One of the most difficult kinds of chic to achieve is that Japanese-style minimalism that’s beautiful in its pure functionality. But Anna Lynett Moss has it in her blood. Her bag line, Chiyome, is named for her Japanese great-grandmother. “My mother tried to find an anglicized name that began with ‘Chi’ for me, to continue that heritage among women in my family, but couldn’t,” she explains. “I’m resurrecting that tradition through Chiyome for my generation.”
After enrolling at RISD at 18, Anna spent some time in Rome and Los Angeles before moving to NYC (an inevitability, in her mind). In L.A., she started experimenting making clothes and bags for pals and decided to audition for Project Runway on a whim. Her takeaway from participating in season 7? “Developing a whole apparel collection every season is madness.”
Bags, it turns out, are more her scene. “Bags are fascinating because they need to function so specifically in order to fit seamlessly into one’s life,” she explains of the appeal. “It’s an intriguing challenge to hone in on the particular set of elements that make a bag work really well.” Challenge, schmallenge: Anna’s insanely sleek, hard-working line totally nails it. She makes the anti-It bag—the everything, always bag. —carly pifer
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Althea Harper Goes Nuts With the Dye
All this color-treating is done by hand…in the designer’s tub.
It wasn’t long after Althea Harper launched her first line that she realized she was ignoring an entire subset of women: those who weren’t quite as statuesque as she is. “I think I went about it in reverse,” she explains. “Eventually, I started designing more for what other women needed.” For her diffusion line, not only does the Project Runway alum insist on hand-dyeing each piece in her New Haven, Connecticut, bathtub, but she also runs the entire organic bamboo collection through her washer and dryer to avoid bleeding or shrinkage down the road. Check out how Althea stamps each piece—including her way-cool Of a Kind edition—with her signature marbled effect. —lauren caruso
“Once we have the mock up, we sort through the skirts to make sure everything is exactly how it should be. The organic bamboo jersey is ten times softer than a regular jersey, and it has a lot more retention to help it hold its shape. It’s also quite a bit heavier.”
“I really like to fit this line on an intern—she’s only 5’2”—because it’s about bringing great pieces to real women. We keep all the extra material at the bottom raw-edged so people can hem it to whatever length works best for them. People don’t want to go to the tailor to get a jersey piece hemmed. A lightweight jersey would unravel, but something like this is thick enough that you’ll get a nice finish. That’s right: I’m encouraging you to take a pair of scissors to my skirts!”
“I’ve been yelled at for getting dye in other people’s drains, so the only way to do it without any complaints is to hand-dye everything in my bathtub. Besides, if I take my pieces to a production place, they wouldn’t come out as unique.”
“Instead of laying the skirt perfectly flat and dipping it in, I put it in a ball to get some color variance and stir it.”
“I just let it take its own shape and then I kind of twist it a little bit, so instead of getting the tie-dyed look, it gets marbleized. It’ll stay in there for 30 to 40 minutes. The bamboo jersey really holds water, so it’s a really long drying process.”
“The maxi skirt is everywhere, but I haven’t really seen it in this silhouette. It’s super feminine and great for a woman that wants to wear a more streamlined maxi.”
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Though Althea Harper (who you might know for her second-place finish on Project Runway's sixth season) spent her college years hopping around Europe to study under titans like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, the Dayton, Ohio, native's non-technical design approach is her real hallmark. Not long after she launched her namesake line for fall 2009, she realized she needed to backtrack. “It's one thing when you're designing in this fantasy world for yourself, but it's another when you're designing in the real world,” she explains. “As I started wearing my collection, I remembered that not everyone wants something that's super fitted or severely cut.” And at 5'10”, Althea knew she had another problem to eradicate.
Enter Sittella, a breezy, ultra-comfy offshoot of her main line. In addition to hand-dyeing each organic bamboo jersey piece, Althea purposely leaves ample material at the (unfinished!) hems so shorter ladies can cut a skirt, dress, or jumpsuit to whatever length they prefer without visiting a tailor. “To accommodate, everything in the line is designed so people can make those changes themselves,” Althea adds. The result: something for everyone. —lauren caruso