Co-designers Laura Cramer and Starr Hout were friends at New York University before they began collaborating on the fashion front. Just before their 30th birthdays, they packed up an old Mercedes and drove out to West Texasâ€”boyfriends (now husbands) in tow. The austere landscape spoke to Laura, originally a Texan herself, while the repeated concrete forms of Donald Judd and the “town itself, deconstructed, whitewashed with a modern aesthetic” is what inspired Starr. The trip inspired what would eventually become the duo’s fashion enterprise, Apiece Apart, a line of elevated basics that balances the simple with the sophisticated, the classic with the modern.
The two come at fashion from an intellectual slant; each collection is a composition informed by interior spaces, architecture, and art. While their work is guided by a well-honed aesthetic, Laura and Starr are equally interested in making their clothing accessible and democratic. “We are both working women and mothers, so the clothing needs to be functional for real women,” says Starr. “And at the same time, too many basics is not a very exciting idea. We all want something that’s a little more textural, that isn’t just for the everyday.”
We asked the two designers more about their fall collection (a layering of basics and knitwear), their most recent inspirations, and how to pack an entire wardrobe into a single weekend bag.
Remodelista: Tell us about your inspirations for this year’s fall collection.
Apiece Apart: Typically, we create an atmosphere around the season, and we like a little tension, so for this collection we looked to Gauchos and Argentina. In the Pampas, the Gauchos layer, layer, layer, and wrap it all up with a belt. They layer up and then they layer downâ€”we saw that being translated into the knitwear and heavier pieces.
Then there is Pina Bausch: a feminine, stoic, but slightly sensuous ideal that we translated into more feminine, draping pieces. We completely reduced that heaviness of the layering to the idea of Bausch dancing in a slip dress alone in a large room.
RM: Three words that describe your personal style?
Starr: Wear. Rinse. Repeat.
Laura: Casual, practical, modern.
RM: How do you pull off a hat (without looking like a fool)?
Starr: A hat works for all of us when it’s truly useful. A stormy day, a sunny day, a cold day. With the conviction of function, you can always pull off a hat.
Laura: Best when the elements (or dirty hair) require it.
RM: Latest beauty product?
Starr: Laura introduced me to the Inventive Eco-Organics products, specifically, the Environmental Cleanser, Active Hydrobalance Tonic, Restorative Beauty Butter. Now I’m obsessed; my skin has never felt better. Laura tells me there is a huge, cultish following in Austin, TX, and I see why.
Laura: Liquid eye linerâ€”it’s just about the only product I use. My product of choice is Maybelline Liquid Eyeliner in Blackest Black.
Above: Photograph by Tim Hout from Notes from Apart.
RM: We love the idea of packing your wardrobe into a single travel bag. Is this something you both can achieve?
Starr: Yes. And it’s amazingly freeing. I wear the same things exploring the woods as I do in a Manhattan meetingâ€”just different shoes!
Laura: Prior to having my daughter, Evaâ€”yes!
Above: The suede Market Tote iwith smooth leather handles.
RM: What is your favorite piece of luggage, your go-to travel bag?
Starr: Lindsey Taylor, the landscape designer and editor behind many a gorgeous garden story, turned me on to the LL Bean Hunters Tote Bag in olive drab. It’s waterproof, zips shut, and comes in three sizes. For weekends away to our Vermont cabin I pack our food in the extra large tote, clothes in the large, and toiletries in the medium. When we are unpacked, we store them away like Russian dolls. Smart, multifunctional systems make me very happy.
Above: Photograph by Tim Hout from Notes from Apart.
RM: What is your packing strategyâ€”any tips or secrets?
Starr: Acknowledge your uniform. Each one of us a system of elements that we wear most often. Find it. Stand by it. With that in mind, for traveling, start by picking fabrics that look good wrinkled. Roll just 10 pieces from your wardrobe into a bag: two tops, two pants, a skirt, a jacket and an overcoat. A flat for a day and a heel for night. Make sure that they all work together, that they are comfortable. There is nothing worse then traveling to an amazing place and wearing ill-fitting, uncomfortable clothes. Secret: I always sneak a black slip dress that can double as a nightie.
Laura: Just forget the silk pieces.
RM: What’s the last thing you bought for your home?
Starr: My husband fell for the Tablo Tray Table at Canoe in Portland, OR. The weight and hand of the removable tray got him so I bought it for him for his birthday. A side table is a funny gift for a husband, I admit, but I use it in the morning to bring him breakfast.
Laura: A collection of beautiful handwoven Oaxacan baskets from JM Dry Goods for my daughter’s room.
Above: Baron House by John Pawson.
RM: Favorite art piece or architectural work of the moment?
Starr: My most recent architectural adoration has been Fabien Baron’s vacation house in Sweden designed by John Pawson. Pawson’s own house is really beautiful, too; lots of smart design solutions. I entered the John Pawson world through his wonderful book Living and Eating. I soak up anything that makes me appreciate the simple things in life. As for art, I have recently been loving the paintings of Pierre Soulages.
Laura: Hanneline Rogeberg’s hard-to-categorize, huge canvases at Blackston Gallery in New York.