Most women of a certain age, especially those who've had a few kids, face a fashion dilemma: how to look chic and stylish without veering either into youthful indiscretion (Forever 21 doesn't mean you really are) or what the founders of the Electra Lang clothing line call the "Bea Arthur" or "Stevie Nicks" pitfalls. The Los Angeles-based company arose from experience, after Laura Collins (above, middle) discovered that the only way to find clothes that fit and flattered was to design them herself. She teamed up with Electra Lang and Kristi Buckley to turn that inspiration into a line of dresses and tunics with a casual yet polished vibe. Selling primarily online, the first Electra Lang collection launched in May 2011, with an expanded line planned for Spring/Summer 2012, beginning in February. The partners talked with DG about designing clothes "with an actual human body in mind."
Come back on Black Friday for a special giveaway contest from Electra Lang.
EL: Our customer wants clothing that she doesn’t need to think about—she can be comfortable and look stylish, but not be a slave to fashion. We thought a lot about what works for most people’s bodies and we came up with Electra Lang’s Manifesto: “The Proper Principles of a Perfect Piece”
Simple to wear
Easy to buy
Voila…. Electra Lang Clothing was born.
DG: You talk about "dressing with style but with some propriety too." What do you mean?
Too often, we find tops that aren’t long enough, hemlines too short on dresses, lack of much-wanted sleeves, transparent fabrics with no lining, and jersey that clings too much. We designed our clothing to be fun and beautiful, but still cover all the right not-so-beautiful spots.
One of our favorite parts of the design process is choosing our fabrics. We work with designers who create some of the freshest, most beautiful prints: they need to be sophisticated, yet playful prints. Sometimes a garment is more about distraction and camouflage, and certain prints can provide that, but for us to use them, they have to be glamorous as well.
DG: What's the problem with relying on a body form, or fit mannequin, to develop new designs?
One of the first things we did as designers was to get rid of the mannequin and fit everything on a real human body! Mannequins, unlike humans, look amazing in everything! That’s how we solved the mystery of why so many garments in the marketplace don’t fit well, or seem ill-conceived (a bunch of men in a back room dressing up a giant doll). Our designs are created with an actual human body in mind!
As women get older, the balance between femininity, fashion, and fit becomes rather tricky. Too many wispy, lacy ruffles become rather theatrical and circuslike—in a bad way. On the other hand, manly pantsuits with long vests or wraps definitely set off the Bea Arthur alarm. Feeling comfortable in your own skin and clothes is what makes you attractive and sexy. If you look good without trying too hard, that says volumes about your style. Electra Lang balances great fashion with comfortable designs.
DG: How do you make your garments adjustable?
We are always working to improve the fit of our pieces. In every piece, whether there is an “adjustable” element or not, we make sure that it has flexibility. Our new silk jersey dress has stretch, but is carefully designed not to cling where it shouldn’t and to flow where it should. Our tunics are designed to camouflage a belly, but are adjustable in the back to create a flattering silhouette.
DG: What have you learned about the garment business in L.A.?
We decided from the beginning to do all of our production here in Los Angeles. This allowed us to control and monitor every aspect of the production, so that our designs were as close to our specs as possible. We also, want to be able to respond quickly to the market and we can’t do that with the long lead times required when manufacturing abroad. Plus, we love our city and want to do our part in keeping jobs here in Los Angeles.
Patricia Heaton in Electra Lang's "Owen" silk jersey dress
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour? Glamour is confidence, a personal style that looks put together and shows some thought behind it.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? Katherine Hepburn—she had a signature style that was sometimes adventurous, but she always embodied ease and confidence.
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity? For a woman, glamour is a necessity, it is part and parcel of being a woman. It’s not just about fashion, it’s how you present yourself, how you entertain, how you care for others and, ultimately, reflects how you feel. Even if you weren’t born with it, it is something that you can cultivate.
4) Favorite glamorous movie? Breakfast at Tiffany’s
5) What was your most glamorous moment?
Electra: Living large at the Ritz in Paris
Kristi: My wedding day. I felt beautiful, confident and on top of the world.
Laura: New York City to see my friend, Patricia Heaton’s play on Broadway. I had lucked out earlier in the day when I found a perfect Marc Jacobs 40s style dress and a pair of Dolce & Gabbana Mary Janes with lamb edges!! We had dinner at Babbo, saw the play, had drinks with the actors afterward in the theater district, then ended the night at Marie’s Crisis—I felt so tall and pretty and slender…
6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)?
Electra: My old 3.0 CS leftover from when I was swingle.
Kristi: My Missoni silk pajamas
Laura: My gold and pearl cuff from Sonya Ooten that my husband gave to me on Valentine’s Day 2009.
7) Most glamorous place?
Electra: Lounging the Chateau Marçay in my Julian caftan
Kristi: Lunching at the La Colombe d'Or, in St-Paul-de-Vence, France
Laura: Positano, Italy—my Jane tunic with Capri pants, gladiators, big sunglasses and my huge straw hat---I feel like Jackie “O”
8) Most glamorous job?
Electra: Salesgirl at Fiorucci in 1976 with Joey Arais as manager!
Kristi: Being an Electra Lang partner.
Laura: Fashion Designer of course!!
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't
Electra: Plastic Surgery
Kristi: Buying only designer labels
Laura: Living in LA, I see young women heading to clubs at night in their ubiquitous uniform: skin-tight super short black dress with stilettos. It’s boring and cheap looking.
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized
Laura: A mother pushing her child on a swing in the park, laughing and enjoying the moment.
Electra: How can I top that answer!
Kristi: Agree with Laura, a mother’s love and adoration to her child is priceless!!!
11) Can glamour survive?
Laura: As long as women want to feel attractive, there will be glamour—we can’t help it!
Electra: In spite of children!
12) Is glamour something you're born with?
Electra: Yes, if you were born before 1930. For the rest of us, we have to work at it.
Kristi: For some it comes naturally.
Laura: You can definitely be born with a great eye, but it takes a bit of work to cultivate it.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? CB
2) Paris or Venice? How can you choose between two lovers?
3) New York or Los Angeles? Los Angeles
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Grace
5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Kyoto
6) Boots or stilettos? Boots!!! (I [Electra] have ten pairs..)
7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Nouveau
8) Jaguar or Aston Martin? Aston Martin
9) Armani or Versace? Armani
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Vreeland
11) Champagne or single malt? Some days I need BOTH.
12) 1960s or 1980s? 60s
13) Diamonds or pearls? Pearls
14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Moss
15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? Connery (loyal, handsome, ages well, sense of humor)
[Photos courtesy of Electra Lang: Sensible Chic]