Wednesday, January 26, 2011

making the past modern again with Effie's Heart

by frédérik sisa

Peering through the Effie’s Heart catalog, you might be forgiven for thinking that Sherman set the Wayback machine for the first half of the 20th century and left this window behind for us to peer enviously through. But no, it’s real, it’s today. Started by designer Kimo as a way to harmonize a “lust for easy living, an appreciation of eclectic beauty, and a taste for the finer things of fashion’s past,” this brand named after a zesty Aunt is a refined collection bursting with sass and style inspired by the age of jazzy big bands, dance crazes like the charleston and swing, and Hollywood’s Golden Age. Vintage? In a way, but Effie’s Heart is not strictly speaking a nostalgia brand. While the designs are rooted in history, we could say they are inspired by the original modern, when the world was recovering from World War I, suffragettes took to the streets to sweep away outmoded societal impulses, and technology was taking bolder leaps forward. That is, when the line was clearly drawn between the old ways of thought and the modern way of looking at an increasingly global society. So forget hand-me-downs from past generations. These are all-new clothes defined by Kimo’s use of contemporary materials to give clothes the comfort and function that today’s women expect.

I had a chance to see for myself some of Effie’s Heart fashionable delights at Unique LA, but there’s plenty on the website to gawk at. Here are just a few of the pieces that caught my eye.

I love capris, so it comes as no surprise that I’m drawn to this sassy little cotton French terry number. It has the flow of palazzo pants and a stylish ornamental structure – and function too; an adjustable tab lets you cinch the pants to ride a bike.

One of the many things I appreciate about 50s design is its architectural character and playful use of form, like we see in this 50s-inspired dress made of cotton spandex jersey.

And how about this attractive Speakeasy dress made with a pima cotton and spandex blend, with it ruched waist?

Or the lovely Sylvia jacket featuring artwork by Rachel Delgado?

And in case you’re wondering, the prices aren’t exorbitant. That jacket, for example, is now going for $74.00.

Of course, I couldn’t admire all these lovely clothes without having a word with the design talent behind them, so I caught up with Kimo via eMail and asked a few questions.

When you look for inspirations, what tends to catch your eye and say, "this is something for Effie's Heart?"

I feel that I have a classic aesthetic. I try to find inspiration that is not too trendy. I look for ideas that can stand the test of time and won't appear dated the next season. My inspiration comes from everything. I am always open to new ideas.

How do you translate your inspirations - what some might arguably call "vintage" styles - into clothes that are both modern and rooted in a roaring sense of history?

I worked for several years in costume shops for the theatre. This gave me an incredible education in clothing from many era's. I learned how to recreate them accurately for many different body shapes. What I found is that clothing used to be much more complicated to take care of. The modern woman does not have the time or the desire to spend a whole day washing and ironing. My designs are made with modern knits that can be put in the washer and the dryer and they don't need ironing.

In this postmodern fashion era, what might once been a niche interest to, say, the jazz, big band, and pre-60's set, suddenly has the opportunity to appeal to a greater number of people. How has your clientele, and your relationship with your clientele, evolved since you first began Effie's Heart?

I have a wide range of customers. Some of my customers are really into the vintage aspect of the designs. Many don't even notice. I try to create clothing that is flattering, easy to care for, and timeless. I believe this is why my customer base has grown extensively.

You've magnificently taken care of the ladies...any interest/plans in dressing the gents?

I've thought about this. My husband is very stylish. We've come up with some great ideas. He has a really hard time finding clothes for himself. He is very picky. I would love to collaborate with him to come up with a line of men's ware.

What does the future hold for Effie's Heart?

Sales have skyrocket this last year. The possibilities are endless. I'd like to open a flagship boutique somewhere in the Bay Area hopefully in the next year.

And there you have it. Many thanks to Kimo for her time!

Check out the website:

“Helen Gone…she could dance all night until the dawn…”

Vincent Rose and his Café Montmartre Orchestra:

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