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As Design Director for Lafayette 148 New York, Edward Wilkerson is known for his ability to blend beauty and practicality in his clothing designs. The renowned fashion guru is also a talented photographer and adventurous world traveler—in fact, much of the inspiration for Wilkerson’s collections was drawn from trips to Kenya, Morocco, India, and Istanbul. His latest muse, the breathtaking island of Capri, inspired the Lafayette 148 Spring 2012 collection, which features a refreshing color blend of citrus green, lemon yellow, tomato red, ivory, and more. We chatted with Wilkerson at a recent Neiman Marcus Northbrook appearance to learn more about his inspiration and designs.
Sheridan Road: What sets Lafayette 148 apart from other collections?
Edward Wilkerson: We don’t necessarily follow trends. It’s all about attitude; it’s all about where I’ve gotten my next inspiration from, or where I’m going next. It could be the color of a shoe or the color of a painting that inspires me. I like to leave myself open and to let the creativity come to me.
SR: Who is the ideal Lafayette 148 woman?
EW: The Lafayette 148 collection is for a sophisticated woman, a woman on the go. She’s a career woman, she’s a mother, and she has special interests such as art, architecture, and finance—so her career objectives are very diverse.
SR: What is your design philosophy?
EW: My design philosophy is to design for the customer: design for her needs and design for her lifestyle. I like the practicality in fashion.
SR: Can you tell me about your spring collection?
EW: The spring collection was inspired by a trip I took last summer to Capri. And, as a designer, you start visualizing your own take on what a woman might wear while she’s on vacation there.
SR: What is one piece in the collection that every woman should have this spring?
EW: We have a citrus green palm-print jacket that I absolutely adore because that can go from day to evening; you can wear it with white cropped capri pants during the day, and at night you can go to a long linen or silk pant and pair them with a heel. And the jacket is a novelty; it doesn’t read “jacket,” it reads “sporty” and “chic.”
SR: When you’re traveling, how do you take what you see and translate that into clothing design?
EW: By living the life when you’re there and going through the paces: “What am I going to wear in the morning? What am I going to wear when I sit by the pool? What am I going to wear for lunch? What am I going to wear for cocktail hour? What am I going to wear for dinner?” These are the things that I do when I’m on vacation—I’m actually thinking about what I’m going to wear next. For me, I think of vacation as occasion dressing; we buy a wardrobe when we go away for a warm climate. So, whether or not you’re thinking about fashion, you’re thinking about comfort and how it will work for you in that climate. So you’re thinking about fashion in a very practical way, but you also want to express yourself.
SR: What are some of the biggest fashion mistakes you see women make?
EW: Stretch pants (laughs). They’re not for everyone; don’t do it! I know they’re an easy out, but, really, look in the mirror before you do it.
SR: Not everyone is a size 0. How do you tailor your collection to work for all women?
EW: We cut from a size 0 to a 24—I think I’m pretty much covered.
SR: Are there any particular women who you admire for their style?
EW: Oprah Winfrey, because she always projects an image of relaxed glamour—it’s not intimidating. You see her and you think, “Wow that looks great on her.” It’s cheery and approachable. The clothes that she wears on the cover of her magazine are very approachable; you never have to say, “Oh, I can’t wear that,” because you automatically feel that you can.
SR: Any last words of style advice?
EW: Don’t set yourself in one way of dressing. Remember, fashion is supposed to be fun; it’s not supposed to be, “I can’t wear a full-length skirt because it makes me look big,” or, “I only wear pants because I’m not comfortable in skirts.” Try it. I think it’s such a shame that people get stuck in their ways and don’t experiment… Each season is an evolution, and it’s exciting.
—By Jenna Schubert