It’s no secret that San Francisco has been a hotbed for today’s rising young design stars. For those still in the dark, its recent “graduates” have been Alexander Wang, Derek Lam and Peter Som. For Bay Area native Erin Fetherston, dreams of becoming a fashion designer were always in her cards. From the mere age of four, as she shimmied into her first tutu, she infused her life with fantasy and glamour, which has remained a part of her world and has become her signature aesthetic embedded throughout her namesake collections. Though she graduated from UC Berkeley with a visual arts degree in 2002, she moved to Paris to pursue her love of fashion, studied at Parsons, and went on to create her first collection in 2005. Her feminine and ethereal designs have caught the attention of young Hollywood actresses and led to collaborations with Ellen von Unwerth, Kirsten Dunst, Zooey Deschanel and Karen Elson. Erin’s talent has also caught the attention of the critical eye of fashion as she was a finalist in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, as well as receiving honors from the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation and UPS sponsored competition. SOMA took a moment to sit down with Fetherston and talk about growing up in the Bay Area.
How has growing up in the Bay Area influenced your design aesthetic? Did it change when you went to Paris?
I am always inspired by nature and the world around me. Having grown up in Northern California, nature was a major part of my childhood and that early inspiration is a recurring reference in my work as a designer. California also breeds its own style of effortless chic, and that is a value that I also naturally integrate into my designs. Other values come from my time in Paris, where the idea of what is chic is obviously very different. Although I am attracted to fantasy and glamour, there is always an ease to my clothing. I believe nothing should ever be too difficult to wear.
Had you always planned on being a fashion designer while at UC Berkeley?
In all honesty, it was always something I wanted to do. I graduated with a visual arts degree, and I think fashion is really relevant, because it is the art medium that people are interacting with every day.
What are you most inspired by?
I find inspiration in the physical forms of nature, people, architecture, old films and books. I also have a pretty vast imagination. I think the seed of every collection starts there, from some kind of layered fantasy. Spring 2010 was inspired by the memory of a childhood visit to Nara, Japan, a place I remember as a pink forest overrun with wild deer. The imagery of this magical place informed the fabrics, colors and spirit of this collection.
What have been your favorite trends in fashion?
I love the belted look. A cinched waist creates such a lovely feminine silhouette. I also love the idea of layering. Fall is my favorite time of year because it really allows you to be creative with your outfits and add different pieces to really create a unique and inspiring look.
What do you think are the necessary elements to be commercially viable while still remaining an independent designer?
I am interested in designing for a specific woman and her needs. I am obviously not designing for everyone. The women I design for are original and have a great sense of unique style. It is playful and pretty, and it can be sexy and naive all at the same time. I think the most important thing about being a designer is staying true to your vision, and the women that want your product will hopefully see that and remain a faithful customer.
Are there any future collaborations planned?
I am always writing and drawing and daydreaming. My mind is always wandering onto the next project. I have been so lucky to have so many amazing opportunities and work with so many great people, and I am so excited to see what else the future holds.
Where would you like to see your career in a few years from now?
I would love to see the Erin Fetherston line develop into a lifestyle brand. I feel so passionately about my vision, and I would love to see it come to life in the world of accessories, media, home decor and beauty. I would love to see the girl that wears my clothes live in a total Erin Fetherston universe.
– Hillary Latos
This reading is by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Erin Fetherston.
1. Extremely polite, almost to a fault. This is someone who would have trouble shutting the door in the face of persistent missionaries and would end up with a box of leaflets they had no wish for.
2. This person has great talent when touching, soothing and working with living things, yet has exactly the opposite of a talent with machinery.
3. Should they choose to develop it, there is the potential for a great talent playing with cards and possibly stage magic.
4. She is a gentle soul, able to handle the most fragile of things—both material things, such as butterflies and emotional things, like the hearts of friends—without forcing them or bending them out of shape.
5. Recognition will always be more important to this person than money.
6. This is someone with the ability to see the broad picture and also see how the smallest details make up that picture.
7. An excellent listener. This person is able to allow all of that listening to add up to clear pictures and put it all together in a creative way.
8. This is someone who has known what they want to be when they grow up ever since they could speak and think. A single area of career, somewhat outside the box, but recognizable and highly creative will be pursued and followed.