I just recently discovered the gorgeous jewelry collection STANMORE. I think I was lured in by an image posted on Gretchen Jones' pinterest. Emailing with the NY-based designer Catherine Alexander has been so much fun (she's been telling me about her recent trip to the little surfing town Tofino, B.C.). I'm really excited to share this interview with Catherine where you'll learn about her design aesthetic (I love the sound of Art Deco/Midcentury Modern/Moroccan), her insane work schedule (get some sleep, lady!), and her amazing-sounding azure Rachel Comey high-waist pants (happy to meet a fellow high-waister).
**Catherine has a Kickstarter campaign going on at the moment to help fund her Spring Collection which she describes as having an Art Deco vibe with persimmon and taupe leather accents--I LOVE the sound of that!**
I grew up just outside Washington DC. The woods behind my parents' house backed up to the Potomac River and I used to take long walks through the trees to dwell on all my teenage woes. But really most of my time was spent in the city sitting in cars with my friends going "OK. So. What should we do?" DC was pretty boring back in the day... I couldn't wait to get into trouble so I packed up at 17 and fled to New York!
How long have you been designing your collection? How did you get into it?
I started designing this collection about 15 months ago. I'd been talking about starting a jewelry line with my best friend, stylist Morgan Gibbons, for three or four years, but we were both so busy that it was difficult to get our schedules synched. When her career really started to take off, she gave me the go-ahead to sail the ship on my own and, once I didn't have to design with a partner in mind, I let it all loose and settled comfortably into an aesthetic that's very much my own; Femininity with a major dose of the masculine; pops of color; subtle components coming together to create larger statement pieces; bold and edgy, but pretty, too.
What’s your work space like?
Ikea Ikea Ikea. Thank you Sweden. I work out of my very large bedroom (even by Brooklyn standards) so I went into Apartment Therapy mode and created a wall-to-wall, clean, white double desk set-up for myself and my assistant, Lee, a mere 5 feet from my bed. The rest of my room is a mishmash of Art Deco and Midcentury Modern with a little Moroccan thrown in for good measure. I am an organizational freak so everything has it's place and gets tidied up before I go to sleep so I can start the next day without feeling too overwhelmed. When I'm making my prototypes, I do all my metalwork and wax carving out of a studio in Bushwick.
What kind of work routines do you have?
Working from home is the best. I don't sleep much - my average day is 8AM to 2AM - so its great that I can wake up in the morning, walk the dogs, grab a coffee, and start my day within 15 minutes. The first thing I do every day is write my To Do list. It's long and I only ever get through a quarter of it, but it makes me feel accomplished at the end of the day. A To Do list is an invaluable thing. It's what makes the world go 'round.
Are there references in art, nature, literature, film that influence your work?
I'm fascinated by the juxtaposition of order and freedom that exists in every aspect of the world around us. By order, i mean that there are an infinite number of predetermined geometric structures that, when put together, create unique forms; freedom. This intrinsic universal pattern manifests itself in so many forms: from DNA and molecular structures on the nano scale to each and every unique flower you see as you stroll down the New York High Line on a gorgeous summer afternoon. Basically, in a nutshell, structure and repetition are necessities for originality and creativity - I think that's pretty cool. (High Line fleurs)
What’s your favorite part of your work and your least favorite?
Favorite part: When the first metal casting comes out. It's a feeling of "yay! i was right! woohoo! this is going to be killer!"
Least favorite: Sawing metal. It slays me. Nails on a chalkboard.
Outside of your work, what is your main interest or hobby?
I love to garden. My backyard is a constant work-in-progress: landscaping, planting, replanting, pruning, battling pests - it's the most fun! And, besides, if you do it all in a bikini you get a killer tan, too.
What’s your favorite item of clothing?
My favorite article of clothing is ever-changing. Most weeks, it's a pair of azure Rachel Comey high waist pants that I bought last summer and will love until the end of time (Pants!). This week, it's a paper-thin yellow tee sporting a sea captain with starfish for eyebrows and an octopus for a beard that I got in Ucluelet, BC last week. (Piña Styles)
Do you have a favorite quote, motto, mantra or inspirational song?
My mother gave me a little quotation plaque 7 or 8 years ago that I keep on my bookshelf. It says "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" All my friends have made fun of it but I love it. It's an important question to ask yourself from time to time to remind yourself that fear is usually the only thing holding you back.
Do you or have you ever had a nickname?
My parents call me Cate, my best friend calls me KitCat and everyone else calls me Cat.
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
A Landscape Architect
How do you imagine your old age?
Splitting my time between my house in the Catskills, my apartment in Brooklyn, and my house in Costa Rica. Haaahahahahahaha. Yes.
Favorite Halloween costume?
Static Cling. Girls at the party kept coming up to me and advising me to pull my skirt out of my tights.
If I gave you a million dollars to donate to a cause what would you choose?
Women's rights and education in the 3rd World is extremely important to me. The economic and cultural obstacles that women in poverty face every day are staggering. In Mali, for example, an estimated 85% of women have gone through female circumcision; In Chad, most marriages are arranged when girls are 11 years old; 90% of Afghani women are illiterate; Marital Rape is legal in Pakistan; and in Congo 1,100 women are raped EVERY DAY.
I am a firm believer that knowledge is power - an education provides information which, in turn, leads to critical thinking, better decision-making, and a stronger sense of right and wrong. Children are information sponges and spend most of their time with their mothers so when you educate a woman, you educate a nation. There are so many fantastic organizations that work tirelessly to create safe, positive and constructive environments for women and children: www.tostan.org, us.camfed.org, www.aftricaproject.net, villageenterprise.org are just a few examples. My hope is that, one day, STANMORE will work directly with organizations like these to help facilitate their missions.
What’s your favorite film for costume?
The Fall. Eiko Ishioka was a genius.
What was your favorite vacation?
Every August, a large group of our friends (17 -20 of us) go camping in the Catskills for one weekend. It is literally the MOST fun. Coming back from that mini-trip feels like you've just come back from the best and most relaxing 2-week vacation ever. Seriously- I spent two weeks in St. Barts last year and it didn't even compare.