Five days earlier, we dropped by the Nanette Lepore showroom-slash-design studio. That's five days before the designer was set to show her fall/winter 2014 collection at the tents. And it was just as how you'd imagine it'd be: a high-pressure whirlwind of creative chaos and mad genius in play. "Every season is a different form of hectic, but this season I'm really stressed out," she confided to InStyle.com. "The year started off with so much snow, it was hard to feel motivated, and now it feels more behind than usual."
We arrived at Lepore's atelier in the heart of NYC's fashion district at 9 a.m., witnessing pattern-makers, seamstresses, print-designers, and of course, Lepore herself, already hard at work. "We're so lucky because we still have a design room," Lepore said proudly. "It's an old model, since most companies manufacture overseas now—which is a little sad." With an in-house studio, any tweak or alteration can be made on the spot (and with the added pressure of finalizing a collection for a show just days away, it's a necessity).
Her fall 2014 collection points to that idea as well, celebrating artisanal details and craftsmanship—but on a global scale, with inspired embroideries, prints and patterns from all over. Her line might have an international feel, but the starting point hits a lot closer to home. "The print we developed was actually from this funny little piece I bought from the flea market," said Lepore as she rummaged to find it. "I was looking for something that was evocative in terms of the embroidery or print." From that singular fabric, her collection came to life. Take a tour through her studio and find out her favorite pieces, her lessons learned, and more.
1. The Starting Point of Her Collection
"The print we developed was actually from this funny little piece that I bought from the flea market. When we were feeling lost last fall, I went to the flea market-and found this. I was looking for something that was evocative in terms of the embroidery or print."
2. From Inspiration to Print
"My print designer scanned it in, but it was very linear, so we worked on patching it up and chopping it. It took weeeks and months. There was quite a bit of manipulation. That was a big to-do to get that right."
3. Nanette Lepore's Favorite Piece
"This is an embroidered fabric that Sarah (the fabric buyer) developed that we pleated to add to that next level of texture. It's really light, but it has this weightiness to it because it’s an embroidery," Lepore says. "I like that it’s camel and black, which feels very traditional fall. I tried to include neutrals this season because I’ve learned in fall, it is harder to wear such bright colors unless you can find a way to anchor them with something that's not just black."
4. The Fabric Swatches for Fall 2014
One fabric Lepore pointed out one of her favorite fabrics: "This is a great felted speckle that everyone's mad about. It's a modern boucle, but flattened out." Another challenge she faced was perfecting the dark merlot shade (which opened her show). "We've been over-dyeing it to get the shade exactly right because everything came in off-color."
5. Dressmaking 101
One of the preliminary steps: Laying out paper measurements on fabric before they're cut.
6. A Nanette Lepore Fall 2014 Design
"I don’t always get to have something this casual in my line," Lepore explains. "We have to walk the balance. It can't be jeans-y because that's really not my customer. If it looks polished, then we can have that more fun piece."
7. Her Resort 2014 Line
"In the meantime, in the design rom, Julie (who designed our beautiful fall prints) is trying to push me to decide what we’re going to do for resort. We’re trying to get our resort laid out because if we don’t, we're going to get really behind. We have some ideas, some pops of color, this beautiful fabric-we’re playing with this concept."
8. "Re-coloring" the Shoes, Before and After
"The shoes came in too too iridescent and rainbow-y, so we're sanding the metallic off. I think it looks kind of like flannel now, which I like."
9. Working in Front of the Mirror
"I had a pattern-maker for 20 years, and she taught me to always work in a mirror, and that’s such an important thing because it’s how something will be seen. That’s why I always need to get the dummy or a real model to stand in the mirror in order for me to work."
10. Evolving From Lace
"Lace has been in for so long, so we’re moving out of lace and moving into a texture netty look."
11. Reminiscing on Previous Collection
We always reference the "fireplace show," Lepore says. "That was when we used to do these elaborate backdrops and they were so much fun. It was when everything had a character, things were a little more cartoony, a little more whimsical. We always pull out the (look)books when we're working on a show."
12. NYFW Lessons Learned
"I used to stop three or four days before the show. Now, I just keep going because I know I can always improve on what I have. Sometimes you just feel better if you keep pushing and working until you feel like it’s really right," Lepore says. "And editing is key. I still have a hard time letting go of some things, and I try to push everything into the show and would have these big fights with stylists. I've learned to step back and edit."