When Lucia McGloin was 5 1/2, she was already creating pictures of girls' clothes, rendering with crayon on paper a stunning array of colors, whimsical patterns and styles. The drawings were so fresh that Lucia's grandmother, M.A. Leede, urged Lucia's mother to find someone who could bring the designs to life.
Enter Liz Geier, a clothing maker, who worked with Lucia to translate one of her original drawings into a cotton jersey dress with a yin-yang symbol on its midsection and tailored to fit the little girl.
That was nearly two years ago, and the experience was so rewarding, the actual dress so true to the details of Lucia's drawing, that the girl's mother commissioned Geier to create a whole wardrobe for her daughter based on her designs.
For Geier, the experience was the inspiration for Imagine This ... , a fledgling company based in Valley Glen that officially launched last month. The company is owned and run by Geier, who meticulously works children's drawings of clothes into couture, complete with a child's own individual signature label.
"Initially, when I went over those drawings with Lucia, I realized there was a great sense of composition and great color combinations in her drawings," said Geier, 38, who has worked as a freelance couturier and designer over the years and whose house doubles as her studio. "What I realized was her drawings were pure creativity."
Take the teal-colored polar fleece coat that Lucia designed with sleeves and collar trimmed in red faux fur. Red cording is sewn down the vertical length of the sleeve and the coat is lined in white rayon with thin dark-blue and red vertical stripes. Or the pink halter top embroidered with lavender cord in the shape of an "S" and matching capri pants with a saw-toothed hem.
As one might imagine, creating one-of-a-kind clothes designed by children is a labor-intensive process. First, children and parents fill out questionnaires about style, fabrics and values. (For the child: "What adjectives best describe your style and taste?" "Are you allergic to any fabrics?" For parents: "Are there any style lines or features you do not want, i.e. visible belly button, spaghetti straps, mini-skirts, etc.?") Geier also asks where an outfit might be worn ("school," "a birthday party," "the Academy Awards or royal coronation"). If her client lives in Los Angeles, Geier will personally meet with the child to take measurements. After working on the design, Geier returns it to the child to make sure she has understood the child's vision. She shops for fabrics and sends swatches back and forth until a final decision is made.
Sometimes, the details or ornamentation that a child imagines don't exist, and Geier is forced to make them -- an enormous triangular jeweled button for one outfit; a three-tiered green leather Christmas tree purse edged in rhinestones for 9-year-old Edith Young of Chappaqua, N.Y.; and even a pair of rubber-soled high-top shoes, for 5-year-old Isabela Minogue of Hidden Hills.
All of which is why prices generally start at $350 per outfit, not exactly the Target demographic. So far, Geier, who grew up in Greenwich Village and learned to sew on her grandmother's 1930 Singer, has about 15 paying clients in the United States and Europe. Business is generated mostly by word of mouth and through her Web site (www.imaginethiscouture.com).
While Geier concedes that the price is prohibitive for most people, her clients -- both children and their parents -- proclaim that the collaborative experience is as much a reward as the clothes themselves. "It is really great for creative minds," says Claudia Leede, 10, who lives in Austin, Texas, and is Lucia McGloin's cousin. "Designing your own clothes kind of stretches your imagination. It is really fun when you get your outfits and you can wear them everywhere. When I did cow print pants with a shirt and hat, Liz put the spots exactly where I had them in my drawing." Claudia has designed her own line of stretchy clothes that work well with her kinetic lifestyle and which she refers to as her "Grab n' Go" line. The clothes -- tank tops, T-shirts, capris and pants -- are made of Lycra in fanciful patterns with eye-popping fluorescent colors.
"They are stretchy, and you can roll them up really tiny," said Claudia, who is a dancer, and thus far a prolific designer, with a 54-piece clothing line bearing her label, Moo Cow Designs.
Lucia's mother, Katie McGloin, said that, for a child, seeing a drawing evolve from her imagination to paper to a piece of clothing is a powerful learning experience. "It is really a privilege to give this to your child, and obviously, not everyone can afford to do something like this, but Lucia has learned so much," said McGloin, an interior designer who lives in Santa Monica. "Each piece of clothing is really a work of art, and the quality of workmanship is just incredible. Making a child's dream visible is a profound experience for them."
Geier has just finished a peach silk kimono lined in purple silk jacquard with pockets, buttons and a collar edged in black silk charmeuse for a 9-year-old. "A lot of the things that I do, I have never seen ... until I see it in one of the kids' designs," said Geier. "Adult designs are always going to be derivative. With kids, it is always bizarre or unique."
Would she consider offering the same service for grown-ups? Geier responded: "Only if they can draw in crayon."