Fashion Week Dispatch: Samantha Pleet proves eco-couture need not "scream green"

Video: Samantha Pleet SS 2011, Starring Victoria Legrand, Directed by David Black.

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week might have a new location this year at Lincoln Center, but the freshest and most creative fashion presentations arguably were found off-site. A perfect example was Samantha Pleet's Spring/Summer 2011 presentation, which was part of the Greenshows downtown. A film created by Pleet's friend David Black featured BeachHouse singer Victoria Legrand as a star-crossed lover. The film and still images were projected onto the walls surrounding models styled by Christina Turner in jewelry by Bliss Lau and shoes designed specially for Pleet by Osborne.

Nothing about the clothing looked particularly eco-friendly, ethically sound or fair trade, but it was nice to know that fantastic design and styling can be all those things without screaming "green." To top off the evening, Pleet gathered friends and fans at the Classic Car Club, where she and I grabbed a seat in 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder for a quick interview...

(Photographs by Kristen Philipkoski)

KP: How did the film collaboration come about?

SP: Dave and I had worked on my last spring film. We're really good friends. My friend Turner also really wanted to style the film, so the three of us came together went down to Baltimore's Pretty Boy Dam. (Beachhouse is from Baltimore). We were a tight crew of eight people and we drove down in two cars, and shot the whole thing over a weekend. It ended up being this lost lovers film of finding something 10 years later and having this melancholy but beautiful feeling towards it which really went well with the collection.

KP: What was your inspiration for Spring/Summer 2011?

SP: Twin Peaks is always an inspiration for me. I'm really influenced by film: Godard, David Lynch, Czech new age films. I think the subconscious element really comes out in my designs. I was also reading Franny and Zooey and Moby Dick, so the line has a nautical New England twisted preppiness with the collared shirts. They're very masculine.

KP: What's your over-arching approach to designing clothes?

SP: I want the girl to be able to create her own story and feel special in the clothes. I'm not so trend driven. You could put (one of my pieces) on five years later, or give it to your grandchildren one day. I wear my grandmother's clothes from the 50s. But i don't want my clothes to look vintage. I want them to be modern but have that feeling.

KP: I loved the bathing suits!

SP: I personally love going to the beach, but i go with friends. So i don't necessarily want to wear a string bikini. I love high waisted pieces. One of them you can wear high waisted or you can make it low -- it's the new reversible. I generally like either really high or low. I don't really like the in between mom waistline.

(The print on the white suit) came from artwork on a 15th century manuscript called Hours of Catherine Cleves that my husband (an architect) found. We spent weeks creating it, it was very challenging. It was all original artwork that we reinvented on Illustrator.

KP: You work on your designs with your husband. What's it like to mix work and marriage?

SP: We are best friends we share everything. He's so creative but we are very different. I'm very fast with a million ideas, and he's very deliberate. Our two minds work well together in our relationship and our work. We have a very strong relationship; we're very lucky.

KP: Tell me how your line is "green?"

SP: I work with all local business and source my material as locally as possible. I work with people who i really believe in, like Osborne. I'm pretty much a one-person company. I produce everything locally in New York City. I use organic cottons. I think I have a really small carbon footprint. I hand-deliver my garments to stores in New York, and as I've been growing bigger that hasn't changed. All the clothes in my collaboration with Urban Outfitters were organic.

Above: Dave Black and Samantha Pleet.