon: I grew up horseback riding, so I think that really inspired a love of leather craftsmanship from an early age. I always loved handbags, and it interested me that they serve such a functional purpose compared to other aspects of a woman's wardrobe—they conceal a woman's personal possessions. I found it really interesting to design the vessel for that.

SB: One of the goals in your work is to bridge the gap between luxury product and street style. What do you believe to be the most compelling way to do this?
RS: I strive to deliver a product that has easiness to it—to meld the quality of a true luxury product with a bit more of the boldness seen more often in street style without it seeming overworked.

SB: Your bags are handcrafted in Italy from leather and exotic skins, giving them the quality that is central to your brand. What is important to you about this type of craftsmanship?
RS: I love the tradition and history of leatherwork in Italy, so it's amazing to me that my product can be a part of that. It's also incredibly educational to me as a designer. Something that's also important to me in my designs are the details, especially the subtle ones that may only be apparent to the woman who's wearing the bag. But to achieve the subtle details takes a high level of skill and pride for the work, in every stage of the process—from the raw materials, to the hardware, to the final assembly and finishing of a bag.

Day and night Reece Hudson bags.

SB: Which bag in your collection do you think belongs on every woman’s arm?
RS: The Bowery Oversized Clutch. It's such a nice transitional bag and continues to be our bestseller.

SB: What is the best piece of advice on designing you’ve received?               
RS: Don't listen too much to what other people tell you, and don't get wrapped up in comparing your work to others'. That's how all the "greats" worked.

Shop Reece Hudson handbags.


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Tuesday, March 25th 2014

Structural Design: Talking Jewelry with Brittany Weiss of W. Britt

Just a few months after a late 2013 launch, W. Britt, the industrial-inspired jewelry line from Brittany Weiss, has become a red carpet staple. Her pieces have strong architectural lines, but maintain a subtle level of softness. We spoke to Brittany about the line’s debut and where she gets her innovative design ideas.

SHOPBOP: You launched your jewelry line in October 2013, but your background includes engineering influences. How does that background influence your designs?
BRITTANY WEISS: After graduating from George Washington University with a BA in art history and fine arts, I went to study in Israel at Shenkar, a design and engineering school. My area of study was jewelry design, but the school as a whole focused on engineering. Because of that, certain ideas and skills were also imparted to me during my time there. The industrial and technical elements that I learned while abroad have definitely inspired my work. I've always been drawn to architecture and elements of urban cityscapes. I like to take pieces from everyday functional design and reinterpret them in different ways.

SB: All of the collections have a unique theme. What’s the inspiration behind each one?
BW: All of my collections have dual meanings. They reference both the construction of the piece as well as the conceptual side of creation. Assembly Line, the name of the full collection, speaks to how things come together in both a literal and conceptual sense. Within Assembly Line, I also sought to tell a story with mini collections. Building Block is the foundation of the collection—fitting because it was the beginning of a journey for me. Pipe Dream is the second phase of the journey—it speaks to striving to accomplish a dream—and is also quite literally inspired by piping and scaffolding. Finally, Raising the Bar serves as a continuation on the scaffolding concept, but more analyzed and dissected. It also references the desire to keep raising the bar with everything that I try to do.

SB: The pieces are both tough and feminine. How do you balance the two sensibilities?
BW: I try to play with contrasting elements, creating a balance between the two, and bringing them together to create a more interesting and strong piece. I love to juxtapose the concept of masculine and feminine. To me, the two sides of the spectrum work to enhance each other.


Industrial-inspired W. Britt jewelry.

SB: Your designs made quite a few appearances on the red carpet this winter, but they work equally well dressed down. How do you work them into your everyday look?
BW: As I design, I try to create pieces that are versatile for many occasions. I wear my pieces while running errands, but the celebrities who are fans have shown that they can be worn just as easily on the red carpet or to a black tie event. On any given day, you can find me in a simple black shirt with my Big Block Necklace and Big Block Studs, but I also love piling on rings for an edgier look.

SB: What is the one W. Britt piece every woman needs in her jewelry collection? Why?
BW: When I designed the Building Block pieces, I worked to develop them so would be extremely versatile. Some styles can be worn as a bracelet or as a choker, giving them duality and the ability to be personalized. I like having options in my wardrobe, especially with my jewelry!

Shop W. Britt jewelry.


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Thursday, March 6th 2014

Exclusive Interview: Margaret Zhang

Known for her innovative approach to fashion and ability to mix pieces in a truly unique way, Margaret Zhang of Shine by Three is one stylish—and busy—girl. Since the spontaneous creation of her blog, the student, photographer, and Harper’s Bazaar Australia contributor has quickly made a name for herself in the fashion industry with her fresh and fearless interpretations of the latest trends. We spoke with Zhang about how she stays organized amidst the chaos and the inspiration behind her blog.


Margaret in a Veronica Beard blazer, DKNY x Opening Ceremony tee, GOLDSIGN jeans, 3.1 Phillip Lim sandals, and carrying a Jerome Dreyfuss bag.

Shopbop: What inspired you to start a blog?
Margaret Zhang: Growing up, I was all about the performing arts (dance, music, drama) and visual arts (painting, film, photography), so when chemistry and economics hit high school, I was pretty uninspired to say the least. Shine By Three was a late-night decision to share my artistic inspirations online. For about 6 months I thought I was the only one, but then I found all these other “fashion bloggers,” and realized I’d been living under a rock.

SB: Shine by Three is very well-rounded—the fashion is fresh, the photography is compelling, and the writing is hilarious (besides being informed). What do you love most about the process?
MZ: I love creating an experience and conversation for my readers. Over time, they’ve evolved to have strong opinions about everyday issues, fashion or otherwise. They’re not afraid to write essay-style comments to defend or oppose something I’ve photographed or written about, which I think is fantastic. I make a point of shooting almost all of my own photos, too, which makes the process very much my own. If I mess up, then I reshoot until I have exactly what I’d envisioned for the piece or editorial. Over the past year, I feel like social media has changed the blogging landscape a lot, so this year is about building different tiers and categories of content to keep myself inspired.

SB: Between blogging, writing for Harper’s Bazaar Australia, and school, we’re guessing you stay pretty busy. What is a typical day like for you?
MZ: My creative life revolves around my university schedule. Fashion is flexible at the best of times, and thankfully, hardcore collections times when I need to be overseas don’t tend to clash with exam seasons. My day starts with exercise and missing my train to uni, and then it’s on to classes with meetings in between, an evening dedicated to books, writing, photo-editing and social media, and explaining to my dad for the millionth time that I do not, in fact, run an online store.


Margaret in an O'2nd Coat, A.L.C. shorts, Rochas booties, and carrying a Loeffler Randall bag.

SB: From layering skirts over pants to wearing tucked-in blazers as shirts, you are fearless when it comes to fashion. Which rules, if any, are you careful to follow, and which do you love to break?
MZ: Rule to follow: dress for your personality, comfort, and body—in that order. Rule to break: wear pieces as the designer intended—hold on one second while I wear a jacket as a skirt and a sweater as a hat.

SB: What is unique about the fashion scene in Sydney, and how is your blog influenced by Australian culture?
MZ: I think our perfect contrasts of beach culture, city life, and the beautiful, natural landscapes that surround Sydney have worked well with our geographic isolation to breed our own inspirations and ways of approaching style. For me, spending a lot of time by the ocean definitely changes the way I look at my daily wardrobe, and not just because of our higher temperatures—it’s inspired a relaxed, even masculine way of mixing and matching across seasons.

SB: What advice do you have to offer aspiring fashion bloggers?
MZ: Do not aspire to be a fashion blogger. Aspire to something bigger, and use your website as a means of getting there.


Margaret in a Parker sweater, Clover Canyon skirt, Rag & Bone jacket, and Rachel Zoe sneakers.

Check out Margaret's blog, Shine by Three.
Shop What's New.

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Friday, February 21st 2014

Exclusive Interview: Oscar de la Renta

Rightly deemed the “Guru of Glamour,” Oscar de la Renta has been designing for more than 40 years and shows no signs of losing momentum. He is constantly expanding his label in order to reach new customers, never failing to produce works of sophistication and unreserved femininity on and off the runway. We talked to Oscar de la Renta about his passion for ready-to-wear and the inspiration behind his latest jewelry collection.

Shopbop: Growing up, you were interested in art. What sparked your change in focus from painting to fashion design?
Oscar de la Renta: While I was attending art school in Madrid, I started doing fashion sketches to make money. I was lucky enough to meet Cristobal Balenciaga through friends, and he gave me my first job in fashion.

SB: How did you decide to bring accessories into your label?
ODLR: I love accessories—you can completely change the look of an outfit just by switching the jewelry. It’s interesting: even though I am a designer of clothes, when I see a woman, I always look at her accessories to see if she is well dressed.

SB: We love your jewelry line. It’s the perfect balance of exotic detail and feminine refinement. What elements do you try to incorporate into every piece?
ODLR: I have always been drawn to bigger pieces. When I design ready-to-wear as well as jewelry, I like things that are bold and vibrant—I never hold back in my designs.

SB: You have dressed first ladies Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. What features of haute couture translate into your ready-to-wear lines?
ODLR: Couture is where I got my start, but my heart is in ready-to-wear. When I was still at Lanvin in the ’60s, I started to see a shift in the way women were dressing. Factories would come to Paris, buy couture patterns, remake them and sell them to women in New York. I knew ready-to-wear was the future of fashion. Today the houses that make haute couture don’t make couture to sell couture; they make it to sell other products. Ready-to-wear is a very specific thing—it is clothing that you can buy in your size. I always think of my customer when I am designing.

SB: With such unique and wide-ranging designs, you seem to have put something out there for everyone. What is one accessory you believe every woman needs?
ODLR: I think a beautiful pair of face-framing earrings is unbelievably elegant. 

Shop Oscar de la Renta jewelry.

Tuesday, February 18th 2014

An Illustration of Style

Last week we featured several hand-drawn sketches in a Swimsuits by Body Type post. We’re huge fans of line drawings in general, and so excited to be able to showcase them on Shoptalk. They were all created by our very own off-figure stylist, Kate Cullen. We wanted give you a little info on the woman behind the pen, so we sat down with her to talk work, history, and her interesting source of recent inspiration.

SHOPBOP: How long have you been working at Shopbop?
KATE CULLEN: My one year anniversary is this month!

SB: Happy anniversary! Can you explain what do you do here?
KC: I’m an off-figure stylist. I style the items on Shopbop and East Dane that are not photographed on the models. It rules. I get to give movement and life to the apparel, and I get to work with my hands. I had a foundry professor who always said, “If you work with your hands, you won’t go crazy.”

SB: That’s good advice. Foundry class? It sounds like you have a background in art.
KC: Yes! Metalwork was one of my favorites. I was a sculpture major and then moved into fashion design, so I’ve always been making, drawing, or sketching something.

SB: Nowadays, what is your favorite thing to draw?
KC: It depends on my mood. I tend to like weird, dark art, but I like drawing women and feminine features too. Lately I’ve been drawing flowers and fun things to get through this long winter! Also, a lot of houses and fairies for my little girls.

SB: What’s inspired you recently?
KC: It’s a little strange, but right now I’m obsessed with drawing the in-flight escape pictures from airplanes. I love how they make the woman incredibly calm and poised as she climbs out of the window. My goal is to make my art funny and to make people laugh.

SB: That’s amazing and awesome. Survivalist instructions aside, what do you have planned for your next drawing?
KC: Next up is my daughter’s Wonder Woman snow globe. It’s going to end up being life size, and she’s going to freak out!

Stay tuned for Kate’s next feature!

Shop What’s New.


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Monday, January 13th 2014

Talking with Cousins Undercover Anthony Carrino & John Colaneri

East Dane is all about straightforward fashion for straightforward men, and we couldn’t think of two guys who better align with that mantra than Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri of HGTV’s Cousins Undercover. We tapped the contractor pair for this week’s cover story, and snagged a few moments of their time to ask them about home remodeling, working together, and their personal style.

ON HOME REMODELING
What’s the first thing someone should do before starting a renovation?
JOHN: Have a clear, concise vision of your design and layout of the space. You need to stick to that plan, and if changes are needed try to keep them small. Too many times people shift design and focus, and that is why their projects double in time.
ANTHONY: PLANNING! That is in caps for a reason. It is absolutely paramount to your success and to staying on budget!

What’s a contractor secret every homeowner should know?
JOHN: Always have a 15% to 20% contingency when starting a project. You will find issues or problems you did not know were there nine out of ten times.
ANTHONY: If you’re afraid you can’t cut a super straight line with a skill saw freehanded, clamp a long level or straight edge to the plywood and run the guide along it—straight as an arrow.

What are your favorite sources of design inspiration?
JOHN: Travel is the best design inspiration you can have because you are able to experience different design aesthetics and elements from around the world.
ANTHONY: The blogs are endless: Remodelista, Design Milk, and Design*Sponge, just to name a few. But my ultimate source for design inspiration is travel.

What is your favorite room to renovate and why?
JOHN: I would have to say the kitchen because it is the heart of the home and is the most used room in a house.
ANTHONY: Without trying to avoid the question, I don’t have one. I just love to renovate a full room. Helping a client realize their vision is the best part of what we do, so it’s really about their needs. We are always ready for a challenge.

What’s your design go-to?
JOHN: When looking for a wall color my go-to color is grey. It goes with any design style, and it gives you the ability to use great accent colors that will really stand out.
ANTHONY: For me, it’s the use of organic or reclaimed materials. I love mixing old and new, and organic materials and shapes serve to both warm and create visual interest within a space.

If you could design a kitchen for anyone, current or historical, who would it be?
JOHN: I am a history buff so I think it would have to be John F. Kennedy.
ANTHONY: Ha! I think it would have to be Brunelleschi himself. More so because I would love to see what he thinks of our work and company (Brunelleschi Construction) named after him.

ON THEIR WORKING DYNAMIC
John, what are some of Anthony’s best work qualities?
JOHN: Anthony is a true leader when it comes to construction and business. With the over 100 workers and volunteers involved in Cousins Undercover episodes, there needs to be one person driving the ship, and Anthony is that person.

Anthony, what about John?
ANTHONY: John is the most organized guy I know, and this translates into him being a ninja on the job site. With no less than fifty moving pieces on each of our projects, it is an invaluable skill—not to mention John always has the ability to make me laugh, even at the most stressful point of a job. I think I appreciate that more than anything.

ON PERSONAL STYLE
What’s more important: comfort or style?
JOHN: They are both equal. Anthony and I always say: design and function go hand in hand.
ANTHONY: On the job site: comfort hands down. Out on the town: I like to be comfortable, but style rules. Fortunately, my style is comfort.

Any style go-tos?
JOHN: My favorite style is Contemporary Rustic.
ANTHONY: I love henleys, and they’re great for layering. As it gets colder, they look great under a button-down. My other winter go-to is a cardigan. I might have one in every color. Oh, and I can’t resist a good elbow patch.

Check out the Cousins Undercover story on East Dane.
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