Recently I was lucky enough to score an interview with emerging, NYC-based designer, Alison Lewis. Before founding her eponymous label, Lewis, Alison was one of the designers behind the now defunct label, Mooka Kinney. If you haven’t heard of Mooka Kinney, you’ve definitely seen it; Sarah Jessica Parker wore a Mooka Kinney sundress in the Sex & The City movie, right at that brutal moment where she throws her phone into the Mexican ocean.
Fast forward a few years later and Lewis have just released their Spring 2010 collection. We thought it was the perfect time to get the down low from Alison on where Lewis are heading, the inspiration behind their collections and all the other behind-the-scenes info that we needed to know.
1. You started Lewis in 2008 after Mooka Kinney disbanded. Did you always plan to start your own label?
Mooka Kinney gave me the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business and when my partner and I parted ways I was unsure what to do. A friend took me to the Louse Bourgeois retrospective at the Guggenheim and it dawned on me that I had to keep going, I had so many unused ideas and inspirations. It was liberating in a way to design on my own and have the collection be completely from my point of view.
2. Who/what inspires Lewis?
I am constantly finding inspiration – New York City is a great place to be inspired. I usually wander around parks, museums and neighborhoods I’ve never been to. My favorite go-to spots are the Natural History Museum, The Strand, and all the flea markets. I am a big collector of things; old perfume bottles, shells, mini figurines, mushrooms, records, needlepoint and I could go on. Living in a small studio I have to edit what I collect but it makes finding the special things even better. My Spring 2010 collection was very inspired by teenage rebellion – being young in love. I channeled my high school summers, going to carnivals, sneaking into neighborhood pools at night and living in a my favorite vintage dress all summer. This came about from some old letters I had from high school between a friend and I (I keep everything).
3. Where do you see yourself/Lewis in 5 years?
I just hope I am still lucky enough to be designing clothes – and growing the brand. I am so thrilled with how far its come in 3 season and to be able to keep that going would be a dream come true.
4. You didn’t study fashion at school – what are your tips for someone wanting to start a label from scratch?
I was always really interested in fashion, and always a vintage collector – I studied graphic design in school (which actually helped a lot with the label).
I would just say, put yourself out there and ask a lot of questions, so many people helped me get where I am today, the guy at the fabric store, trim store, other designers etc. I never hesitate to help people either – it feels nice to be able to contribute.
5. Any sneak peeks/hints about Lewis’ next collection?
It just came out last week at fashion week! As I mentioned earlier it’s based off teenage rebellion. We shot the look book and film at Coney Island. We were lucky enough to get to shoot in the closed down part which gave a really nice vintage, bad girls sneaking into the carnival kind of feel. We even got a local to make a cameo in the video!
6. How would you describe your own personal look?
I’m a California girl at heart – I would love to live in jean shorts, my boyfriends t-shirts, and Keds (the models were styled with Keds in my presentation last week). I also love vintage and pieces you can wear in more than one way. I have a sweater vest that works as a mini dress and tops I can layer up in different ways. I think like Lewis my style is vintage inspired but with a modern twist. I would often find vintage clothing when I was younger and alter it in some way to update it.
7. Are there any famous designers you look up to?
I have always loved the timelessness of Jane Mayle’s pieces – everything I own of hers I will keep forever and will never go out of style. I also love Zero Maria Cornejo and that idea of wearing pieces in multiple ways (plus her pieces are so comfortable yet chic).
8. What is your average day like?
Things are constantly changing depending on when it is in the season, I am always collecting inspiration, and when I’m in production I spend a lot of time at the factory. I also spend time at my showroom, Archetype. And of course a lot of emailing and organizing!
9. What is the best experience you’ve had since starting out in the fashion world?
In the beginning I think people thought I was crazy, how would I ever pull this off – I think seeing how far I’ve come is the most rewarding part – as far as isolated incidents seeing Jenny Lewis (one of my favorite musicians) on stage wearing my designs was out of this work amazing. Also it didn’t hurt to have a dress on SJP in the Sex and the City Movie!
10. Do you have any other ventures in the pipeline, and if so, what?
I am always looking forward to doing collaborations, dressing people I look up and designing the next season. I have started designing my own prints which is really exciting and hope to just keep the collection growing each season.
PHOTO CREDITS: Brantley Gutierrez. Also, check out this video of the Spring 2010 lookbook shoot.