05 July 2007

panda head interviews...

mary economides and alyssa lesser are eleni/lynn, a fashion and design project borne of shared interest, high school fashion shows, and a combination of middle names. with a design aesthetic beyond their years (they just turned 17) and a creativity level that allows them to turn trash into 'A Million Bucks' - their latest collection of clothing made entirely of recycled materials, expect nothing less than big things from these two bethesda girls.

how would you describe your personal styles? to what extent is that reflected in your creations?
We like found objects, mixing the old with the new, cheap with expensive, class with trash. No head-to-toe designer! But always something chic, or an attempt at some sort of concept. There’s also a penchant here for really obscure tee shirts.
We do some re-worked vintage shirts and one-of-a-kind items, and also buy most of our fabrics from no-name stores in Downtown LA - this reflects the appeal of owning something unique. Yet, at the same time, we want to put everything else we love into our clothes, and have no objection to mass-production. We enjoy modernizing vintage cuts and customizing patterns.
how did you two meet, and when/how did you realize you could work together to design?
Alyssa: We have gone to school and been friends since we were about seven. In elementary school, we would sit around at recess and draw little dresses and outfits. Mary's mom always buys Vogue and W and WWD and is very fashion-forward, so we kind of ogled all that stuff together. And my mom sews a lot and my grandmother was a dress designer so...it's in the blood?
Anyway, one day around 7th grade or so, we got bored and started chopping up old stuff on our own and hand sewing. The next summer we claimed a small sewing room and started making other things...jewelry and tote bags and re-worked tee shirts...When we got to high school, there was a fashion society which puts on a show every May. For the show, you can show individual outfits or a collection, but everything has to be made from scratch. So we just kind of started there. We typically like all of the same things and get along very well, so it just worked...
what are your individual design strengths? what part of the design process are each of you really good at?
Alyssa: We’ll get a lot of random concepts together and kind of play off of each others’ ideas. I typically do the sketches. Then Mary will refine some of the crazy things. I may think up a ridiculous silhouette, and Mary will be the one taking it apart at 2am and making it more wearable. Then we’ll re-design together.
We both sew and construct, but a lot of the time Mary does more machine/construction-based sewing while I do more hand-sewing and detailing. I’m really anal about tiny details and touches. I’ll spray paint while Mary holds the hanger.
how many school fashion shows have you guys taken part in? are your pieces well-received?
Mary: We just finished our third show for school! We’re also pretty well-received, especially this year. I don’t think people paid as much attention until this year. People definitely took notice, since we used different materials.
tell me more about the recycled dresses!
Alyssa: We made a pact two years ago that we’d do this. We have grown up in Bethesda around a lot of kids who advertise stores across their chests with no other personal style, and found it quite humorous. We thought it would be funny to see people advertising every-day products. It kind of evolved into wondering if we could make something cute and desirable out of something that would normally be thrown out. And the idea of something cheap that looked expensive. All the pieces are on muslin...we used unconventional and recyclable materials – saved water-bottle wrappers and caps, deliciously tacky party banners, wrapping paper, lollipops, trash bags, duct tape, newspaper, bandanas, and felt. One dress is made out of old toys and things we found at the dollar store. But it was an absurd amount of work...
will you do something in a fashion or design-related field after high school?
Most definitely. We’re applying to a slew of fashion schools in the fall, and praying that they want to take us. We are a splendid team, and would love to keep designing together later in life. If not designing, we definitely want jobs in the industry.
who or what are your style inspirations?
Well, other fashion is a big inspiration: Heatherette, Jeremy Scott, “pre-crap” Jacobs, YSL, Luella Bartley, Betsey Johnson, Derek Lam, Moschino, Oscar, Heidi Slimane. Oh god, Slimane. Paul Frank has also been a wonderful friend and mentor. We love Andy Warhol to a creepy extent. He did clothes at one point. A Brillo logo dress! That really influenced some of the stuff in the last collection. David Hockney for his color use. And Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson films. Also, old 60s stars – Jane Birkin, Edie Sedgwick, Nico...music influences everything in my life – everything from the New York and DC punk scenes to Rufus Wainwright’s oxford shirts. Our designs always have that tinge of rock and roll in them. I’m telling you, nothing I wear or make would be the same without David Bowie. Or shoegaze. And of course, you always want to look good on stage and in the club.
where do you guys like to shop in and around DC?
Mary: Our mothers’ closets. Seriously. I raid my mom’s Chanel and Yurman jewelry...I also thrift at the Op Shop in Bethesda and Montgomery County Thrift. Express has good basics.
Alyssa: Yeah, my mom’s got some great stuff. I got a great pair of vintage Gucci loafers. For free! We love Meeps, too. And we hit up American Apparel and H&M for basics. Neimans, Saks, and Nordstrom for the special stuff. And Urban has good $1 sales.
what does the future hold for eleni/lynn?
We’d like to make and sell to people who want things. Hopefully, we’ll get good design educations, and keep getting better at what we do. We’re also extremely passionate about menswear, but we want to learn how to cut and fit perfectly. We want to dress the world...
do you guys have any opinions on DC style, in general?
Alyssa: I’m not going to give you the generic “DC SUCKS!” answer here, because I don’t think it’s true, at all. I just don’t think it’s as large-scale here. I’m in LA and New York every couple of months, and there are more concentrated fashion and music and art districts in LA and New York. People are different. My mom works on Capitol Hill – people are very conservative on Capitol Hill, because rigidity is in the air. Kids at the Cat will play more dress up because they’re out meeting people and having fun.
I’m not superficial to the point where I think there’s a problem with the city. I’d love to see people being “stylish,” sure, but who am I to define style? As long as people wear what they like and what makes them happy, I’m happy.
Mary: We’ve also had a good chance to experiment with high fashion, but a lot of other people here just use their money to blend in. And we don’t want people to wear our dresses just because they might be “in” one day, or because other people like them. We want people to wear whatever it is that makes them happy and excited.

interview: morgan. picture 1 of alyssa and mary; pictures 2 & 3 of their designs. all photos by alyssa lesser. for more on eleni/lynn, visit their myspace page.


Anonymous amy of treatdc.com said...

*high five* to these young gals.

9:56 AM  

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