Rachel Comey Resists the ‘L.A.-ification’ of New York

Though her coveted wood-soled shoes, handbags, and downtown-chic clothes are stocked at a slew of top retailers — Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and Opening Ceremony among them — Rachel Comey oversees a team of just five people. After her critically acclaimed spring 2011 show last Thursday, there’s been no lull for the (five-months-pregnant!) multitasker: The former Theory design consultant also handles her own sales, pricing, and merchandising. We caught up with the indie design darling to talk about her latest collection, makeshift maternitywear, and flea-market nostalgia.

What inspired your spring collection?
Mostly the heavy-handed weather this summer. Given the lightweight fabrics and playful prints that I do, I’m usually thinking about the beach and vacation garb for spring. But this summer, because the heat was so intense, I was trying to create garments for the city.

Who are your favorite designers?
I love textile designer Sonia Delaunay’s surprising mix of shapes, colors, and textures. Also Charles Kleibacker, who I discovered at a collector’s archive. He did all sorts of interesting things with symmetrical lines.

What’s the first designer item you ever bought?
Is Esprit considered “designer?” I’m originally from Hartford, Connecticut, and I got really into clothes around the time Esprit and Benetton were huge.

Where do you like to shop in New York?
I love flea markets, particularly the ones on 25th Street and in Fort Greene. Except now there’s too much food at them — it makes them so crowded! Nobody’s boyfriend or husband ever wanted to go to the flea market before, but now there are lobster rolls and sliders. I love the foodie trend, but I preferred it when flea markets were a little quieter and more specific.

What are you hunting for?
Anything to surprise me. It could be a textile, a rug, some spoons, a doorstop, or a piece of jewelry.

How would you describe your personal style?
Spontaneous — not so planned, especially now that I’m pregnant. Though I have discovered that my collection offers plenty to wear if you’re pregnant, even if that wasn’t the intent. And I love a strong wooden heel.

Looks from the Rachel Comey spring 2011 collection.Photo: Imaxtree.

Any plans to design children’s or maternity clothes?
People have been asking me that even before I was pregnant. No, no plans, though I do tend to make spontaneous decisions to add categories to the collection.

What’s the most recent addition?
We made cooler bags to carry wine or beer in for spring/summer. My dad inspired me, actually, because he’s always drinking Diet Coke and toting around one of those horrible coolers — they’re always so cheap and ugly-looking. I set out to make him a better bag, but now I want one.

What trends are you appreciating right now?
I’m just happy about fall weather in general — anything having to do with putting on a sweater.

Any trends you’re ready to see retired?
The L.A.-ification of New York: all those random overprinted and screen-printed garments, like Christian Audigier.

What’s one item you’re saving up to buy?
I’d like to have a print by the artist Sara VanDerBeek; the Whitney is having an exhibit next week. I’m also searching for a new Moroccan rug.

What’s something you never leave the house without?
A pencil, for writing down sketches, ideas, and notes — I feel lost without it. I’m really big into to-do lists.

See more: Rachel Comey’s Spring 2011 Collection

Rachel Comey Resists the ‘L.A.-ification’ of New York