We like to call it Babetown, USA. Brooklyn is home to some of our favorite designers that also to happen to be some of our favorite people. So, in celebration of our Brooklyn Babes Sale, we got a few of them together at Samantha Pleet’s studio to find out what they love most about this New York City borough.
Though she’s based in Brooklyn, designer Kelsy Parkhouse continues to find inspiration in her southern California roots for Carleen, her line of cool, quirky women’s wear. Folk-art motifs, fine art and domestic manufacturing are also mainstays for the emerging designer. After her thesis collection at the Pratt Institute found rave reviews in 2012 and receiving the inaugural Liz Clairborne Concept to Product Award, Kelsy ventured out on her own straight out of school and never looked back.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? Transplant! I’m California born and raised but New York was calling me when it came time to apply for college and I’ve been here ever since.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS IN BROOKLYN? Currently I call Bushwick home, and my studio is here too. I’m fortunate to have it just a few minutes away and I’m really happy with it all. The only bummer is not being closer to the garment district, it makes me really careful about planning productive trips into the city.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? My neighborhood and my dog. New Yorkers have a reputation for keeping to themselves, but if you start walking a puppy you’ll make a lot of friends. We got a puppy named Poppy back in April and she is way more of an extrovert than my boyfriend and I are. Also, my actual friends that I’ve had almost as long as I’ve lived here, it wouldn’t be the same without them. Some are from back in my first days at NYU who don’t have any connection to the fashion industry and some are friends from working and creating here in New York. It’s been really nice to build that sense of community.
BEST PLACE TO EAT IN BROOKLYN? Brucie has been my favorite restaurant in NYC for four or five years but they’re closing for good on February 15th so hurry up and get over there! Seriously everything that comes out of that kitchen is amazing and it’s always a good time. I don’t go often enough. I also love Tacoway Beach (fka Rockaway Taco) and their amazing fish tacos – by far the best tacos I’ve ever eaten on the east coast and totally worth the train ride out.
COLD PICNIC, Phoebe Sung
Known for luxe leather, macrame and cheeky textiles, Phoebe Sung is one part of the design duo behind this genius collection of home goods and accessories that just keeps getting better. She founded Cold Picnic in 2010 with her fiancé Peter Buer after working in fine arts and corporate fashion design. The pair met in 2006 while attending school in Boston and have been living and working together every since.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? We had family here so when I was a kid I visited a lot, but I grew up in a suburb of DC and lived in Philly and Boston before finally moving to New York with Peter about four years ago.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS IN BROOKLYN? We recently bought a house in Ridgewood, so we live on the first floor and converted the basement into a studio. Our neighborhood is on the border of Bushwick, so depending on what map you look at, sometimes we’re Brooklyn and sometimes we’re Queens.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? I love that I never feel like I’ve truly got to the bottom of it. I’ve lived in other cities where I felt a bit restless after a few years and that hasn’t happened here yet. It’s so big, and there’s enough to do in all the neighborhoods that, even if you do get sick of where you’re living or where you usually hang out, there’s always something totally new a few miles away.
BEST PLACE TO DRINK IN BROOKLYN? St. Mazie in Williamsburg has delicious cocktails. It has that sort of hazy elegant ’20s vibe a lot of places seem to be going for, but better, somehow. I love that there always seems to be another nook or cave or garden to hide in.
Ellen Van Dusen designs clothing with psychology in mind. Specifically, the brain’s reaction to visual stimuli. The result? A namesake label that focuses on universally flattering styles featuring happy, look-at-me prints that redefine retail therapy. The Brooklyn-based designer started Dusen Dusen in 2010 and has since expanded her contemporary line of women’s wear into fashion for the home.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? I grew up in DC and went to college in Boston. I’ve been on the East Coast all my life, but New York feels like home to me now. I’ve been here for 8 years.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBOURHOODS IN BROOKLYN? I live in Fort Greene and my studio is in Williamsburg.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? I love the all the different kinds of people that live here, especially in my neighborhood. It’s diverse in a lot of different ways: age-wise, racially, economically, it’s all across the board.
THE BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH IN BROOKLYN? I like to sit in Fort Greene Park in the summer. It’s great for people and dog watching.
MANDY KORDAL, Kordal
Mandy Kordal makes the kind of knitwear that’ll make you crave a sweater in the dead heat of summer. The designer began her career at brands like Travota, J. Crew and Doori before buying a knitting machine and launching her namesake line in 2012. With Kordal, Mandy is dedicated to ensuring that all of their pieces are designed and produced in an ethical manner to support American manufacturing and artisans abroad.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? I am a transplant from Cincinnati Ohio, but moved around a lot growing up, we rarely stayed anywhere for more than three years. I’ve been living in New York for seven years now and it’s now become the place that feels most like home.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS IN BROOKLYN? I live in Crown Heights in Brooklyn and I love our neighborhood! My studio is at the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator, which is in the old Pfizer building on Flushing Ave.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? I would have to say the people. I feel very lucky to have a great group of friends that all live close by and have been such an inspiration and support system for me. Getting everyone together to hang out in Prospect Park in the summertime is the absolute best.
BEST PLACE TO EAT IN BROOKLYN? Oh that is a hard one, depends on your mood but my favorite spot is Café Rue Dix. My sister makes fun of me because I go there so often that now I know all the staff. It’s a French Senegalese restaurant café and it’s perfect for just grabbing a cup of coffee or a glass a wine, and the food is amazing.
LEAH PLANTE, Plante
Leah Plante and her sister Rebecca, founded their namesake line in 2013 and it finds inspiration in the combination of nature and the city. While living in separate cities (Leah is in Brooklyn and Rebecca in Austin), the Plante sisters create novel and feminine pieces using organic and natural, locally sourced materials. All pieces are made in New York’s historic garment district.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? I am a transplant! I grew up in Charleston, SC and moved to Manhattan after graduating from college upstate. I lived there for about five years before moving to Brooklyn.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS IN BROOKLYN? I live and work in Park Slope.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? I’m not sure! I love the quaint architecture, cool shops and restaurants, and many green spaces. But one thing that struck me as so nice – and so different from Manhattan – when we first moved here was that people leave books out on their stoops for their neighbors to take for free. So thoughtful! Plus, I have gotten a couple good books out of it.
BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH IN BROOKLYN? The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. There are babies, couples on first dates, Brooklyn gals in cute dresses… plus you get to walk around in nature.
Any good description of Samantha Pleet’s eponymous line must start with a list of cool girls. Jenny Slate, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lena Dunham, Yael Stone, Tavi Gevinson, Lorde, Haim, Jenny Lewis are all fans of her modern, girly designs. She established her epoynmous line in 2007 after her graduation from the Pratt Institute and now works alongside her husband Patrick. Their line combines equal parts of mysterious, fantastical and modern taking inspration from music, art, history and literature. Their signature silhouettes are consistently featured in the best fashion magazines and worn by the best girls.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? I’m a “real” New Yorker. I have been here for 16 years and I feel that if you have spent seven years here you should consider yourself a New Yorker. I grew up in Philadelphia, which is the next city over so it’s close enough but NYC is the one I chose.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS IN BROOKLYN? I live in Greenpoint and work in Williamsburg. I love that my studio is walking distance from my apartment.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? At any moment you can get the best meal, the best coffee and have the opportunity to meet the most interesting people in the world, whether they live here or they are just passing through.
BEST PLACE TO EAT IN BROOKLYN? I’m really into Glasserie right now, I always have a restaurant obsession and that is where you will find me. It’s the most amazing Middle Eastern-inspired healthy food in a beautiful setting. The best part is that it is deep in Greenpoint and is a little hard to get to, so you never have to wait to long for a table.
WRAY SERNA, Wray
Wray Serna studied design at California College of the Arts and continued her studies at Parsons Paris before launching her namesake label for Spring/Summer 2015. Her debut collection was featured in the pages of Vogue and garnered a fast, loyal following in New York City. Known for vibrant prints paired with everyday classics, at the crux of each design lies the belief that what we wear daily should be comfortable, flattering and provocative. All Wray garments are produced by a small, fair-trade manufacturer in Delhi, India.
ARE YOU A NATIVE NEW YORKER OR TRANSPLANT? A native New Yorker I am not but I have lived here for almost eight years so I feel pretty connected to the city. My family is from Connecticut and they live less than two hours away so I have always felt my roots growing even deeper in the East Coast.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS IN BROOKLYN? I live and work in Greenpoint, it’s a quiet neighborhood next to the water. I love living here mostly because it is mellow and has a wonderful vibe to it.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BROOKLYN? Brooklyn is so vast with so many neighborhoods that I would have to say that I like the history of it all. I also love the food in Brooklyn.
BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH IN BROOKLYN? I am going to have to say that Bushwick has a great vibe for emerging style and people watching. It is mostly compromised of Latin American families and very hip young people. When I go there I feel like I am getting to see some real New Yorkers at their best. I love seeing what people put together, there are a fair amount of emerging designers and artists that live there.
Love these babes as much as we do? We thought you would. Click this way to shop the sale.
All photos by BriAnne Wills on location at the Samantha Pleet studio in Brooklyn.