You were raised in Long Island and are currently based in New York. How would you define New York’s fashion?
New York is my home, and I live here because it’s my absolute favorite city in the world. It’s constantly moving and changing; exactly as it is in the world of fashion. New Yorkers are on the cutting edge and no matter what part of town you visit, New York City is a constant source of inspiration.
You began your journey into fashion when you made a quilt for your newborn son, which you then began producing for a high-end children’s boutique. Have you always had an interest in fashion or was it a talent you realized later in life? At what moment did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
The arts for me came easy. As a young girl I was a visual artist who loved to sketch, draw and paint. I consider myself an artist who works with many mediums, design included, which now identifies me as a designer.
You’re a classically trained conductor and concert pianist. What parallels do you notice between creating music and creating clothing designs?
Whether conducting music or designing a garment, each part must be cohesive to ensure success to the total outcome. My love for music can be seen in most of my garments and is reflected by the movement, the color and even certain fabric choices.
You opened your Fifth Avenue atelier in 1998. How have you seen the fashion industry transform since then?
The challenging economic times have altered the way my clients may now shop. Where they once came in to purchase multiple garments, today they might be more conscious to buy just what they need.
You have said, “The woman I design for does not want to look like everyone else.” What specific elements in your designs set the wearer apart from the crowd?
I am a custom couture designer, so each garment is designed specifically for that particular client to flatter their body type while considering their coloring, age and personal style sensibility.
How would you define your personal style?
The artist in me reflects many personal styles. Whether I dress Bohemian, classic or formal, it’s important I am feeling mentally and physically comfortable in what I’m wearing, and it will always be in heels!
How would you describe your typical day?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had a “typical day” since my business opened! In true NY style, I wake up and hit the ground running! Overseas phone calls start before the crack of dawn, a few emails to send and then I’m off. I might first stop at the garment district to check out some new fabrics, but then it’s directly to the studio. Mostly, when I arrive, I’m greeted like Snow White at the door by her seven dwarfs, each with an urgent matter, one more important than the other, and all needing to be handled at once! Throughout the day, when I’m not designing, I’m in consultations and fittings with clients, conducting staff meetings, organizing an upcoming fashion show, overseeing my production team, and generally keeping all the balls in the air at the same time.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
My true style sensibility is inspired by the old house of Dior, Balenciaga and Valentino.
You recently dressed Jennifer Lopez for her ” American Idol” performance, quite a feat. What would you consider the defining moment in your career? The proudest moment?
I would have to say that my proudest moment came when a certain high-profile, well-heeled client, known for her style, purchased multiple pieces from my collection.
You have a number of high-profile celebrity clients – Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Fergie, Jennifer Lopez, Giuliana Rancic, Halle Berry, Rihanna. Who is your favorite celebrity to dress, and why? What dream client do you feel would best represent your designs, either because of build or their personal traits?
I can’t say as they I have a favorite client. They are a myriad of personalities and styles, so each allow me to explore different avenues. As my designs are custom couture, I feel as though I need to represent them with a design specifically created with the client in mind.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt recently announced their engagement. With your expertise in bridal gowns, what kind of gown do you envision for Angelina?
I envision old world Hollywood; simple, sleek and sensual. I don’t see Angelina in anything overstated, glitzy or overly accessorized.
When designing for celebrities, do you find yourself working more with their stylists or directly with the celebrities?
We mainly work with the celebrity’s stylist, but on some occasion, a celebrity will stop in to select her own clothes.
What trends have you noticed in red carpet attire? What types of trends do you foresee?
This year we’re seeing more covered arms and bare backs. I’m not a believer in trends, but I do believe it’s imperative that whatever you’re wearing is comfortable.
Which celebrities are always flawless, and which do you think could use a little help?
In my opinion, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence and Charlize Theron are flawless. The celebrities who need help are those who may be listening to the wrong style advice.
One of your evening gown designs was featured on ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” What were your thoughts about creating a gown exclusively for television? Were there any challenges or special considerations?
Bachelorette Ashley Hebert’s stylist pulled from hundreds of designs we had for her to select from, then Ashley chose and wore five gowns; one for the show’s premiere, one for the finale and three were worn for promotional shots.
From what do you draw your inspiration? Are you inspired by any particular people, places, eras?
I am inspired by all of the above. With an artist’s eye I notice beauty in so many ways; the colors of spring, visiting a NY museum or traveling to a new and exotic country, each facet is diverse and inspiring. I’m also a huge fan of the true Hollywood glamour era.
Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothing.
There really isn’t a ‘general process’ as the approach varies if I’m designing something custom, with a particular client in mind, or if the design is something that’s just coming from my heart and soul.
What do you believe makes a quality article of clothing?
The most important element in any garment is the fit; if it doesn’t fit properly, it will not be making the correct statement.
How would you define the style your line exemplifies?
I feel as though it expresses a timeless statement, in fashion elegance with particular attention to detail.
What are your favorite colors/fabrics/patterns to work with, and why?
My favorite color is lilac and I have used it some designs. Each fabric is different and I enjoy working with each of them as they create their own inspiration and direction.
Your intricate beaded gowns are stunning. Can you tell us about the process? How long does it typically take to complete such a complex design, from start to finish? What kind of craftsmanship is employed?
Each garment that is hand beaded varies in time based on the amount of area to cover and exactly how intricate the design is. For an entire beaded gown, from idea conception to development it might take anywhere from two to four months, with total completion in an additional four month period.
With the recent passing of Francois Lesage, the last heir of the House of Lesage, is it difficult to find skilled beaders outside of France? Do you feel such skilled artisans are a dying breed?
YES, YES, YES!!! Most unfortunately, it is a dying breed. Luckily I have a few gems on my team!