This year I turn 30. What has kept me from completely freaking out is meeting the lovely and talented designer, Fanny Karst. Now, I have a marvelous vision of myself at 70 as a patron of the Old Ladies Rebellion.
Kaitlyn Parks: You design for a niche of “advanced women.” What has inspired you to pursue this?
Fanny Karst: When I was 18, I got the call (luckily not from God but in a dream of an old lady with a gold phone) and so that was it. I also come from a family where the eldest are royalty. We used to venere our grandparents. My grandmother was a strong character. She disliked fuss or thrills, and the idea of trophy feminity. But she was always elegant, in a practical way. My mother is my role model these days, she dresses like my nephews, cool and simple. She's always been chic in a strange way, never followed rules, whether for clothes or anything else..
KP: Tell me about your most recent collection, and your muse, Beatrix.
FK: The collection was based on the film "World on a Wire" by Fassbinder that I found by luck on Youtube. Last year, I took the images with my camera straight onto the screen and blew them up to make the print for the dress. It's a very modern sci fi film. When I met Beatrix I was struck by her icy beauty hiding a very warm heart. She's the perfect heroine and I wanted to show my devotion to her and all the ladies I dress.
KP: Your line with Beatrix has been captured as motion picture, with your film. What inspired you to take this approach?
FK: I was researching random things on Youtube (again) and found a very funny clip of Liberace's costume changes that was made cheaply but the repetition was comical as the story unfolds. Also making a little film reflected the original idea of taking from a film. It's a film of a film of a film. Also I wanted to learn about filmaking and learn from the best, so I asked Director Zollo, for the sprezzatura.
KP: What qualities does your ideal muse have? Who is she, why is she different?
FK: Freedom... Nuisance... Elegance... Nonchalance. And turned towards the future. But I see the best in all the ladies.
KP: What is your process like as a creative director and designer? How does developing your subjects in terms of story and character play in to your process?
FK: I dream of the ladies and the way they live their life or fantasize about it and I combine with stories that I read or hear of. The idea behind it all is usually complicated and dark and farfetched but the result is just another dress.
KP: What is the perfect age range for your subjects?
FK: In my dreams it's over 80 but they are hard birds to catch. But I take them on from about 60 years old. I made a wedding dress for a lady in her late 60s, it was her first nuptials. I loved the idea (she also picked a crazy dress) and felt I had accomplished something. I'd also like to make dresses to be burried in but I can't advertise it as it's controversial. But doing 80th birthday party dresses is something I could do as a main gig.
Call it "Cocktail dresses for your 80th year."
KP: What are some aspirations for yourself at this age? Do you ever dream about what your personal style will be like?
FK: I look forward to being old, hopefully I can afford my own dresses. Also I'll own a very chic sportswear uniform and terrorize the neighbourhood.
KP: If you could design for anyone who would it be?
FK: I have a good idea for Queen Elizabeth II and she has lovely legs but her dressmaker is protective.
KP: What are your thoughts on “advanced style” becoming more culturally relevant?
FK: It's a movement beyond fashion, style and scarves, it's like freeing all those birds of paradise from their cages.
KP: How do you envision the future of advanced fashion?
FK: Cool grandmothers in sportswear and 3D glasses.
KP: How long have you been designing with this niche in mind?
FK: In my mind since I'm 18, and properly for 8 years, straight out of graduation. I never wanted to do anything else.
KP: What are the details about your craft that you love?
FK: I love handsewing and rolling scarves by hand, it's very relaxing. I also love cutting, I have beautiful scissors for left handed people. After weeks of working on a dress, it's a satisfaction to see it falling perfectly on the lady, I can breathe again!
KP: How has your background of studying tailoring and personalized design influenced the work you do today?
FK: It's a service. I'm devoted to making something that will be special for them. An ease to move and an elegance to be noticed. The tailors in Savile Row dedicate themselves to making the perfect suit, and bring out the best of their client. They are my role models, in business and in life.
KP: I love that you have such an interest in other mediums and a strong artistic vision in your work. You embrace art rather than just the study of fashion. How do other artistic mediums inspire your work?
FK: A lot of Youtube. A good story in the papers, some books. I like words whether in a poem or in a song.
A beat. Andree Putman and Louise Bourgeois as the ultimate idols.
KP: Tell me a bit about your background geographically? How are you finding life and work in NYC?
FK: I was born in France then went to London as a child, learnt English watching TV, then back in South West of France until I left at 18 for London for art school, then Central Saint Martins when I was 19, I graduated in 2007, I worked full time in Savile Row tailors for a year during that time and started The Old Ladies Rebellion in 2008. Moved to New York 18 months ago... to conquer the American dream lady.
My parents live in Gascony, the land of my ancestors.
Portrait of Fanny Karst by Ignacio Carballo.