Andrew Bevan and Erin Fetherston at Teen Vogue Fashion University.
It is tempting to think that every successful fashion designer was an overnight sensation, that at first glance of his or her premiere collection, the press wanted full coverage and the consumers wanted bigger closets filled with to the brim with those clothes. But in reality, most designers’ entrance into the fashion world is slow and calculated. Take Erin Fetherston for example, who decided that she wanted a well-rounded liberal arts education before applying to fashion school. The San Francisco Bay Area native graduated from UC Berkeley as a sociology major, an area of study that would later help her “read trends and interpret them.” Erin told the auditorium full of Teen Vogue Fashion University students that taking this time to gather a different set of skills helped her develop a sense of self and her own unique point of view of the world. She explained that in this post-modern era, “we’re constantly referencing other things,” and receiving a well-rounded education helped her form her own set of references.
Fetherston’s Fall 2005 Haute Couture show was inspired by the “Alice in Wonderland’ sequel, “Through the Looking Glass.”
Don’t be fooled, however: Erin Fetherston had a plan. After experiencing everything she possibly could at UC Berkeley, she attended Parson’s School of Design in Paris, adding a whole new dimension to her already multi-faceted point of view. “Being a good fashion designer is about being in touch with what’s going on in the world,” Erin said. While in Paris, she jumped straight into the couture world, presenting her first eponymous label in January 2005 at the Paris Haute Couture Shows. “I had so little to show for myself, but I had such a vision of what I wanted to do,” Fetherston told the tenacious crowd of young fashion lovers, all itching to get started on their own sartorial adventure.
With the world of fashion design becoming more and more noisy and crowded, it is imperative that a truly sincere designer carves out his or her own special niche in the industry. Erin says she foresaw an “expression of femininity that was not present” in the current runway shows. She went against the current of popular culture to create a space that provided an “alternative way to present yourself and to be a woman.” The Erin Fetherston line has come to be synonymous with femininity — think Cinderella meets Alice in Wonderland mixed with Audrey Hepburn meets your five-year-old cousin. In fact, Erin says she draws inspiration from Cinderella when contemplating designs. “[The dress] helped her turn into the princess that she was,” she said. “I truly believe clothing has the power to be transformative.”
Her Spring 2013 lookbook features pop star Alexandra McDermott.
Erin’s designs have recently undergone transformation themselves with the introduction of ERIN Erin Fetherston, the designer’s lower price-point label. Erin says the goal behind her branching off from the couture world was to create “a product that has a lot of design but is ultimately accessible.” She tries not to feel limited by designing for a lower price point, stating that it involves “another kind of creativity.” Besides figuring out the logistics of how to find less expensive fabrics that are still on pare with Erin Fetherston luxe, the designer now has to comply with designing the ten collections per year that are required of contemporary lines. Andrew Bevan, the Teen Vogue Style Features Editor, was interested in learning how Erin is able to find enough inspiration to churn out so many unique pieces.Fetherston told Bevan and the Fashion U students that she is constantly archiving images that she likes. “Creativity is like a sponge,” she declared. “You need to saturate it with images, ideas, etc. Once its really full is when you are able to squeeze out ideas.”
So all of you couture-crazed, style obsessed readers out there, take note: keep doing what you’re doing. Surround yourself with things that interest you, be it sociology or the history of fashion design, and submerge yourself in every form of the culture that you can lay your hands on. And there is no need to rush—it takes time to create a legacy. When asked about her legacy, Erin Fetherston responded by saying that it was comprised of the feeling that people have when they put on a dress that she’s made. From caterpillar to pale pink, lace-clad butterfly, it’s all about the transformation.
– Madeline McCallum