ALIVE sits down with the Lafayette 148 New York design director in anticipation of his appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue this month.
Inspired by travel, Edward Wilkerson takes his farflung inspirations and tailors them to the whimsy and delight of modern women everywhere. As design director of Lafayette 148 New York, he has guided the label to its niche offering fashionable and chic clothing that truly works for a woman’s lifestyle. Wilkerson will make an exclusive appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue St. Louis on the afternoon of March 14 to show the label’s latest looks and talk trends for the coming year (call 314.567.9200 to RSVP).
ALIVE: Lafayette 148 New York is known for being both chic and wearable. As design director, how do you keep the focus on real women?
Edward Wilkerson: I keep the focus on real women by paying attention to them. I’m in the stores constantly, and I’m always talking to them, observing what they buy, the way they dress and what their lives are all about. It’s about communication.
ALIVE: Is it challenging, in terms of design, to take all body types into account?
EW: No, because not everything is for everybody. When I’m designing, I try to give a little bit here, a little bit there—keeping in mind different body types, because I think it’s really important to give the customer stylish alternatives in her wardrobe.
ALIVE: How has your past in the fashion industry (working with Calvin Klein and Donna Karen) shaped your design aesthetic?
EW: I developed my design aesthetic with them. Donna is very focused on a woman’s body, and I really learned a great deal from her. She basically drapes everything and looks at her own body as an example of how to make it feminine, yet work for her body type. Comfort is a key element for her; so is sensuality and practicality—and basically I have those same desires when I’m designing. Calvin is very minimal, very clean, very practical, so I think [my aesthetic is] a good combination from both of them.
ALIVE: What are some of your career highlights?
EW: My first WWD cover, my first Oprah cover and finding my first job. You can put my first job at the top of the list because that’s where it all started. I wanted to be a designer. I was a junior in high school, and I was looking for a summer job. So, I took my portfolio, started on 34th Street, wound up at 39th Street, and by the end of the week, I had a job. I went into every building and stopped on every floor.
ALIVE: What are you currently inspired by?
EW: The collection that I’m working on now [was inspired by] my last trip to Morocco—I drove through the desert. I love the mosaics, I love the patterns, the architecture, the colors, just the richness of the culture. Every collection for me is inspired by a place or a time…I wanted the collection that I’m working on for fall to be very nomadic. I wanted it to be more artistic.
ALIVE: What would you like to see every woman wearing for spring/summer?
EW: My favorite piece, and what I would love to see women try, is a blouson jacket that we have in the line that has a double-wing collar. I’m always looking in my closet for a piece that feels new and fresh—something we haven’t seen. The blouson jacket stands out because it’s sporty, but sophisticated. It’s also very flattering because you can cinch your waist. It’s just got a lot of depth to it as far as fashion appeal and practicality goes.
ALIVE: Travel has been such an inspiration for you artistically. Is there anywhere you’re currently longing to visit?
EW: I’m planning a trip to Russia next month; it’s one of the few places I haven’t been. You should see my phone. You know when you look at photos and those dots in different places, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh! Where could I possibly go next?”
Photo credit: Saks Fifth Avenue