This is one for those of you who LOVE fashion. And space. And space princesses. We caught up with fashion designer Leetal Platt to ask her about having one of the winning designs at the Her Universe show at SDCC last year, her time designing with Ashley Eckstein and her latest space inspired clothing!
GS: Let’s start at the beginning: how long have you been designing and making clothes for and how has your interest in it developed over time?
LP: It’s actually been a fairly recent thing. Growing up I was a cinephile and obsessed with movies. I would draw characters from new story ideas (originally I wanted to animate) and design their outfits of course. Fast forward to years later, I’m 25 and working in Los Angeles doing random jobs in the film industry and a friend was selling her used home sewing machine, so I bought it, hoping to maybe save some money on new clothes. Suddenly I find myself glued to it for twelve hours on my first project, I practically forgot to eat or drink, and I knew it was something I should probably look further into. Honestly I had never really sewn before then; I actually tried once or twice and swore it off because it was too hard! After one year of home sewing I was doing it more than I was working. I hit a plateau in learning from YouTube videos and realized if I wanted to take this seriously I needed professional training, so I went back to school. Hindsight is 20/20 and only looking back that it’s obvious I was drawing clothes and collecting dolls as a kid because of clothing design. My interest in fashion art and the industry has been very organic and it’s as though with every experience a new seed plants, because it’s only been a few years I’m not jaded yet, so I’m enjoying that while it lasts!
Where do your main influences come from and how would you describe your aesthetic?
I have a ton of influences because I got into fashion late, so I pretty much can mine everything that mattered to me before 25. Things that I keep going back to are movies, especially science fiction, real science (my father is a glycoscientist and mother is a physical therapist), and fashion history. I’m still developing an aesthetic but so far it seems to be this cross between theatrics and chic. I like using unique materials but I tend to do traditional silhouettes. Balance and shape play a big part, as does colour (although all I wear is black).
You’ve just had your final show for a collection called Der Wanderer at Accademia Koefia in Italy. Can you tell us more about the brief you were given and how you went about tackling it?
The Academia Koefia in Rome places extreme focus on haute couture technique, which is something that is taught in only a handful of schools in the world. The Der Wanderer show was the “final work showcase” for students graduating from the three-year program. I think I was the odd one out from the beginning because when the brief of “fantastic voyage” was given to us I immediately said SPACE, I WANT TO GO TO SPACE, and filled my moodboard with those vintage-style travel posters to planets that NASA created, and came in with colours like pink and lilac and mint and everyone else in class was using black! I was shooting for a 1960’s style “fly the friendly skies/go on a space cruise to Europa” feel. After all the back and forth with our professors, their European influences definitely sunk in, and my “Space Princess” came out very regal and ethereal, but she still has a bit of LA spunk, with a pink hologram plastic belt and literal party confetti in the fabric (seriously, there’s party confetti in the fabric. It even shakes around like in a snow globe because it’s loose). I was shedding glitter for three weeks, everyone joked I was a fairy because I was always covered in glitter.
It’s an incredibly detailed and intricate look! Roughly how long did it take you to make your pieces?
My Space Princess look took a good eight weeks. Maybe more. I lost count. It took so long, mainly for the pattern and embroidery, which took a month alone to do.
One of your pieces for the show is a long padded coat, made up of multiple layers of fabric, as well loads of sequins and confetti. How do you dream up ideas like this?
Ha, I don’t know. I let fabric talk to me. I knew from the first brief I wanted to “go to space”, and thought in general I wanted to go retro-futuristic. Then I started sourcing fabrics to get a better handle on the design and found the pink hologram PVC that made the belt and the headband. That started it all. The pink just led to this fun and ridiculous, very American take on 60’s space. After rewatching 2001: A space Odyssey I knew I wanted a spacesuit, with that suffocating, blown up feel, and then since it was space it needed to be sparkly like stars, but beading the whole thing would be a pain so… glitter? confetti? Have I ever seen a confetti coat? No? Okay then I guess that’s what we’re doing!
The coat is neat… I basically created the fabric. It is made of five layers: a polyester satin lining, quilt batting, a layer of glitter organza, a layer of blue chiffon with metallic magenta foil, party confetti and star sequins sprinkled all over, a second layer of foiled chiffon to trap the confetti, and then lastly a layer of blue glitter tulle that shed everywhere! It was all stitched together and voila. It’s super neat in person because the confetti shakes around like in a snow globe and the glitter goes in and out of focus, it’s not tacky but it’s also not subtle, and the colour shifts between magenta and blue back and forth because of the many fabrics inside.
There are many aspects of the design process and a lot of techniques you can use, which are your favorites?
I really like free sketching. I’m not very good at committing to designs, I tend to change and improvise along the way, for better or worse. I usually allow myself to deviate from the sketch, so my first and favorite sketches are usually the loosest ones with the least details.
Having spent 3 years studying Fashion Design myself, I know how important music and TV shows can be to have on in the background while you work! Were there any specific things you were listening to or series you were watching?
Tons of Star Trek because it’s so talky and easy to repeat, plus there’s so much of it. Lately I’ve been rewatching Dexter, introducing myself to Supernatural… honestly I watch stuff that is either long running or talky, otherwise it’s too distracting. And sometimes I have to be honest with myself and accept that I can’t watch anything because I have to focus. If I’m blasting Prog House mixes all night then that’s the sign I’m really stressed and in a lot of trouble, lol!
Fandoms and themes from geek/pop culture that wouldn’t usually be associated with fashion are slowly making there way onto the catwalk (Rodarte AW14) and into more adventurous clothing designs, rather than just tees and hoodies. What are your views on this and do you think your work is a part of this movement?
I don’t know… I think that as Japanese pop fashion gets more mainstream then it’ll be increasingly acceptable to use pop culture in high fashion, but honestly I think that geek is just another inspirational topic. I used to think that we needed MOAR GEEK STUFF but now I’ve changed that a bit to think that it’s not “more” it’s “quality”. That means that I’d rather have a high end company (say, Valentino) open to using character licensing (say, Wonder Woman) and realize there’s a market for it this season, than just another cheap brand peddling even more cheap geek stuff because it’s a cash cow. But fans still buy that cheap stuff so what do I know. I admit even I can’t buy Valentino, so maybe I’m daydreaming too much. We all want quality but if we can’t afford it then what’s the use…
Anyway, in regards to my work, I don’t think in the macro, it’s just a fun thing to do. I will continue to try to imbue some sense of fun in my fashions, but geek couture as I make it has no real market so it will probably continue to be a pet project just to celebrate my fandoms.
Are there any conventions you usually attend and do you cosplay at them? If so, what is your go-to cosplay?
I love SDCC and hopefully that’ll continue even with the times, but it’s mostly because of the people that gather. Wondercon is lovely too, sometimes better than SDCC, because it’s less insane and you can focus on the shopping and the creators. You’ll be surprised to know I do not really cosplay, I was always a fan of cosplayers, but I never really felt the NEED to dress up, I’m more obsessed with the design and the creation, I never needed to be the one wearing it. A few years ago, however, I created my first cosplay for myself of Elsa from Frozen, because her dress was basically all couture techniques, so I used it as a sewing exercise. The costume ended up with over 500 hours in labor with the bodice entirely hand sequined and stoned, and when I dress up as Elsa it’s scary because I don’t even look like I’m cosplaying, because I use my real platinum blonde hair, and the dress IS couture. It honestly just looks like clothes, it’s hyperreal, it’s weird. Even when I make a costume it comes out fashion. It’s too realistic.
You won the audience vote at the Her Universe contest last year at SDCC with that AMAZING Sailor Moon inspired dress! What was it like having all the con goers see your work on such a big stage?
Call me an attention hog but I love it. If I didn’t I wouldn’t make a transforming gown! But seriously though I just like to make people happy. It makes me happy to do good work, and of course it’s even better when other people recognize and enjoy that. Honestly I did not set out to “win” with that piece. I just did what I believed was a lovely design, up to my own high standards, with a concept that just made sense (Usagi transforming). The only downside to winning the fashion show is that I can’t participate again! I want to make looks for that show forever!
What was it like designing alongside Ashley Eckstein and the Her Universe team?
Ashley is lovely and very supportive, and the process was really informative and educational. Plus everyone at Hot Topic and Her Universe were very supportive in taking our ideas in, but being considerate to our integrities when things had to change because of their store parameters or marketing requirements. It’s great to have this opportunity but to also not have to leave your current job or commitments for example, and it has been an essential educative spring for me considering I’m just starting to move into this industry professionally.
What’s it like seeing your designs in the shops and being worn by so many awesome people all over social media?
That is the COOLEST part. I may make couture gowns that get lots of likes or views online, but it’s totally different to see your products actually in use by real people in the real world. That was probably the biggest lesson for me about “mass market” production. High fashion people may look down on mass market clothes, but they’re wrong to do so… mass market is often the surest way to get directly to people, to directly influence their lives. If you really want to make a difference, you do so reaching to many people. My feels from seeing people wearing these clothes last way longer than my feels in seeing something on a runway for all of ten seconds, then stuffing it in a closet forever. So it’s completely changed my perspective.
What piece of your work are you most proud of and which is your favourite?
I’m probably most proud of my FIDM thesis collection Suspend/Support. It was inspired by suspension bridges in fog and was all evening wear using spiral steel boning and chains as trims. I still cannot believe it is as mature, chic, yet experimental as it is, considering it was only my third year designing. It is a benchmark for me in what I’m really capable of if I let my imagination go.
If you could give advice for aspiring fashion designers, what would you say?
Fashion is not about pretending to be someone else, it’s about being the best version of yourself.
I think you’ll agree that those are some pretty incredible creations Leetal has made! A huge thank you to Leetal for chatting to us and we can’t wait to see what she does next! If you want to find out more about her work, you can visit Leetal’s website, or find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!
GS Blogger: Jess Hawke
Photo Source: Leetal Platt Designs