When she opens the door to her Echo Park studio, the first thing I notice about Stacey Clark is a juxtaposed youthful glow against her sombre fashion sensibility. A proponent of what she labels “new Goth fury,” the bright-eyed Vancouver-born designer has a Poe-esque take on pretty frocks, as seen in the collections of her maiden label, Odilon.
Inspired by early 20th Century French symbolist painter Odilon Redon, Clark’s collection trails the wit of her muse and delves into existential query with no apologies to lace and trim. And, like her mentor, the art student-turned-designer Clark is happily able to refer to her visionary works in shades of “noirs.”
Cloaked in his own shades of black is Clark’s long-time friend and co-designer, Harold Kuhn. When Harold met Stacey, they were both fresh on the L.A. scene, eventually bonding over their love for all things fashion during their foundation studies at Otis College of Art and Design. Instant friends, Clark didn’t have to think twice about who to call when it came time to launch her label less than a year ago. The lines are as clear-cut as the fabric when it comes to the duo’s creative dynamic. “Harold is amazing with details,” gushes Clark. “I focus on materials and fit, and he adds the finishing touches that give us that innovative edge.”
Showcasing work that conspicuously nods at the horror genre, including zombies, guts, and gore, I hardly bat an eyelash when the Malibu Morticia jokes on the subject, “I’m not religious and I don’t believe in God. If anything, I believe in the other guy.”
Admittedly “finicky” with material choices, Odilon’s premier collection experiments with rabbit, Mongolian lamb hair, sheer line, spiderweb organza, and sponge neoprene. The look embodies a post-apocalyptic wasteland where only fashion, fury, and a few fierce “It” bags remain. Borrowing from her beloved artist predecessor, Clark explains the use of orange in her collection is to represent hazard signs, warning of nuclear explosives. This is rounded out by an androgynous two-piece ensemble, constructed to resemble burnt flesh.
Clark, like it or not, is determined to marry glamour and gloom with the West Coast, challenging the sunshine state to swallow one morbid garment at a time. Though it might be easier to take her threads away from the land of endless summer and over east, where her sober palette fits the mainstream palate, Clark chooses the path of a maverick, looking to carve out a niche in the West Coast market. She explains: “Our aesthetic is not very L.A., so it’s great that we are getting noticed in this market, where in New York we’d just be another up-and-coming label making a bunch of black stuff.”
Speaking to the accessibility of Alexander Wang, Clark and Kuhn are on a quest to find that middle ground where ready-to-wear meets contemporary couture. “We draw our inspiration from something we see on the runway that we just die over but could never afford, and turn that into something that you can get your hands on,” Harold comments. “I think more and more designers [like Wang] are transitioning, progressing, and emerging from this recession. It costs too much to make high-end clothes today; a $10,000 dress will not sustain itself forever. This is the new wave of design.”
The design duo manufactures all garments locally, regardless of challenges with finding the eccentric fabrics that distinguishes a body of work the cheeky Clark describes as: “What young people would be wearing in the streets at the end of the world.”
But be it stand out or standoffish, the 20-something entrepreneur would rather stay true to her merit than sell out to the mercy of the mainstream. “I try to avoid pop culture,” she proclaims. “I would prefer my brand be respected in the art community. I don’t want party girls and pop stars in my clothing, as they come and go quickly and I want my clothing to remain timeless.”
Deep in production for Spring 2011, their second collection, Odilon draws inspiration this time from travel and nature, dabbling into geode-inspired printmaking on silk and mesh. Steadily moving forward, Clark admits to still “kicking herself” for not completing her Art History degree, but perhaps Odilon’s plans for a men’s line, a basic line, and hopefully a few flagships stores under her belt over the next decade will be enough to quell her laments for academia — “other guy” willing, that is.
What’s in your iPod?
Klaus Nomi – “Lightening Strikes”
Q Lazzarus – “Goodbye Horses”
3. The Band – “Stage Fright”
4. Junior Kimborough – “Meet Me in the City”
5. Blind Faith – “Can’t Find My Way Home”
How tight do you perceive the bond to be between the world of fashion and the world of music?
I think it’s strong because of the type of creative people that involve themselves in both industries. They go hand in hand, really, as it goes with all the arts. What we all do is inspire one another and seek a creative outlet. The fashion industry takes a lot of influences from the music industry, not only with mainstream music in the media but with sub-culture music. You’ll see a front man in a band wearing some random outfit he probably bought at a Goodwill, or stole from a friend that got it at a Goodwill, and next season there it will be on the runway with a huge price tag on it. I love it.
When you’re working on a new collection, do you find the music you are into at the time finds its way into your designs?
I don’t know if the music influences the collection as much as the collection influences what music I’m listening too.
Which band out there right now has the best sense of style?
Charlotte Gainsburg has both great style in her dress and in her creations in music.