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High Fashion Hits 'Target'


Designer Erin Fetherston is just 26 years old, but already, her clothes have walked the runways in Paris, in New York. She's been praised by Vogue magazine and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. And this week, she joins the ranks of Thomas O'Brien and Isaac Mizrahi as a featured designer for Target.

It's an interesting combination from an interesting lady. Erin Fetherston is with me in the studio. Hi, Erin.

Ms. ERIN FETHERSTON (Fashion Designer): Hi.

STEWART: So you just moved back to New York City from Paris?


STEWART: Did you speak any French when you moved to Paris?

Ms. FETHERSTON: I did not speak a word of French. I was sure that it wasn't going to be so difficult to learn, which was a total underestimation. But I went there to go to the Parsons School of Design in Paris, which is an American school, so it was English-speaking. So I kind of was able to put off learning French for a little while because I was, you know, still in English-speaking classes. But, yeah, eventually, I just really had to pick it up.

STEWART: Did you have ideas about the kind of clothes you wanted to make?

Ms. FETHERSTON: Yeah, more or less. I think I did certainly learn a lot there. I had actually gone to UC Berkeley before going to Parsons. And I was really interested in fashion. So I was so excited to get there and have course work that was just really skill-oriented.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Ms. FETHERSTON: Pattern-making, draping, illustration, getting all those basics down, which I hadn't really been able to take in school before.

STEWART: Now, someone described your clothing line as - for people who don't know Erin's work - as straight from Alice in Wonderland's closet. How would you describe your - they're very feminine and they're flowy and…

Ms. FETHERSTON: Yeah, well, Alice is a good, you know, a muse - fictional muse, I guess. The clothes are very ethereal. They're very, very feminine. They're very fun. There's a real free, fun-loving spirit in the clothes. I make a lot of party dresses, and I think they're very romantic and they definitely tap into fantasy. And I'm completely a fantasist, a day dreamer. At the same time, I'm a woman designer. And I think I really bring that sort of female perspective into the clothes.

So I think they're also really rooted and thinking about, actually, the practical application of getting dressed, you know, thinking about the woman's body, and also just kind of, you know, woman's reality. So it's interesting to always bring those two sides together.

STEWART: I'm interested now that you've moved from Paris to New York, because one thing about Paris fashion is it is so feminine. It is so effortlessly feminine, and so are French women in just the way they dress. I'm wondering if you come to New York, women tend to be a little bit harder edged, maybe? Still feminine, but in a different way. Do you think your environment is going to have any sort of an impact on your designs?

Ms. FETHERSTON: Well, that was actually a concern of mine, because I felt Paris was a very appropriate place for me to be as a designer.


Ms. FETHERSTON: I felt very much at home there, and that was a great place for me to be creative and be inspired, and I felt like I, you know, really was thriving there creatively.

And I was concerned about moving to New York, because it is a, you know, a very different pace and environment, and I'm very sensitive to my surroundings. And I often, you know, really draw inspiration from whatever is around me. I think that even though I was a little bit apprehensive, I actually feel like the move here has even pushed me further, creatively.

And I've got my roots as a designer in Paris, and that part of me will always be there, but it's interesting to kind of explore other ideas and to see different kinds of women and to sort of bring all those things together. And I'm from California, so I'll always have that that influence, too.

STEWART: So in terms of one of your big steps from the future, is this that your clothes is going to be available in Target. And it's usually something you think about someone who's been in the design business for a very long time, and for a while, it was sort of a cheeky thing to do, you know, Vera Wang's at Kohl's or Isaac Mizrahi's at Target.

So early in your career, what made you decide to make that leap, to put your haute couture designs - or versions of them - into a more mainstream retail outlet?

Ms. FETHERSTON: Well, I was so excited about the idea. And I think Target has just a really fantastic program that they have going on. It's the Dell International Program. And they've had a lot of young designers come in as guest designers. They had Proenza Schouler.

STEWART: That's right.

Ms. FETHERSTON: They had Patrick Robinson, Alice Temperley. They've had a lot of younger talent come in.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Ms. FETHERSTON: So they approached me to talk about doing a line. I was so excited and really honored, because it was a challenging and really exciting exercise to try and translate everything that I do at a very high-end level to something that was like more appropriate for the Target audience. And, you know, it was great. I actually think it translated very well.

STEWART: Have you been in a store yet and seen them?

Ms. FETHERSTON: I have not yet gone to the store. I actually am going to try and get to Jersey City today and go to the store. But I've had lots of friends - I've had my parents going around to Targets in California and, like, taking pictures of the stores…

STEWART: Oh, that's funny.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FETHERSTON: …taking pictures of shoppers buying my clothes, and they keep sending me the images.

STEWART: Will you flip out the day you see a girl on the street wearing one of your dresses?

Ms. FETHERSTON: Yeah. I think I will. I had a lot of people, a lot of people write to me, telling me what they've bought, and, you know, that's really exciting. But I was thinking about it yesterday when I was on my way to work, and I was like, I wonder if I'm going to see someone in the street today. I haven't seen it yet, but I think that is going to really - I think I'm going to have a wow moment when that happens.

STEWART: Erin Fetherston is a designer. You can see her clothes on runways, boutiques, New York and L.A., of course, now, in Target stores across the country.

Erin, really a pleasure to meet you.

Ms. FETHERSTON: Oh, thank you. Likewise. Thank you so much.

STEWART: Congratulations. Good luck with the line.

Ms. FETHERSTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.