Interview with fashion designer Stacy Twilley of TWILLEY ATELIER
Fashion designer, Stacy Twilley is no stranger to the luxury market coming from 15 years of experience as the co-founder of Modern Luxury Media. With such knowledge and experience, Stacy takes on the fashion stage creating collections for what she discovered that real women want: effortless and fresh wearable pieces delivered with superb craftsmanship.
CM: Given your unique background in the magazine world- what has influenced you as a designer?
ST: Having started so many magazines in so many cities, you really get a sense of both the differences in each city with how women dress and the commonalities of what they look for in the clothing. What I really set out to do with my line in particular was to make clothing that would appeal to the base levels of what I think my customers, what “my girl” is looking for – high quality classic pieces that they can then make their own. Like the girl in Dallas who wears my dress is going to wear them fundamentally different than the girl in San Francisco. The one in Chicago is going to wear them much differently than the girl in Miami. They are all looking for the same kind of ideas in things. They want to look as elegant as their mothers and as cool as their daughters but not dress as either one of them. That is a niche that I found missing.
CM: How did you get into the fashion magazine world?
ST: When we started the magazines we were in grad school. He was getting his PHD in American Literature and I was getting my masters in Anthropology. Never in a million years did we ever think that we would do anything like that. I thought I was falling in love with a guy that was going to be an English professor and he thought I was going to be in Africa with my long braids coming back from studying tribes or something. Long story short, it was sort of a need at the moment. We were both disenchanted with what we were doing in school. We had an idea and went for it. Honestly, the timing was right. It was the beginning of the 90’s and that whole luxury wave hit. We looked at it more anthropologically. There’s a need, a market and then worked our asses off. We were young enough to not know how stupid the idea was to start a magazine from scratch on our own. We were lucky we had a lot of really amazing people that we brought on early that stayed with us for 15 years. That’s really the reason the magazine was such a success. Brilliant editors, photographers, writers – everybody who contributed to it. We tried to do something that nobody had done before. We were local magazines on a national platform so that we could compete with Vogue, Cosmo and Elle.
CM: How does your inspiration translate into your collection?
ST: I designed two kinds of collections first – Fall 2014 and Spring 2015. Fall ‘15 is currently in stores and Spring ‘16 is the first full spring collection. Now, we are designing Fall ‘16 and as a new designer, I’m inspired by a lot of things that all piece together. I don’t set out with “here’s my plan and I’m going after it”. Some of the inspiration comes behind me and some of it organically just comes together. Ultimately I want to end up with a collection with every piece being something I would really want to wear. If there’s a piece of clothing that I don’t necessarily like wearing, or think it doesn’t look good on me, I just wouldn’t make it. Like for example, a vest – I don’t think I could wear it with any conviction. I love it on everyone else and it’s very out there for fall. I even toyed with making one but I don’t think I could wear it.
CM: How do you have the time with 3 daughters?
ST: For me it’s not “this is work time, this is family time”. I’m lucky because I can do the designs from my home. With my teen girls, you have to be around yet you don’t have to be around. While I have to be available and around for them if they need me and know that I’m present, they know I have to have a life, too. And while they’re doing homework what would I be doing? Watching House of Cards, which I love. (laughs) This is the best of both worlds. How they spend their time works really well for me and it’s fun working at home because they get to see what I’m working on. One of my girls is a fit model and I take pictures of her in the clothes so I can see how something is fitting. She’s the perfect model size, it’s fun.
CM: What do you think real women want?
ST: I think that some designers do design to an ideal woman. And I’m not exactly sure what life she’s leading but it’s not the one I’m leading since I think I’m pretty average. My real woman likes modern but not avante garde; to look feminine, even in men’s wear or the androgynous. My woman also works hard on her body and takes care of herself and wants to reflect that and not cover herself in lots and lots of fabric. Also, real women want quality from what they purchase and that’s what I’m going after.
CM: What is the future of Twilley Atelier?
ST: I don’t look too far down the road to be totally honest (laughs). Like with the magazine if you ever told me that when we started it that we would have turned into 33 magazines in 14 cities and sold at the height of media sales, I would have been in shock. I would have laughed. So I just want another success story; another successful business. I want to do it with the integrity, the spirit and the love that we did with our first business. That includes the community and family. That is why I am approaching the business by just reaching out to boutiques in key cities we want to be in. I won’t take an order just from anybody. There’s only certain boutiques I want to work with and only certain cities that I think we understand right now to really build community and service it as a community and to partner with our boutiques so that we’re not just going out for these big orders. It feels right that way. It feels like family. Like when we’re at a trunk show, my husband and my three daughters are there; the buyers get to meet my whole family. Like it or not there they are (laughs). They all contribute work – my daughters are hanging clothes back up and my husband is pouring champagne. I like that and most of these boutiques we meet with are family businesses too. They are run by people who are really putting their sweat, blood and tears into it. So there’s a commonality there that I really like and I would like to grow and service that network of family community sense. We’re at that critical point where we’re too small to do certain things yet too big not to so it’s a lot of work right now.