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My professor told us that we could be inspired by anything from Martin Heidegger to a one-night stand.

Designer Sam Giordano is a true New York girl. She studied at both FIT and Parsons, lives for Opening Ceremony, and treks between Chinatown, Brooklyn, and the Garment District on a near-daily basis. To celebrate the launch of her new line, Dolores Haze, which showed earlier this month at New York Fashion Week, we spoke to Sam about what it means these days to be a young designer in NYC. — Robin Reetz

SHK: Hi Sam! We love your new line, Dolores Haze. Can you tell me a little about yourself? 

SG: I’ve been talking about starting a brand called Dolores Haze for almost 10 years. During college I took courses at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology], and then studied abroad at Central Saint Martins in London. That was one of my best experiences  my professor told us that we could be inspired by anything from Martin Heidegger to a one-night stand. After Saint Martins, I went to Parsons The New School for Design for another degree in fashion design.

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You launched your new line at New York Fashion Week – congratulations! Are you happy with the result?

I’ve reminded myself throughout the process that “you have to start somewhere”, because a lot of people seemed dubious when I told them that I was starting my own line. I’m happy to have finally put myself out there, knowing that in the cut-throat fashion world it’s a marathon, not a race.

The character Dolores Haze exists within this realm of flirtatious naiveté and tragedy, but when we use the colloquialism ‘Lolita’ we often forget that at the beginning of the story she’s only 12 years old.

We love the name of the line, Dolores Haze. Where does it come from?

Dolores Haze is the full name of the namesake character in Lolita. One of the reasons I selected this is that I find the notion of dismantling female archetypes to be quite compelling. To me, it’s interesting to think about Lolita’s reality in the novel and juxtapose that with the connotation of her name today. The character Dolores Haze exists within this realm of flirtatious naiveté and tragedy, but when we use the colloquialism ‘Lolita’ we often forget that at the beginning of the story she’s only 12 years old. For me, what’s most inspiring conceptually is repossessing the male gaze by creating a flirtatious yet dark line of clothing. It’s interesting that the character of Lolita is only through the lens of Humbert Humbert.

As a designer, this story from a sociological and artistic level allows me to think conceptually about the clothing I design. The idea of women straddling youth and adulthood, manifested in silhouettes inspired by school uniforms in high end fabrication.

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Tell me about the inspiration behind your first collection for Dolores Haze.

The collection is entitled “I could have loved you” so the overall inspiration and influence is a sentiment of wistful nostalgia and a yearning for the past. Artist Tracey Emin has been a huge influence as her work exudes raw emotion masked into feminine quilts. The film The Virgin Suicides has also been very influential, as the relationship between beauty and sorrow envelopes the story.

An interesting aspect in both The Virgin Suicides and Lolita is that the stories are told through the eyes of men who have become utterly immersed (if not obsessed) with the female characters. The tragedy of the girls’ demise is what breaks the illusion.

Additionally, female archetypes have always been a major influence. I’m also really interested in the idea of lost childhood, and was inspired by Diane Arbus’s photograph of twins [Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967]. I tried to transcend these concepts into youthful silhouettes that echo the message of a return to femininity and girlish charm with a hint of melancholy for my SS14 collection.

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In addition to designing the line, you also styled the lookbook — talk about multi-talented. Do you have a background in styling?

Thank you! When I first graduated from Parsons I was an assistant stylist for NYC’s Oak, and I wound up doing other styling jobs at Bloomingdales as well as some commercial work.

Styling is a lot of fun as it helps you to envision your customer and to bring your inspiration to life. For me, a fundamental part of the design process is thinking about what makes up the entire look. I also try to think about the merchandizing aspect — for instance do the pieces I’m designing work together; how would I mix and match the garments?

I want the Dolores Haze aesthetic to be so defined that when you see a girl on the street you would recognize her clothing as Dolores Haze, just like when you see someone in black, athletic-inspired clothing what first comes to mind is Alexander Wang.

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Who do you consider to be your ideal customer?

Well if I could envision anyone wearing my pieces it would be Tavi. I have a big girl crush on her – there’s a level of intellectualism and nostalgia to her style, plus she loves riot grrls and third-wave feminism.

I also design for myself and my friends. I try to think of friends who aren’t risk takers with what they wear and I try to think of those who are more fashion-forward and then merge those aesthetics together. I want the Dolores Haze aesthetic to be so defined that when you see a girl on the street you would recognize her clothing as Dolores Haze, just like when you see someone in black, athletic-inspired clothing what first comes to mind is Alexander Wang.

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What’s your favorite thing about being a designer, and what’s the hardest part?

My favorite part of my job is defining my brand and not having to ever compromise my vision. The worst part about my job is being a total bag lady — I carry tons of oversized bags from my studio in Brooklyn, to the garment district, and then to my apartment in Chinatown. I long for the days when I had a studio in my apartment!

If you could see Dolores Haze sold in any store, what would it be?

I’d love to see Dolores Haze in the downtown boutiques. I love Opening Ceremony, and there are a handful of stores in the Lower East Side that cater towards independent designers that I would love to sell at.

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SHK: And finally, since we’re Seen, Heard, Known, we like to ask all of our subjects what we should see, hear, and know.

SEE: The Armory Show in New York in March!

HEAR: Francoise Hardy on vinyl.

KNOW: Your faults.

 

Robin Reetz is a writer based in London. You can see more of her work at Second Floor Flat.

 

 

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