Designer Erin Barr debuted at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week in September with her collection of casual, yet elegant pieces inspired by Paris. The work, which was both sophisticated and sleek with a chic no-fuss attitude, received wide spread critical praise with major media outlets declaring her "One to Watch." For Fall 2012, Barr created an equally impressive collection of sleek and sporty separates that catapulted her way outside of the expectations for a 'young designer'.
Style Wylde recently caught up with Barr to discuss style, the inspiration behind her Fall 2012 collection, and following your dreams even if the path they take you on is not what you expected.
SW: Before getting into fashion, you worked as a high-profile hair and makeup artist in some of New York’s top salon’s for a celebrity clientele. What inspired you to set that career path aside and refocus on the design side of the industry? What did it feel like to head back to school, first at the legendary Central St. Martins college of Art and Design, and later at Parson’s, after already establishing your career?
EB: While working in the hair industry, I was constantly finding myself wanting to go further and to dive deeper into the fashion industry. I had that 'itch', when you know aren't completely fulfilled. I think I was looking for a greater artistic outlet. Going back to school was really great. While in school at Central St. Martin's, I even worked part-time at this very cool little salon, The Klinik, where I feel like I really saw the complete side of British fashion. In London, you really get to just let loose. It's a lot of fun! When I transferred back to Parsons I definitely noticed that it was a whole other 'world' of fashion school, but I feel fortunate to have a bit of training from two of the greatest fashion schools in the world.
SW: Your first post-school internship was with Alexander Wang, which you followed up with a design assistant position at Cushnie et Ochs. These are two very popular labels, that are very different in design aesthetics from one another. Which do feel is more similar to your aesthetic? Do you feel that your work is at all influenced by working with these design teams?
EB: I learned so much from working at Alexander Wang, and every day of that internship was like a dream. Working at Cushnie et Ochs was incredible, because not only did I 'get' what they were doing, but I got to literally work in every aspect of the business. One day I was sketching and the next I'm working on gathering sales contacts and cold-calling. I learned so much working side by side with Carly and Michelle. Aesthetically, they like a bit more drapery and that extreme minimalism. We would always say, the less darts the better! And Alex loves that 'street, utilitarian' aesthetic, which I completely relate to. I hate wearing things without pockets. I need pockets!
SW: Your Spring 2012 collection was called “An American Tomboy in Paris?” Can you tell us more about what the means to you? Do you consider yourself to be a Tomboy?
EB: I am definitely a tomboy, but I equally love that polished, classically French aesthetic. For me, it was a perfect combination to introduce the brand, because that's exactly what it's about. Sometimes when I am sketching, I imagine this American girl walking through the streets of Paris. And sometimes this girl hops onto the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle. It feels very right.
SW: For Fall 2012 you’ve put together a collection that continues on the easy-chic arc, but with more cocktail and evening pieces. Is the Erin Barr Tomboy getting more girly? Or is it a seasonal necessity to incorporate more formal looks for Fall?
EB: This season for me was all about combining the hard/structured with the softer side of the girl. The inspiration stemmed from the idea of this angel; she has fallen to the Earth and is stuck in purgatory at the Boardwalk. The femininity of it all was a must this season, to not only embody the mood of the angelic references going on, but to also show the versatility. But you still see her with big boots on, even in her cocktail dress. And the embroidery we kept 'hard', with hand cut leather and sequin squares, softened by tulle. I love that embroidery. It looks snake-like, which is very fitting for the collection.
SW: What one piece from the Fall collection would you suggest to sporty “tomboy” girls everywhere who find they need a going-out look?
EB: I would suggest the "Placket-Back" Dress in Silk Georgette (pictured right). It's sexy, but sporty... and it has pockets! If you had to, you could run in this dress, but you could also just elegantly float to places as well.
SW: If you weren’t designing, or working as a stylist what do you think your next career would be?
EB: I always joke to my friends that I would be a criminal investigator, or a detective. I find that stuff incredibly fascinating and challenging. I'm obsessed with the investigation channel...when I have time to watch!
SW: If you could give young women everywhere who may dream of being the industry, but are currently working in other fields one piece of advice what would it be?
EB: Follow your dreams. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And if it's not what you thought it would be... well, then you always have something to fall back on.
SW: What’s next for the Erin Barr collection? Any news or events you can give us a sneak-preview of?
EB: The Erin Barr collection news is constantly evolving and growing, which is so exciting. With Fall market coming to an end, we are now officially selling globally, as far as Jakarta, so I am so thrilled to be able to expand the possibilities for the brand. We are also working on Spring/Summer '13 while doing Fall '12 campaign shoots and production, so the work never ends! But it's good! I like to be busy.
All images courtesy of Erin Barr.