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Back in September I had the privilege of experiencing Gretchen Jone’s presentation during the Spring 2012 Fashion Week in NYC. I must say that it ended up being one of the highlights of the week, and I saw a lot of shows. Not only did Gretchen nail her first collection, but the overall experience of the presentation was intoxicating. From the sights and sounds to the smells and tastes, I couldn’t think of a better way to launch a collection. Gretchen was kind enough to  sit down with me to chat a little about where it all started, her first NYFW and what is inspiring her as of late.

Tell me a little bit about where it all started for you..
I grew up in the rural Colorado mountains and was taught to sew as a very young girl by my grandmother and mother, and later took sewing classes through the local 4-H Club. In grade school I spent my time making portfolios of party dresses, and sold handmade purses instead of Kool-Aid in front of my house.  My parents saw my interest in art/design from a young age and just tried to support my urge to express myself artistically.  As a teen I had a brief stint as a model, which really took my interest in fashion to the next level. In the 90’s saying you want to be a ‘fashion designer’ when you grew up, especially in the mountains of CO, wasn’t really an option. I decided to study Architecture and quickly dropped out after realizing that fashion was where my heart was. I started working in a vintage/resale clothing shop, learned a lot about fashion/construction/desirability and consumer behavior through that experience. I moved to Portland Oregon and started apprenticing [best way to learn the craft in my opinion] with hand crafted leather shops and tailors while managing small boutiques.  I’ve always have had an interest in learning about the CRAFT of fashion and the business of design, which is just as important as the talent and vision.

Now that Fashion Week is behind you, at least for a few more months, what has struck your fancy inspiration wise? Leaning towards anything specific for Fall 12?
I design my collections around a specific piece of literature and an album that I listen to the most while designing [s/s 12 was Patti Smiths ‘Horses’ and Carlos Castaneda ‘The Teachings of don Juan, a Yaki Way of Knowledge.] Two days after my Spring presentation in September, my father passed away. So for the Fall collection, I found myself looking at the dark side of beauty/life in a way I never have before; gravitating to light and dark, contrast, extremes and vulnerability. Being drawn to darker novels and listening to some pretty weird music, my prints are tending to be interpretations of those inspirations and the era’s they are set in. I like giving my collections part of my life. The chapters we are in tell the story behind the work and it’s a way for me to relate what and where I am coming from.

September was your debut collection… Was fashion week everything you expected? What were some of the struggles you had that you did not expect?
Its over, phew?! It’s like a perpetual growth cycle. Fashion week is madness, emotionally AND physically. To me, fashion designers are some of the most prolific artists of our time.  Getting the opportunity to create not only breathtaking collections, but represent that far and beyond the garment is a major undertaking. You become far more than a maker of clothes and that is exciting. I get to create textiles, garments, jewelry…collaborate on sets, videos, editorials, music, events. The ideas get BIGGER w/ each collection, but so do the expectations and workload. But that’s part of what makes it so fun!  I didn’t expect to feel so comfortable in such a crazy environment. The struggle is perpetually in letting go, staying true to your vision and being fiercely critical of your own work so you can edit it into complete thoughts that take your vision to another level. You have to have the strength and purpose to know how to handle it all.

Your presentation was really spectacular, it really hit all the senses which I think framed the collection nicely. How do you feel about it all now that you have had some time to reflect?
Oh man! That is like the best compliment.  I really aim to create presentations that are experiential, hitting all the senses is totally my aim. I’m one of those creatives who suffer from the blessing and curse of hating my work/idea the minute I complete it.  My presentations give me the space to take my vision to the next level and really immerse the viewer in my ‘world’, which I think we achieved for Spring. You got a real sense of my process and life because the story behind the collection shined through. What I think I am most proud of out of that experience is walking away knowing those who worked with/for me had a good experience and enjoyed the project. Like a mutual inspiration cycle, I love collaborating with people whose talent and passion in turn pushes me to create more compelling work and visa versa.  The real challenge is in being able to appreciate that and move on and do it again, in a different way.

How have you been enjoying NYC & Brooklyn since the move? Any favorite spots yet?
My god!?  I’ve barely even had a chance to explore the city due to my work load…but I love it here.  Even though I have to run off to the forest/country/beach as often as possible. The nature girl side of me will always pull out of the concrete jungle…my inspiration is in the mixture and juxtaposition between such contradicting environments!  I LOVE how close I am [Ft Greene, BK] to the beach. I fully intend on taking surfing lessons next summer…already plotting out my weekend warrior trips to Montauk and the likes. The city feeds my cultural curiosities…I can go to the Brooklyn flea, the ballet, and then some uber cool party after that. Very few places in the world could offer me such extremities.

Tell me something I don’t know…
I like wearing mens musky cologne that smells like woodland mysteries and I sometimes smoke cigars.  When I want to look cool that is.