We love Salt Lake City and the people who keep it vibrant and changing. Needless to say, then, joy abounds when we find out that, say, a native San Franciscan has chosen to premiere her new fashion line right here in our city. I asked my good friend, Erica Felton, a few questions about her life, her inspiration and her couture clothing line, Haus of Mirth.
Have you always known what you wanted to do? Had no clue. In high school, I would get so upset going clothes shopping at the mall because nothing interested me. I started buying vintage clothes, taking them apart, and redesigning them (think Molly Ringwald in "Pretty in Pink"). I even made jewelry out of old chandelier parts I found in an antique store (I still do this). At that point, I was just trying to survive. It wasn't until I was a couple years into junior college, when I started stitching for a designer friend, that I really figured it out. Looking back, it's a huge "duh".
How would you describe your clothing line? What are you trying to say? The look is difficult to describe because I haven't seen it out there. A lot of my work is inspired from my work as a theatrical crafter, where I would literally "build" costumes for stage; I worked with leather, metal, foam, gutter grate, and what ever else I could find in an unconventional way to create the effect I wanted. For my Haus of Mirth line, I use a lot of recycled materials, like vintage leather coats that I cut up or use as-is, recycled jeans, crochet table clothes, and other bizarre materials using the same approach...finding a different application to create the effect I want. Obviously, I have a theatrical and historical flare, but it's also very punk rock, some western, and some bohemian. I'm fortunate to have spent so many years in the fashion industry and the theatrical world, so that my work is always on the cutting edge of fashion...not just some costume-y pieces of make-believe nonsense. I'm half Jewish and half Japanese (Jewpanese), born in San Francisco, but I was forced to live in a small hick town in Texas for my entire childhood. This made me really jaded. It was really the perfect storm for becoming the fashion risqué designer that I am. Breaking out and doing something different. Ugh...we need something different.
Would you say fashion is your passion? Of course I enjoy fashion, but I'm not one of those people who knows all the celebrities and what they wear (I don't watch TV, so I don't really know any of them anyway). I don't have to wear couture. I don't have to have the latest. I'm not superficial about it. What I love is the artistry of it. Clothing is just what people put on their bodies to keep from being naked, to keep their butts from scraping on rocks when they sit down...but fashion is what you have to say about it, expressively and responsively.
Who inspires you? My mother. She passed away a year ago from cancer. I used to make her jewelry and clothes all the time, for every occasion. Every new piece I create I imagine is for her, a gift for her. I just have to pretend she's young and rebellious (well, at least young).
Who is your style Icon? Cindy Lauper. I wanted to be her so badly when I was a kid. I took my mom's square dancing petticoat, sewed giant sequins all over it, and wore it to school once. I think the kids told me it was the "devil's clothes".
Why feature your premiere line in Salt Lake? I read a while back in a magazine that SLC is voted one of the top ten most creative and bohemian towns in the US. It even beat out my home town of San Francisco. When I found out my good friend, Corey, was opening his own boutique, Unhinged, in Sugarhouse, I thought, "Perfect!" Who better to promote me than someone I'm close to? And in a GREAT city?
Why Unhinged? Corey is an unconventional rebel, just like me. He gets my attitude and my aesthetic. We share the same brain. It's a perfect partnership.
Ask yourself a question..."What's that smell?"
What should the world know about you and your business? Everything is one-of-a-kind or serial-numbered on the label, so you know you're getting something totally original. Each piece is hand made by me, and I pour my whole being into it. It's also really important to keep my pieces green by using recycled materials. All those animals out there that were killed to be an ugly coat with humongous shoulder pads were killed for a now-better cause...to become a hot corset.
Where can Salt Lakers buy your stuff? Online at my Haus of Mirth Etsy Store. I sell my own designs as well as amazing vintage pieces. And at Unhinged, 1121 E. 2100 S in Sugarhouse (free parking in back).