YOUNG AT HEART
How Designer CHRISTINA MINASIAN Made School Girl Cool
By Eden Herbstman
Pencey may be a veteran brand, but it’s always maintained a younger edge. Christina Minasian has stayed on the cusp of cool since she took the position as designer for Pencey six years ago. The brand’s aesthetic takes preppy school girl and twists it with a downtown vibe. Well tailored blazers are updated with bold patterns and splashes of color, while “traditional” dresses are chopped and screwed by geometric cuts. A Pencey girl is well put together, while having an air of rebellion, like that girl you want to sit in detention with or sneak outside to smoke a cigarette with in between classes. To keep Pencey current, Christina has collaborated with people like model Jessica Hart and DJ Mia Moretti to add a fresh perspective to the brand.
Any visitor that steps into Christina’s studio gets easily lost in her world. The walls ooze inspiration from collages of magazine cutouts, while Pandora streams poetic verses from Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Her studio doesn’t have the feel of a work space, but more like an adult playground. It doesn’t take long to realize that her creativity is organic, and nothing about her individuality is forced, which is the core of Pencey’s success. Christina opens up on the importance of collaborations, what inspires her creatively, and settled the biggest debate of the summer…who had the better album Jay Z or Kanye West.
Eden Herbstman: The name for Pencey was inspired by the name of the infamous prep school Holden Caufeld leaves in J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” Do you deliberately play with prep school motifs to challenge that sort of traditional rigid establishment?
Christina Minasian: Yes. Pencey is definitely influenced by the idea of the rebellious prep school girl. We always infuse some type of element of the school uniform, or preppy feel.
EH: Speaking of this idea of “rebellion,” do you think in fashion it is better not to follow rules and trends?
CM: I think if you follow trends and rules it messes up your design process and creativity. You put something bad out there because you are trying to hard. I think people should just go with their gut and what feels good. Everything comes out better that way. There’s always going to be things like the peplum or different trends, but you can’t do every trend. It has to be what works for you in your own way.
EH: The first thing one sees when they visit your website is a Tumblr style collage of images. It’s rare to find a brand that cares just as much about promoting what inspires them, with the same passion as their own designs. Why these images in particular?
CM: I know as a consumer when I go to other sites I love to see what inspires them and what aesthetic they like. We all draw inspiration from somewhere, and I think it is more entertaining to see images that change every day and evoke different emotions.
EH: What other things inspire you?
CM: I love watching people, observing, and just noticing different things. Whether something is a “good” or “bad” inspiration, there is just so much to see in daily life. I was running through the park and I saw this girl walking her dog, and she had this fanny pack on paired with biker shorts and a baggy gym t shirt and I thought she looked so good.
EH: It’s obvious how in tune your brand is with the downtown scene and young fashion world, while also staying sophisticated. Is the idea of aging or maturing something you personally think about? You don’t seem like a designer who is fearful of that.
CM: I’m not really fearful in a way of aging or maturing in a way that it will effect my designing or dressing. I think Pencey has a young at heart feeling to it. Pencey will always have that playful side, and that’s something that’s just inside me.
EH: Pencey has had successful collaborations int he past with Jessica Hart and Mia Moretti. What do you look for when collaborating?
CM: Both Jessica and Mia have a great individual style, and their personality comes out in their clothes. That’s what made it so fun to work with them, because I got to see each one’s unique point of view and that sparks creativity. That’s what I admire and look for.
EH: Looking back what was your first experience with fashion week like, and how do you handle it now?
CM: My first experience was great! I loved going to parties and shows. It’s not the same now. Now I avoid it.
EH: Who do you think had a better album this summer; Jay Z or Kanye West?
CM: Kanye! It’s so much better. I think it’s really good and innovative. Jay’s is good, but Kanye’s album has beats that are completely original.
Born in Chicago, Christina Minasian is the designer of Pencey. Her studio is located in New York City.
Written by Eden Herbstman
Photography by Coco Alexander
Design by Marie Havens
Christina Minasian, NYC, 2013, Photography by Coco Alexander