The Designer Making Vintage Quilts Look Modern

Photo: Catherine Litke

Kelsy Parkhouse never met her grandmother Connie, though “she became a mythical figure” of sorts through stories, the designer recalls. The two share a middle name, Carleen — which is also the name of Parkhouse’s “modern nostalgia” label that keeps family heritage at its core.

Photo: Morgan Rachel Levy

Since then, Parkhouse has made everything from quilted skirt suits to prairie-style calico looks, and she hopes to introduce swimwear next. (“It’s the California girl in me coming out.”) Her take on vintage style has drawn the interest of a range of stylish women: Kendall Jenner modeled a pair of two-toned Carleen jeans in a Vogue spread last year, and Lena Dunham showed off this Carleen chevron jacket on her Instagram

The range of bright hues and prints is another reflection of her upbringing, inspired by the “unrelenting bright light” of the Golden State. It’s this attraction to color that makes her somewhat of a fish out of water in Bushwick, where she now lives and shares a studio space with other artists. “I always feel like the odd one out on the subway,” she says. “I’ll be wearing a pastel coat, surrounded by people in dark colors.

Parkhouse answered our Taste Test to gauge some of her fashion and culture preferences.

Fashion guilty pleasure?
I feel like I wear way too many T-shirts for someone who is a clothing designer.

Best East Coast and West Coast places to source vintage?
I really like the Stella Dallas Living outpost in Brooklyn. There’s a home-goods side and there’s a clothing side. In California, I love it when I can tie my trip to a flea market. In Long Beach, there’s one at Vet Stadium that I’ve been going to my whole life. And the Rose Bowl is obviously great, too.

Tweed or gingham?

Favorite Bushwick escape?
I live really close to Los Hermanos, which has been my Mexican-food savior as a California transplant. And I really love Roberta’s, too. My favorite thing is to take people who have never been to Roberta’s because — well, now I’m ruining the surprise — you can’t really tell what you’re getting into until you actually go through the door. And then it’s much more expansive and crazy than you would expect on the inside.

Katy Perry or Lana Del Rey?
Lana Del Rey. Definitely. She’s a guilty pleasure.

Vintage shopping hacks?
Don’t be afraid to clean things.  

This interview has been edited and condensed.