Designers share one Thread

Area hipsters are making plans now to attend the first-ever Thread Show in Orange County on Sunday. Thread is a juried shopping event that tours the country showcasing 100 emerging clothing designers and artists, along with offering free live music, fashion shows, art, food and entertainment.

The touring show, already popular in large cities nationwide for its direct access to independent designers, also has added a home section to its offerings. Another popular aspect is its Swap Lounge, where attendees can trade clothing and accessories.

The Daily Pilot spoke with seven up-and-coming designers who will offer their wares this weekend at Thread.

DP: What made you choose to participate in Thread OC?

Tyson Smith, Maiden Voyage Clothing: Having heard of the Thread Show in the past, and this being its first time in the O.C., we thought it would be a good way to reach the O.C. market.

Kay Lim, Kay Lim Design: I have been doing the Thread show in San Diego for two years now, and each time was a great experience. I love meeting customers in person, and it's a joy to see my clothes on them on the spot.

Emily Harteau, Smoke & Mirrors Clothing: We chose to participate in Thread OC because the O.C. is fashion hungry, and we got the goods! It is a great way to meet our fans and new customers directly. As a small brand, having direct customer relationships is very important and Thread is the best at connecting the dots!

Patty Palazzo, Punk Masters: I was invited to attend, and of course I jumped at the chance! I have heard of the Thread show; another friend of mine has participated before, and as a new designer starting out I knew this would be a great opportunity to not only get my shirts out there, but to meet some nice people in the process and have a bit of fun!

Nate Koach, Suburban Riot: We've done the Thread show for three years. It's a great group of shoppers, many of whom we now know. The show has become one of our pop-up factory outlet stores.

Gavin Carrol, Lunch Designs: I've had great success with other Thread shows, especially in my hometown of Seattle. Plus I have friends and family here, so it's a win-win situation.

Don Rich, Skullastic: Skullastic loves the community of indie designers and awesome shoppers created at Thread events. We chose to participate in Thread OC because Orange County shoppers get straight A's for knowing what's cool, what's hot, what's new, what's now.

DP: Can you describe your brand's aesthetic?

TS: Our inspiration includes legends, myths, folklore, history, antiques, military goods and just about anything from the past. Be it in the vintage style illustrations on our graphic tees or the old-fashioned, rugged construction of our leather goods, we try to inject this inspiration into all of our products and pay homage to days gone by.

KL: Hmmm … Here's some of my favorite feedback from one customer who purchased a men's hoodie and a t-shirt and said, "Kay Lim successfully walks that precarious line between artistry and accessibility. Her clothes are gorgeously stitched, unique and irresistible."

EH: Smoke & Mirrors' aesthetic is much like Michelle and myself … a quirky combination of ease and fashion forwardness.

PP: I love to combine imagery and aesthetics from the great classic masters and royalty of centuries past, but punk them up, rock them out a bit and bring them in to modern times. I like the idea of combining opposite worlds, all living harmoniously together — but, most importantly, with a healthy dose of humor on the side!

NK: Our aesthetic is clean, bold, modern, simple, layerable.

GC: Comfort through humor and absurdity.

DR: The Skullastic brand teaches you what's cool about school and explores the offbeat, weird and wild side of life...things you definitely won't find in a textbook. The clothing, school supplies, gift wrap and crap we create poke fun at being in school and are guaranteed to get you sent to the principal's office.

DP: How did you get your start?

TS: We've always had difficulty finding things that fit our taste and beginning the company was an extension of our need to create items to fulfill that. We've always made things for ourselves, now we're just making things for a larger audience.

KL: I always loved crafting — anything from doll clothes to paper cards, accessories or painted furniture, so that I could express my creativity. Making clothes just happened to be my favorite, since I found there are endless possibilities.

EH: We got our start in 1998 when we met at fashion school. Smoke & Mirrors was born late in 2006. Michelle and I both still love what we do!

PP: For many years I've worked with John Taylor and Duran Duran creating art and graphics for album packaging, various merchandise (T-shirts, tour books, calendars), stage clothes, etc. I also freelanced for Juicy Couture for nine years creating hundreds of logos/graphics for their women's and men's lines (including the brand logo) … so after being so fortunate to work with and learn from some great people over the years, I decided to try my own hand at it and start my own line.

NK: We started five years ago. We were into hip hop gear at the time, and wanted to create a link between what was commonly referred to as "urban" fashion, and more traditional cut/sew tailored fashion. Basically, we wanted to make hip hop gear for the skinny jean/tight tee crowd. It's evolved since then, but that was the initial catalyst.

GC: I was going through a career change, working at a coffee shop, reading the New York Times about high-end tees. I thought to myself that I could do better. So I started making my own. Still doing it almost six years later.

DR: We grew up reading MAD magazine, soaking up sci-fi/horror movies and rocking out to KISS. I designed my first Skullastic product when I was in junior high. My friends would give me a list of their favorite bands, movies, etc. and I would create custom graphic designs for them on those lame, stained yellow-colored Pee Chee folders. In fact, our first Skullastic project was to create a 21st century version of the Pee Chee. We call it the Cree Pee!

DP: How would you say your clothing suits Orange County shoppers?

TS: We try to produce stylish items that are functional, comfortable and unique, and we think that most markets, including the O.C., can appreciate this approach.

KL: They're happy shoppers. I had a similar sale show a few years ago in Costa Mesa, and every customer I met was very kind, positive and proud. My one-of-a-kind clothes and accessories with little extra details are just right for that positive energy, I believe.

EH: Smoke & Mirrors clothes are fun and sophisticated, offering beautiful silhouettes that fit many different body types. The O.C. shopper has many options, but we know that the cream will rise...

PP: Well, I would say it would suit anyone who loves a comfortable, vintage soft tee, with some cool, different from the norm graphics!

NK: We do way more business in L.A. than in O.C.. Neither bad nor good, just the reality.

GC: I think O.C. shoppers focus on comfort more than anything else, and I fit perfectly into that equation.

DR: It's "Back to School" so now is the time to introduce yourself to Skullastic and join the Student Body. Our products are affordably priced, quality made, original designs created for a specific and unique audience ... anyone going to school!

DP: How do you differentiate yourself in such a competitive marketplace?

TS: We feel our designs carry a more timeless attraction than most other brands that are on the market today. We pull our inspiration from the past to create new items that feel like a newly discovered treasure to our customers. And by offering durable leather goods, it sets us apart from being just another T-shirt brand.

KL: It is tough. But I'm on my way to finding a niche of hand-made clothing lovers through my Etsy store, and the most important thing of all is good customer service. I always try to empathize and treat the customers the way I would like to be treated.

EH: Smoke & Mirrors marches to the beat of our own drum. We offer gorgeous, USA-made clothes of superior design at competitive prices. We don't skimp on quality in our quest to produce the finest designer contemporary offerings.

PP: One thing that was important to me was offering a unique, quality product, but with an affordable price tag. I hand print all of my tees myself (with water-based, environmentally friendly inks!), and I like to think of each one as a piece of art — but a piece of art that isn't precious, it's meant to be lived in, worn in and worn out!

NK: Our difference: redefining luxury. We're for those who know how to have fun, who prefer bikes over cars, who set their own hours, and who aren't worried about keeping up with the Joneses. To us, luxury is a way of life, not a collection of expensive things. Our clothes are cut/sewn by the same contractors who sew labels you see in Saks, Barney's and Neiman's. We just don't charge $70 for a top. Maybe that makes us dumb, but we're in the business of having fun, not overcharging.

GC: Lunch sells itself.

DR: We question authority. We color outside the lines. We rarely look both ways before crossing the street.

DP: What are your future plans?

TS: We're expanding the line to include tops that are specifically cut for women, a larger selection of leather goods and accessories, as well as the addition of some home decor pieces.

KL: Keep creating as long as I can. But for the short-term plan, I would love to have a fashion show and work with all the professionals someday.

EH: Our future plans include world domination via our total brand manifestation.

PP: Of course to keep creating and expanding my range of shirts. I'm also working on hand printing and stitching linen scarves to add to the line. Business-wise, I would like to continue expanding my reach and gaining more retail outlets to carry my line throughout the country and, well, the world really!

NK: We're continuing to create new tee designs with the cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." An entire new line of women's cut/sew cotton/modal basics is debuting this fall (some of the pieces will be at the O.C. show). And, we're doing a new line of men's with Bloomingdales this fall.

GC: To keep making unique, limited head-scratching tees full of symbolism and absurdity. I'd like to get into stores in the Midwest and East Coast. Practice more yoga. Create art. Collaborate. Travel. Love life.

DR: We've literally got a school bus full of wild, ridiculous ideas to get students to stay in/stay involved in school. Someday soon, our company will be run by a pack of wild-eyed kids featuring a Bored of Directors between the ages of 8 and 16. When we were young, we made milk money by having lemonade stands on street corners. Skullastic wants to give today's savvy students a much juicier way to get some great real world biz experience.

For more information on the companies interviewed, visit their Thread booths or:

•- Maiden Voyage Clothing:

Kay Lim Design:

Smoke and Mirrors Clothing:

Punk Masters:

Suburban Riot:

Lunch Designs:


If You Go

What: Thread Show

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

Cost: $10 (or $5 for those who make reservations by noon Saturday or bring a bag of clothing for charity)


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