I love your Fall 2012 collection, what was the inspiration?
It was the idea of old Hollywood glamour mixed with the rugged elegance of the American West.
What is your favorite piece in the new collection?
I love the pieces that are about the balance of unexpected elements, like the mohair lace tweed dress with tough leather details. The tailored sleeveless wool peacoat in camel is a must.
What are 3 things that will instantly update a woman’s wardrobe for fall?
A feminine piece in leather like a blouse or a dress. A chunky sweater with great texture. A skirt, dress or top, in lace, to mix with more masculine pieces.
What should a woman splurge on this season? Where can she save?
I am consistent in my advice on this. Avoid any pieces that scream trend! If you can’t imagine yourself wearing it a few years from now, certainly don’t splurge on it. You want to invest in pieces that are timeless. The pieces you love this minute are certainly fun, but that’s where you can save. I think coats and beautiful tailored jackets are always worth investing in. Crazy prints should never break the bank.
In terms of beauty, what looks do you love this season?
With clothes that are very polished I like the idea of hair that’s pulled back off the face, but a bit loose and undone; makeup that’s barely-there but with red lips as a punctuation point. It’s a modern interpretation of the old Hollywood glamour moment.
You have inspired countless young designers via Project Runway, what advice do you wish more young designers would follow?
To get out and talk to their customers. I learned an enormous amount when I started out by doing trunk shows and personal appearances. I believe that in order to be successful as a designer--to have longevity--you have to be solving a problem for your customers. If you don’t know what she needs, you can’t do that. It’s that simple!
What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome in the fashion business?
I would say staying up with the rate of change in the industry. Being an American designer once meant being happy to have your clothes in some great specialty and department stores in this country. No one thought about designers having their own stores or about fashion being global, nevermind what something called the internet would do to the business! So it’s being willing to stay on top of those changes because once you think you already know it all, you’re done.
Travel, movies, interiors, books, art—there are so many places designers find inspiration. What are a few of your favorite sources of inspiration when you are dreaming up a collection?
I look everywhere, from books to film to art exhibits. But I’d have to say the most deeply textured source of inspiration for me is travel. Everything from the local culture, craftsmanship, landscape, light or architecture, can spark an idea for something that can then be translated into the entire story of a collection.
Travel is a big part of your life. What is your dream destination right now and why?
I’ve been to Africa on safari but I am very curious about the Seychelles; I think I’ll head there next year. I’ve heard amazing things about the different islands--mostly that they’re still not widely discovered--and want to get there before they start to transform.
Of all of your travels, what remains the place you love most in the world?
New York of course! There’s simply no place like it for cultural diversity, for intellectual stimulation, for creative inspiration, for an awe-inspiring skyline. And of course for shopping, theater and Murray’s Bagels!
You’ve lived downtown in NYC for decades, what are some of your neighborhood haunts?
Marie’s Crisis for piano-bar singalongs. Cafe Loup for its neighborhoody vibe and gang of old-school Village regulars. Knickerbocker Grill for the steak and creamed spinach. Three Lives bookstore for the incredibly well edited selection and informed staff. Angel Feet for its amazing reflexology foot massages (just make sure you whisper the minute you walk through the door!)
A key part of the AERIN brand is a focus on effortlessness. What are a few things that simplify your life?
My personal wardrobe is very much about having a uniform. I stick with black and white, which saves an enormous amount of time getting dressed on a daily basis and when I’m packing. Black jacket, black tee and white or blue jeans will get me through almost every situation!
What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?
If I’m in New York, I’m at the theatre, preferably a good musical. Otherwise I love to be somewhere with sun, sand and water.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Caviar. Pizza. Ghirardelli dark chocolate. A stack of tabloids.
What makes you laugh?
My two cats, named after my eccentric great-aunts Bunny and Viola, and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
What are you the most proud of in your life?
That I’ve continued to grow and evolve as a designer and a person, but stay true to myself, and what I believe.