Mary Meyer Is Inspired by African Textiles and Brooklyn Fifth-Graders

Mary Meyer is a born-and-raised California girl, but her eponymous line — launched in 2005 — really took off when she relocated to Brooklyn in 2006. The pace and fashion savvy of the city led her designs in an edgier direction, she says, which was noticed by stockists like Oak, Pixie Market, Court, TG-170, and Barneys. When she’s not perfecting her woodblock printing skills or shibori dyeing techniques, Meyer is ensconced in the Brooklyn art scene, hosting exhibits, concerts, sample sales, and performances in the art house she runs from her Greenpoint loft space. Last weekend, she pulled off her largest event to date: a fund-raiser benefiting Step Right Up, a nonprofit after-school program she co-founded that provides free arts workshops for public-school students. We chatted with Meyer about teaching, embracing the vampire trend, and her punk-inspired new haircut.

How did you get into fashion design?
I studied art in college — painting, dyeing, printmaking, weaving, and woodwork. After I graduated, I had really particular things that I wanted to wear but I had no money, so I made them myself. Then people started asking where I got my clothes.

What kind of person wears your designs?
My clothes are easy to wear and can be styled in a lot of different ways. Girls who wear them are conscious of what they’re putting on their bodies; they’re urban professionals who have a lot to do and want to look good doing it.

What’s the inspiration behind the prints?
I rented out a bungalow at the Rockaways when I was designing the spring 2009 prints, so they were very beachy. The fall prints are influenced by African textiles, inspired by a show at the Met last year. And for spring 2010, a lot of the prints are woodcuts.

Who are your favorite designers?
Stella McCartney, and I love Rachel Comey shoes — I just keep buying them. I also have a huge collection of textured metal jewelry from Round Designs.

What’s the first designer item you bought?
I grew up in L.A. in the eighties and early nineties, and when I was 11 or 12 we were all obsessed with Betsey Johnson. I’m pretty sure it was a Betsey Johnson baby-doll dress.

Looks from Meyer’s fall 2009 collection.Photo: Courtesy of Mary Meyer.

Where do you shop in New York?
Oak and Shoe Market in Williamsburg.

How would you describe your personal style?
Urban shaman. It’s modern and has an edge, but I also wear a lot of layers and cloaks. And lately I’ve been doing a punk-rock thing — I have the haircut of a 14-year-old boy right now.

What trends are you appreciating right now?
I’m definitely into the whole vampire inspiration that’s going on; the black nail polish and the Goth influence.

What trends are you sick of?
I think guys’ pants can get a little looser at this point. Not that it doesn’t look good, but after a while it just gets a little absurd.

What’s one item you’re saving to buy?
I would love to be able to buy a really heavy winter coat, like a $1,000 Stella McCartney overcoat that I would have for the rest of my life.

What should every woman have in her closet?
A comfortable pair of heels, ones that are great-looking but that you can run around in. I just got these short Rachel Comey heeled boots that I’ve been wearing everywhere.

What’s something you never leave the house without?
Even though I have an iPhone, I would have to say my calendar — I’m lost if I don’t have my daybook on me.

Mary Meyer Is Inspired by African Textiles and Brooklyn Fifth-Graders