During Mercedes Benz Fall 2010 Fashion Week, Style Wylde had the privilege of attending the exclusive debut presentation for Callula Lillibelle, the desk-to-dinner collection from William Calvert and Melanie Hart. This week we caught up with the designers to discuss their launch, inspiration and the popularity of Mad Men.
SW: Where does the name Callula Lillibelle come from?
Melanie: Callula Lillibelle is the name of my 9 year old daughter. Callula is an old Latin name which means "tiny beautiful one" and my ex-husband added Lillibelle, after his Irish grandmother. Because our last name, Hart, is a simple one, we figured two crazy names were ok!
SW: The collection has been described as “desk to dinner” what does this mean to you as a designer?
Melanie: From "desk to dinner" means it is a variety of pieces which suit various hours of the day. We have coatdresses in our collection which may be worn alone or over cute, items such as a short pencil skirt and a tie-neck blouse. After the boardroom, our girl can change into her sexy heels for a night on the town
SW: What lead the two of you to join forces and create the Callula Lillibelle line?
Melanie: Previous to working with William, I carved out a place for myself in the "designer" funereal industry, as crazy as that sounds. I was partnered with legendary designer Gregory Poe and we designed urns and caskets for famed "Hollywood Forever" in Los Angeles. My partner, Gregory, unfortunately passed away and his brother, Jeff Poe, owner of Blum and Poe in Los Angeles guided me towards William. I approached him with the idea for a line and although I am creative and artistic, I have no technical skills when it comes to putting a piece of clothing together. Jeff made the introduction and from there we flew!
SW: Melanie, when working as a funeral designer, how did you come to realize that you want to transition into fashion? Is this something you had always intended on doing? Do you find that your background in designing urns and caskets helps your current creative process?
Melanie: The funeral designer portion of my career was a relatively short one due to the passing of my partner, Gregory Poe. The transition from urns and caskets was actually quite an obvious one, as Gregory was quite a legendary fashion designer in his time. Our urns were primarily design pieces, pieces which people would want in their living rooms. They were quite avant-garde and beautiful. We only moved to doing some designer caskets when requested by Hollywood Forever. Those caskets, however, ranged in design from bamboo to beautiful stained-glass in appearance to pieces which were "green" and would be earth-friendly. Clothing and fashion has always been a passion of mine and really the overall plan is similar; find what is missing in the market and fill that need with what people really want, whether an urn or a dress!
SW: William, as you've had your own couture line for several years, do you find it challenging to divide your energy between the two?
William: Actually, I find it quite invigorating. There is a freedom that comes. An additional collection means more ideas can be realized.
SW: In recent years many major labels have been criticized for using overly thin models and reinforcing an unhealthy body shape for the American woman, do you see your line as moving away from that unhealthy image?
William: We seek to dress many types. Beautiful, strong women come in many proportions and we intend on dressing as many of them as possible. Being comfortable in your own skin and looking amazing is far more important and frankly, sexy than striving to be someone else's image of fabulous.
SW: It’s been written, that a major inspiration for your design was actress and style icon Tippy Hedren , what is it about Ms. Hedren that you find so engaging?
William: She, like January Jones currently, embody a spirit we are trying to capture with this collection. It's ok, idyllic even, to be strong, intelligent, alluring and feminine.
SW: What is it about Tippy that makes her stand out from others in her generation? Also, with the popularity of Mad Men, and the early 1960's influences showing up in many Fall 2010 collections, do you feel the current social climate is one where people are craving a return to the innocence and nostalgia of the mid century era?
Melanie: We do feel that people crave retro glamour but with a modern twist. It is a style issue, trends come and go, with budgets tight and the female "who am I?" question continually lingering in their minds, we want to give women the self-assurance that they deserve to be a real woman. They should be wearing something which enhances everything, including self-image.
SW: Typically where do you see the price point coming in at for your pieces?
Melanie: We have been very careful about the price points, as we know that EVERYONE, from the top of the ladder financially to the really budget-conscious person is looking at price. Our least expensive top begins at about $50 and our most glamorous dress is about $415.
SW: Where can we find Callula Lillibelle?
Melanie: Although we have had a burgeoning of orders from all over the world, we will not know for certain until the end of March the totality of locations where the collection will be sold.
For more photos of the Calulla Lillibelle line visit the Style Wylde Galleries.