Mother of Pearl is a London based label even though the designer Maia Norman and her recent artist/collaborator Fred Tomaselli are both originally south Cali kids. Since I didn’t go to London Fashion Week this season I stopped by the James Cohan gallery in Chelsea (where Fred shows his other work) this week to see the latest collection and it was well worth it.
This collection is a brilliant combination of luxe –silk, cashmere, buttery leather and swarkovski crystals were staples– and liveable –relaxed silhouettes and soft draping added an ease to the elegance. Maia works with a different artist each season but the prints created by Tomaselli are insane. Kaleidoscopic circles, butterflies, flying insects, and birds, birds, and more birds. My favorite print looks like delicate birds that you would see on a china pattern (and in fact they do sell it on a teapot!) but on closer inspection they’re attacking each other. This “pretty violence” on great pieces results in a collection full of must haves. Up until now it wasn’t anywhere for sale on the island of Manhattan –nor in neighboring Brooklyn–but as I write this Mother of Pearl is prepping to sell at Opening Ceremony. Another perfect match and I seriously cannot wait!
In the meantime Maia was kind enough to answer a few questions!
What is your background / did you go to school for fashion design?
I went to art school – although I’ve always been an eccentric dresser – even from the age of five. I made a lot of effort. I was a jeweler and silversmith before I did clothing – eventually I found the scale restricting – clothing was the natural progression.
Where did the name “Mother of Pearl” come from?
I thought long and hard to come up with something that embodied a beautiful strong element, but also with connotations of the sea. The maternal aspect has warmth to it as well.
What was the inspiration for the Autumn/Winter collection?
Fred Tomaselli’s detailed mind! I’m enchanted with Fred Tomaselli’s bird prints and the violent undertones.
How does something like this work in collaboration? Does he give you prints and you decide how to use them or is there a dialogue about what you’re looking for first? I’m wondering if you could discuss the collaborative process a little.
We usually choose from an artist’s existing work. We try not to take too much of the artists time as they are inevitably busy – so we embellish, choose placement prints, decide on fabrics and silhouettes and put them past the artist. As we do sometimes abstract images, it’s important that we ask approval from the artist first. Most of the artists we’ve worked with have been very trusting and flexible, and very happy with seeing their work translated into clothing.
Do you have a muse when you design or are you your own muse? (I like to ask this because men claim to have muses and most women seem to design for themselves)
I would tend to agree with you there – I mostly want clothes to fit my varied lifestyle – from evening city chic to outdoor active, I like to be able to dress things up but also wear them casual….
Do you have a favorite piece from this collection?
I can’t help but to think of the bird printed leather skirt – leather printing has come such a long way – its exquisitely detailed, beautiful to look at, and delicious to touch
What music/singer/bands are you currently listening to?
I’ve been listening to FIP Radio – its online out of Paris – they play such a variety of music with very little interruption, very easy on the ear – you never know what you’re going to hear, from opera to hip hop….I recently picked up Chaweenwan Dumnern – Thai funk from 1964, I guess that makes it Siamese funk.