Just out of Parsons with a Designer of the Year award to their name, hot young designer duo, Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs — more formally known as Cushnie et Ochs — made quite an impression this past Fashion Week. With a first collection full of super-sleek, razor-sharp minimalist designs and neon brights, fashionistas up and down the food chain were on the edge of their seats with delight. We grabbed some time with them to talk about designs that aren’t for the faint-hearted, their current shoe fetish, and being dubbed “the next Proenza Schouler” right after they graduated.
Your first collection S/S ‘09 received great reviews. What was the inspiration behind it?
Michelle: The gritty, shocking photography of Wolfgang Tillmans was the inspiration behind the combination of fire-hot colors and neutrals we used.
Carly: The films American Psycho and Face Off largely inspired the precision-cut minidresses, the geometric cutout lines, and the sleek racer-backs. And, of course, Christian Bale for his meticulous sense of discipline!
Having graduated from Parsons with their Designer of the Year award, previously won by Proenza Schouler, you are now being hailed as their successors — do you think this is an apt comparison?
Michelle: Although it’s really flattering, I think the main reason is because we both won the award. However, let’s hope we can live up to it!
Who in an ideal world would you love to wear your clothes?
Michelle: The Cushnie et Ochs woman is no wallflower! She is someone with a strong presence, someone definitive who wants to put herself out there.
Carly: Cate Blanchett. Chloë Sevigny.
What trend do you love right now?
Carly: Nude. Peekaboo. It’s cool, it’s slightly off key.
Michelle: I am completely into the current clean, more-put-together look. No more of those Miu Miu flowery dresses!
What trend do you wish would just go away?
Michelle: The just-got-out-of-bed look — we’ve never been fans of that!
Who are your favorite designers?
Carly: I really admire Oscar de la Renta for the way he knows his customer and what they want, inside out — it’s a really valuable trait. I am also a huge fan at the moment of Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy. I think he’s one of the most relevant people doing couture.
Michelle: Raf Simon for Jil Sander. He’s brought a newfound sensibility to the label and merged the feminine and masculine with his tailoring.
First designer item you ever bought?
Michelle: The Louis Vuitton Speedy bag.
Carly: A small Dior bag with beautiful embroidery, but I can’t remember which one it was — too many purchases since have blurred my memory!
Which designers do you actually wear yourself?
Michelle: A bit of Jil Sander. Definitely not vintage — it’s far too much work to find something amazing.
Carly: Mainly Cushnie et Ochs! A mix of some young designers too: Preen, Jonathan Saunders.
Where do you shop?
Carly: I live in Soho and love to wander around all the little boutiques. I often go into Kirna Zabête but will venture uptown to the department stores (Bergdorf, Saks) for shoes — they have a better selection.
Michelle: I am a huge fan of Seven — it’s a boutique that is picking up the younger, fashion-forward designers.