BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
A Glimpse Into the Mind of Designer ERIN BARR
By Jonathan Metzelaar
There is a common misconception that fashion is confined strictly to clothing, that how fashionable a look is simply comes down to the pattern and the cut of the shirt, the pants, or the dress. In reality though, fashion is much broader. It incorporates hairstyles, makeup, and accessories, among other things. For something to truly stand out in the fashion world, there needs to be a synergistic relationship between the look of the clothing and the look of the person presenting the clothing.
With several years of experience as a hair and make-up artist, along with a degree from the renowned Aveda Institute, designer Erin Barr has the necessary background to craft more complete stylistic visions. Her collections feature styles that are both classic and innovative, sophisticated and practical, styles that merge a number of looks while also paring down the excess so that they aren’t overwhelming. Erin was kind enough to talk a bit about her style, her inspiration, and her creative process.
Jonathan Metzelaar: How do you come up with your designs? Do your ideas just kind of randomly come to you? Do you build off of looks you see people wearing on the street? Some combination thereof?
Erin Barr: I always start by collecting images that I am drawn to, usually the season before or directly after a season. Then, once I figure out what direction I’m going in, I spend about a week or two at the library getting more inspiration and ideas. I definitely pay attention to people on the street, but I wouldn’t say I am pulling directly from there. A lot of it is ‘how can I take this idea, and make it new and fresh?’ Then the ideas start to just flow out on paper.
JM: What other designers do you look to for inspiration?
EB: I really love looking at vintage Armani collections, especially from the 90’s. The clothes and the fabrics are really incredible.
JM: I’ve always been curious about this, and given your background as a hairstylist I’d imagine you’d be the perfect person to ask. It’s obviously in your best interest to design clothing that would look good on anybody, but I feel that some looks just work better when paired with certain hairstyles. Do you ever design an outfit with a particular hairstyle in mind?
EB: That’s a great question. I think a lot of designers get frustrated when it comes down to hair, because it really can make or break a runway show, look book, etc. It is so important to be thinking about your girl throughout the process. I don’t design based on a hairstyle, per se, but I always have something up on the mood board that draws a certain mood to the direction of hair and makeup.
JM: Looking over your newest collection, a lot of the outfits seem to have a classic, minimalist feel to them, yet they also all possess a modern twist that really makes them stand out. What kind of aesthetic were you going for when you thought up these designs?
EB: I feel like there’s a bit of minimalism in each collection, but I wouldn’t categorize myself there. I use the minimalist aspect in my clothes to cleanse anything that can quickly get too busy. But I also like adding that ‘twist’ to it with some utilitarian details, whether it be buckles, strapping, plackets, etc. This collection was based on the idea of an Angel who has fallen back to the Earth, and she is stuck in purgatory at the Boardwalk. There was a lot of contrasting the soft and hard, dark and angelic, the lace with the leather, and so on. It’s very angular, too, which I’m always really drawn to.
JM: What fashion trends have popped up recently that you really enjoy? And on the flip side, which trends aren’t you a very big fan of?
EB: I think it’s been refreshing to see the mix of prints and color that have come back recently. On the flip side, flared pants with a cuff; you always just end up with a dirty hem and crumbs in the cuff.
JM: What were some of the most difficult challenges you faced, and continue to face, as you try to make a name for yourself in the fashion industry, and what have you done to try and overcome them?
EB: I think the obvious and most difficult challenge has been the initial cost of having a line. You have to be ready to work very hard. I haven’t had a day off in three months. But it’s very rewarding when you see that hard work paying off.
Erin Barr is an American fashion designer currently based in New York. Her Spring 2012 Collection, “An American Tomboy in Paris,” was shown in presentation form during New York Fashion Week.
Written & Edited by Jonathan Metzelaar
Photography by Coco Alexander
Design by Marie Havens
Erin Barr, ArtSlant Studios, August 21, 2012, Photography by Coco Alexander