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Alisha Trimble is Williamsburg. It's in the name of her new concept shop I Love You Bedford, it's in her eco-friendly designs and how she makes sure that her process is as close to zero-waste as possible, and it's in the way she sources local jewelry and art for the store — everything available is made in New York. "That's how we differentiate ourselves as American designers," she says.
Here, in the space she opened this summer, Trimble talks to Racked about the inspiration and impetus behind her fashions, the evolving neighborhood she lives and works in, and the importance of setting your own standards.
I feel at home here. I'd lived in this neighborhood for a while — I jumped out for a bit and just came right back to Williamsburg. I always felt like there was a future here and I was going to be a part of it.
It means something to open a store called I Love You Bedford in this neighborhood that's changing very quickly.
Yeah, absolutely. The neighborhood is changing quickly, but I've been here a long time and I've been waiting for this opportunity — so I grabbed it and I appreciate it.
What kinds of things have you seen change? Are there things that you miss about the neighborhood or things that you're looking forward to coming in soon?
Things that I miss from the neighborhood...I used to be able to have an informal art studio in this area, and I don't think I could find that anymore. It used to be empty buildings that artists lived in in this area and now that's all in Bushwick, but there's nothing wrong with Bushwick, so that's fine too — as long as the artists have somewhere to go. But I remember when you'd go to the pizza place and there'd be an artist trying to talk to you about their art. You don't get that anymore.
"I always felt like there was a future here and I was going to be a part of it"
What do I like about the future? I think there's a Barney's Co-Op coming in — that's what I've heard. I think it would be nice to have something like that here. You know, there are certain things that you can't get here that you have to go to the city for. Like, you couldn't really go to the makeup counter and get Nars blush in Williamsburg. I feel like the best pair of shoes I could at the beginning of the summer were United Nude from Shoe Market — it would be nice to get high-end shoes, more designer shops. There are a few designer spots around, but more would be nice.
So you think Williamsburg is trending more towards luxury — and that's a good thing.
I think that's a good thing, yeah. But everything comes at a price. And then you have to go to Bushwick for those warehouse parties.
It's a good thing for the people who live here, but do you think as a designer and a store owner, it's good to have more similar high-end places around?
I think so, because then you become a destination. I prefer to have good neighbors — I love the neighbors right next door to me. The jewelry is really remarkable, they're craftspeople and also making it on-site, I've never really been that interested in used clothing or vintage clothing, so I feel like there's enough of that here. This is what's next. Plus, once you're setting your own standard, it helps to hold that standard up if there are things around you that are along the same lines.
Have you found that the community has been welcoming?
Absolutely, yeah. A lot of people that live on the block have come in and introduced themselves, and I encourage people to say hi. People come in all the time just to say hey.
Eco-friendly and sustainable are buzzwords right now. Why is ethical fashion so important?
The fashion and textile industry is in the top three sources of pollution worldwide. What I'm doing instead of trying to compete with people who are going as far as being reckless with people's lives or the environment — I don't want to compete with that — is setting my own standard and deciding for myself what it will cost to make something ethically, rather than compare it to something that was not made ethically.
Have people been responsive to that?
Yes. It's not for everyone and I don't want to make an elitist statement, but I do think this is a luxury. When you get more involved with being charitable and being responsible as a consumer, it does become a little bit of a luxury. What I do to provide something accessible is the lingerie line, Blanche DuMois. Most things are less than $100.
Have you always wanted to be in fashion?
I always loved to take clothes apart when I was younger. We were saving money, so I'd take things apart and fix them up. One time I had those fishing pants, yellow rubber fishing pants and that Euro club kid look was in so I cut them into flares and wore them to school. So I was naturally doing things like that and it developed into something.
Where do you think that desire came from?
I've been doing this for a really long time. I was from Detroit originally. and then I moved to California. My grandmother raised me and she was a farmer, so I didn't get all the "lipgloss training," you know? When I moved to San Francisco, I was like, everyone's so beautiful — in the Midwest, it's a different game. So I was like 19 and working in department stores. It was great to work at Nordstrom. It helped me figure it out.
I went to this avant-garde art school, the San Francisco Art Institute, that was very experimental in terms of the thought behind the work and being on the edge of what's happening in contemporary art. What I learned from that was just to think for yourself, to think independently and experiment with your creative side, but also be very critical of your own work, which is its own responsibility.
After I graduated, I took out library books from the San Francisco public library and learned pattern making and cutting and sewing from the books. I moved to New York to have access to the resources we have here in the industry and just started over from there.
Where you draw inspiration from?
I love designers that are more bold but also have an understanding of their craft. Vivienne Westwood is a huge inspiration, as are Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in the 70s. I read that book The Beautiful Fall when they're in Paris and Saint Tropez in the 70s and it just felt like such an inspiring time — all the things happening before the AIDS crisis, and then how sad that was.
You also have to have good people around you — you have to select people that get you, and you get them. Suzy Mae, [our house model, below] for example, is a huge muse for me.
You do a lot of custom orders here.
People can come in and look through the archive of things, and we have a custom order book. So if somebody wants something, we fill out their measurements and then they can pick the different colors. It's really fun to do that with people. You can really do anything. We do some weddings, which are always fun. But of course we love it when people pick clothing from the collection, since we went through all the trouble of designing it for them.
What's your advice to younger women who want to get their start in the industry?
Learn to live frugally. What's the cheapest meal you can eat, mac and cheese? If you have a taste for that, it helps. Peanut butter sandwiches, Greek yogurt, pasta and rice — you really have to sacrifice for it. And while you're doing that, keep it to yourself and make it look easy, make it look like it comes naturally to you so people think, "oh, you're so talented."
I read that you like to foster a non-competitive environment when it comes to working with women.
"Some people [act nasty] because they think they're supposed to because it's fashion or something, but it's just so tacky. Just be nice"
We're all in this together, and if we can share resources and help each other, why not do that? It's important to support each other — you don't have to act nasty. Some people do it because they think they're supposed to because it's fashion or something, but it's just so tacky. Just be nice. If you look at it, most people in fashion can be cool. Look at Betsey Johnson, she's amazing. The people that make it are the nice ones.
How do you find artists for your in-store exhibitions, and what's the criteria they need to meet?
Chelsea Browne, currently on exhibit, and I were in the same workspace for a minute on the Lower East Side. I saw the work she was doing and thought it was fascinating to see her process. I looked her up once I got the space because I thought it would be a great fit. She's really, really talented, and I could tell that she has a meditation to her practice. There's something about that style of working makes me gravitate towards it.
What's the criteria? I look for, obviously, things made in New York, and I look for an aesthetic that goes with the clothing in some way. And, you know, work that's well-developed that deserves to be shown. It's nice because as I bring in new exhibitions I can change the tone of the store a little bit.
What's next for I Love You Bedford?
I'd love to open more stores, but probably I'd have to wait a little while. I'm [in this space] for eight-plus years, and I want to keep it evolving. The plan is to keep rotating the exhibition every month. For December, we're going to have another group show called Sharing Is Caring. That's one of the most fun parts of having a space like this, that you can bring people in.
Do you have a motto?
I do not. What about — Don't be shy, come on by! No, but really, we believe in eco-friendly tendencies. We have this on our door: Artisanal high fashion clothing and objects made in New York with eco-friendly tendencies.
Time for the lightning round! Gum or mints?
Cake or pie?
Beer or wine?
Coffee or tea?
Lions or tigers?
Tigers or bears?
Tigers — Detroit Tigers!
Paper books or Kindle?
Pen or pencil?
Beach or mountains?
Summer or winter?
Bikini or one-piece?
Ooh — skip.
Bagels or doughnuts?
Ice cream or cookies?
Lipstick or lipgloss?
Lipstick, because I'm a grown-up now.