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The last time we connected with LA-based party-wear designer Ripley Rader, she was sharing the sweet details of her DIY wedding in Wyoming (the crafty gal constructed both her own wedding gown, and her sequined bridesmaids dresses). Now that the West Virginia native, who has been best-known for her chic jumpsuits—worn by the likes of Felicity Huffman and Amy Schumer—recently expanded into a full collection of high-waisted ponte dress pants (yes please!), palazzos, maxis, and more, we thought it was perfect timing to visit her live/work space in Hollywood.
Upon entering her home studio (the line is both designed and proudly made here in Los Angeles), we quickly learned that her unapologetically girlie aethetic didn't stop at her clothing collection. After greeting with us a glass of pink bubbly, Rader gave us the lay of the land, including a glitter confetti-decked photo backdrop that stays up year-round (for mood boosting, obvs), her sewing room which often also takes on her own home projects (she tells us everything in the place she either made or Craigslisted!), and respite-perfect rooftop patio—because to make fun clothes, you've gotta have fun, right?
We also got a chance to chat more with Rader about the badass babes she considers inspiration, the southern roots she can't lose, and what she loves most about working with teenagers.
What or who inspires your designs?
I'm all over the place on this one! I'm very much inspired by vintage Halston. I also take pages from the queens: Diana Vreeland, Diane von Furstenberg, & Donna Karan. I read a lot of SARK poetry and listen to the Indigo Girls every time I sew. However, I'm most deeply inspired by the women in my life. There seemed to be holes in their closets for glamorous/chic/fab clothes that didn't cost a million dollars and were comfortable. So I was inspired to create that.
It seems like you design for a fun woman. Can you tell us a bit about your customer?
I believe I design for all women, but I also think all women are inherently fun, so yes, I guess I do! Specifically, I design for women who have full lives. Women who must have clothes that go from day-to-night with ease, travel well, and are comfortable. My woman is working or raising children but still wants to have pieces in her wardrobe that turn heads when she's out on the town.
We love a good jumpsuit. What makes you gravitate toward designing them?
I LOVE a jumpsuit because I love the marriage of chic and comfortable. My jumpsuits have room to move, elastic waistbands and don't wrinkle. They are vintage re-imagined. This brand was born from my genuine love of jumpsuits: I made a jumpsuit for myself and wore it all the time and would get stopped everywhere with people asking me where I bought it. I was at a concert and Joi Davis, the owner of "Rocks and Silk" (one of the boutiques at Fred Segal) came up to me and said, "If you make this jumpsuit a brand, we'll sell you". So I did and we launched at Fred Segal November 2012.
Lat year, when you expanded into a full RTW collection, what pieces did you know you wanted to include and why?
After seeing the reaction from the jumpsuits, I realized I had more to bring to the table. I made a curated collection featuring boxy tops, dress, caftans and sequins. SS15 was also where we introduced our high-waisted wide leg pants, continually our biggest seller for the past 3 seasons. I chose to work solely with different kinds of knits and I use them in ways that aren't the norm. It gives my clothes a fresh angle that I'm really proud of.
You're originally from the South. What do you miss about it there and what sensibility from your southern roots most influences your collection?
I miss my family in the South! I come from a long line of creative women. My grandmother helped me sew my first piece and is still down to create anything new, my mother is an interior designer who is always reminding me why I chose to create this brand, and my sister is bar none the most creative woman I know. I think the southern roots keep me grounded. In fashion, it's easy to get swept up in what I call the "glitter and bullshit," but coming from this long line of fierce women keeps me focused and clear. I'm very grateful for that.
That said, what are the advantages of creating a collection here in LA?
We continually choose to 100% manufacture in LA for many reasons. Not only for our integrity-as we are keeping fair wage jobs in America- but also for the quality, as we are able to check in and make sure everything is up to our high standards. On a personal level, I simply love creating my collections in Los Angeles. It's my home and the place that started this brand, and I'm very grateful to this city. I'm an LA woman and I like to think my brand reflects that in an effortlessly chic way.
You also teach fashion classes for at-risk/underprivileged youth. How has it been rewarding?
I work with many teen girls, both underprivileged and otherwise. I think teen girls are the only people we should be listening to. They're plugged into what's cool and what's on the forefront in ways we can't get as adults. My intern, a 16 year-old with an incredible eye, has run our Pinterest page for years. I feel a real calling to work with underprivileged girls because I learn so much from them, and they have so much to bring to the table. We may come from different worlds, but we all want to create, so it's a great platform to connect and inspire.