Thomas Wylde designer plans flagship store, new categories


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It had been a long time since I checked in with L.A.-based designer Paula Thomas and her rock n’ roll romantic label Thomas Wylde. And when I stopped by her showroom on La Cienega the other day, I was impressed by how much her collection has grown -- in size and dollars.

Thomas Wylde is now a $10-million business and the designer has big plans, including a flagship store that she hopes will open in L.A. later this year, and a diffusion line launching in 2013.


A former model and stylist who worked with Julien MacDonald, Thomas launched the line in 2005. It was an overnight success in Hollywood, thanks to a range of skull-print scarves that were draped over the shoulders of Lindsay Lohan, Sienna Miller and seemingly every other starlet by early 2006.

Back then, the collection was dominated by prints, abstractions of skulls mostly, on said scarves, silk caftans and chiffon baby-doll dresses. Thomas Wylde also included rock n’ roll staples such as lambskin bolero jackets and slouchy leather hobo bags with skull stud work.

Now, Thomas Wylde has grown up. In the fall 2012 ‘War of Warriors’ collection, the skulls and leather jackets are still there, but so are more dressed-up pieces, such as a fur-trimmed luggage leather sheath dress inspired by the interior of Thomas’ Jaguar, a gray wool shift with delicate silver chain fringe at the hips, a gray reefer coat with subtle studding on the sleeves, and a molten silver goddess gown. The collection, from $450 for T-shirts to $6,000 for fur coats, is available at Maxfield, Neiman Marcus and Net-a-porter.

Gothic-inspired prints are still a signature. For fall, the print on caftans and scarves is inspired by Samoan tribal tattoo designs. Knits have also become an important part of the business, including slouchy cashmere tunics with silk print sleeves.

Thomas also has a whole range of accessories, include smart-looking hats with chain-link bands, an oversized studded luggage leather clutch bag that she calls the ‘CFO,’ and necklaces with cross pendants that have tiny flashlights inside for reading menus in dark restaurants. ‘That may be my favorite piece in the collection,’ Thomas said.

Today, the British-born Thomas counts Heidi Klum as one of her best clients; Skylar Grey wore one of her gowns to the Grammys, and Nicole Richie, Rihanna and Jada Pinkett Smith are also fans.


The designer, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, says she’s doubling her wholesale business every time she goes to market to sell collection, which she does in Paris. In 2010, she collaborated with Rankin on a book of photography to commemorate 10 seasons of Thomas Wylde, featuring the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley wearing looks from the collection.

But other than that, the brand has largely stayed out of the limelight -- on purpose. Thomas doesn’t show the collection on the runway, in part because she worries about too much exposure, she said, like what happened in the early days with those ubiquitous skull scarves.

‘I didn’t want Thomas Wylde to just be a trend,’ the designer says. ‘After 1 1/2 years of business just exploding, I stopped inviting the press. I wanted the product to reach the client because they wanted it, not because a magazine told them they wanted it.’


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--Booth Moore

Photos of the fall/winter 2012 Thomas Wylde collection. Credit: Paula Thomas