We recently had the honor of picking the brain of the lovely Suzanne Carafano, creator, designer, and stylist behind VG fave Spanish Moss. Read on for a taste of what one of the industry’s most talented ladies has cookin’ for next season and of what inspires her most, from Flannery O’Connor to John Lennon…
VG: You seem to be constantly traveling and on the go–what is your favorite and/or the most inspiring place you’ve been?
SC: That’s a tough one! I’m really inspired by the different geographical aesthetics, literature, and history specific to particular regions. Growing up all over the West Coast, I’m particularly inspired by the high desert, Los Angeles, and San Francisco–those places feel like home. And, like a package deal, whenever I’m there, I love reading Janet Fitch, Joan Didion, Douglas Coupland, John Fante, Steinbeck, and, of course, Kerouac. I’ve also loved living and traveling through the Southwest, spending lots of time in New Mexico and Texas. When I’m in the Southwest, I read Bobby Byrd’s poetry that focuses on the border city of El Paso, NM and on Tucson. Lastly, I’ve particularly enjoyed living and traveling in the American South–[from] Nashville and Charleston to Savannah and Saint Augustine; and Southern Gothic literature is probably my favorite genre of American literature. I love the ethnography of Zora Neale Hurston on central Florida, and [I also love] reading Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Kate Chopin whenever I can cookout by a lake or drink cold beer in a gator bar. That’s a long answer. Right now, I’m just dying to get a bunch of friends together from all over the States and get a bunch of rooms at the Yellowstone National Park lodge.
VG: What is the soundtrack to your summer this year?
SC: Not in this particular order, but always: Goin’ Down by Bruce Springsteen, Nothin’ No by David Vandervelde, Around the Moon by Summer Camp, Stand by Me by John Lennon, Moonlight Mile by The Rolling Stones, Skinny Legs by Lyle Lovett, Honky Tonk Girl by Loretta Lynn, Tennessee Homesick Blues by Dolly Parton, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere by The Byrds, Hey! Little Child by Alex Chilton, California by Joni Mitchell, Born to Run by Emmylou Harris, Belladonna by Stevie Nicks, Alex Chilton by The Replacements, and You & Me by Penny and the Quarters.
VG: In addition to running Spanish Moss, you also created American Gold, an original womenswear brand inspired by vintage that is 100% wearable ‘in the future.’ Since developing your first collection in 2009, the brand has evolved into a trendsetting identity among vintage-loving gals worldwide. What can we look forward to in the next collection? Is your new home influencing a new aesthetic for American Gold?
SC: We’re just finishing up Spring ’12, but it won’t debut to the public for months… it’s our favorite collection yet! We’re working with designing our own fabrics now, so expect a lot of original prints, a totally new color palette, and pieces that just aren’t happening anywhere else right now. We’ll of course shoot an intensive lookbook story for it. I hate to say too much–I really want this collection to be a big surprise!
VG: When did you decide you wanted to pursue fashion as a career? Did you go to school to be a designer?
SC: I don’t think I ever formally decided to pursue fashion as a career. As a child, I spent my time drawing characters from books in different ensembles, playing dress up, and devouring Sassy and Vogue the moment they arrived in the mail every month; however, pursuing fashion never even entered my mind as anything other than dressing myself for the day. I went to school and changed my major a ton of times–creative writing, literature, theater, history, theology–finally ending up in a communications major [a time during which] I mainly focused on media studies and film–a degree I’ve always regretted.
VG: You seem to have found your niche as an fashion entrepreneur and independent designer. What advice do you have for up-and-coming designers who are trying to make their mark in the fashion industry while staying true to their own identity?
SC: Don’t base your inspiration on what’s trending or ‘all over the blogs.’ In fact, avoid a lot of fashion blogs–only dig on a few that are truly different and take chances. StyleLikeU is one of these special sites. Seek out hidden, under the radar inspiration that will help inspire you in unique ways. Love your home and where you came from? Then leave it for a while and come back and let it re-inspire you. Don’t be influenced by cheap trends, focus on being ahead of curve. Also, never give in to being commercial and oversaturated online or in the press. Make art and not cheap clothing. I think it’s better to be elite rather than have mass appeal. This goes for music, television, studio artists, writers–really anything!
VG: I am truly inspired by all things vintage, but am amazed by the obsession over modern-day pop culture. Do you ever find yourself getting lost in the publicity of celebrities today or in fashion trends that are so in-the-moment that they fizzle out before a week has even passed? With the Internet being so accessible and immediately gratifying, do you think it can have any adverse effects on the future of fashion?
SC: Oh wow, this is a great question! I think being a buyer and seeing lookbooks so far in advance, I get really bored of trends that haven’t even started yet! I do find myself shocked at how long certain trends and brands that seem mediocre can carry on for in the Internet world. I find myself wishing most trends would fizzle out faster! There’s a fine line [between] being a retailer and a designer when it comes to following trends. We choose to start trends and get inspired by wherever we’re traveling, what we’re reading, or talking about at a certain time. We try to stay true to our own style as well! At some point, you have to decide between money and art–and it’s a hard place to be, but we’re happy!