BY KAILEY TEDESCO
If you’re a sartorial hoarder like I am, it might be difficult for you to find new styles that are all at once original, inspiring, and comfortable. You can only wear so many pieces from places like Urban Outfitters before running into someone else wearing your exact outfit, and even thrift store finds can have their own snags when it comes to comfort and fit. When I discovered Samantha Pleet designs about a year ago, it was a breath of fresh air to say the least. Her cottony, utilitarian, unicorn dappled creations will make you feel like you’re wearing the Cloisters out to dinner. There’s an undeniable mysticism and, dare I say, universe that exists within the fabric planes of these items and within the extremely well-cultivated look books. Needless to say, when the contagiously lovely Ms. Pleet invited me to her Brooklyn, NY studio for a chat about hauntings, the creative process, and Dario Argento films, I was beyond thrilled!
I immediately entered into an aura that was full of warmth, aplomb, and inspiration. All at once, it was everything I’d imagined, yet nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. Samantha was glowing with obvious enthusiasm for her art as she invited me to sit on a mint green stool. I took a moment to orient myself, while absorbing the sea of bubblegum pink bookcases, curtains, and fluffy pillows that adorned this demiurgic den. A slight breeze blew the sheer curtains slightly towards us, and ballet studio mirrors reflected a bare dress-form at the corner of the room (cue Suspiria vibes). Throughout the interview, we were surrounded by Samantha Pleet original designs, each humming in their own originality. A metallic silver full-length dress caught my attention and I screeched, truthfully, that this was something I could get married in.
Pleet is keenly aware of her power as an artist stating confidently that "there has to be a reason for everything I do." She explained that her creations are often "cinematic" in that creating them feels much like it would to create the universe of a film or the costumes that a character might wear. I came prepared with a question regarding a personal hunch that Argento films might have been an inspiration for her, and she lit up exclaiming "you nailed it!" Not only does she love herself some witchy ballerinas, she is also inspired by David Lynch and the original Star Trek.
These eclectic muses unify in her designs giving each piece an oneiric look that is vaguely futuristic and full of a "playful energy." If you can imagine being lost in another dimension, maybe the bleak and sandy one from Beetlejuice (another of Pleet’s favorite films), and then imagine what the women might be wearing there, it will probably look exactly like a Samantha Pleet design.
Ultimately, Pleet creates worlds with her clothing--wide landscapes that explore both space and time. While she loves the freedom of expression inherent in 1960’s clothing designs, she also enjoys mixing the 1980’s trends reminiscent of her childhood and the Renaissance. Instead of allowing each piece to check one decade’s box, she strives to mix decades creating a look that is completely her own, existing independent of any time. Furthermore, she is aware of comfortability and decided she never wants to "put [her]self in this vintage dress box…it’s more of a playful feeling."
We talked for some time about how vintage clothing is of course amazing, but it is often hard to find styles that feel good in terms of fit. Pleet uses simplistic, yet highly flattering designs to complement her surreal and involved prints. She says her pieces are for "working girls who’ve got a lot of projects going on"--girls at the beach or a party, lovely girls working in bakeries, performing concerts, or writing books.
Actress and comedian, Jenny Slate, is one such "working girl" who frequently dons Pleet’s designs. When asked about Slate, Pleet said that she is the "epitome of who should be wearing my clothes" and that it was a "fated" connection as both women have an evident and immense respect for one another.
Friendships, nostalgia, and what Pleet calls "happy hauntings" play a huge role on these designs, specifically the most recent SS16 collection: A Lovely Haunting. Many of these prints were inspired by Pleet’s grandmother’s home in the Philadelphia area. The "Pink Wallpaper" print accompanying many of these season’s styles was pulled directly from her grandmother’s glamorously decorated bedroom. Other prints in this collection came from ideas of a "haunted vacation." She wanted to create "an endless [foggy] landscape." The Vista print, for example, was meant to be "outside the house" while the Dreaming print is intended to be "objects in the house." Then there are beautiful skirts and swimsuits with windows cut from them and these were meant to represent the house itself. The entire collection allows the wearer to be her own heroine in a wonderland literally wrapped around her waist. When you wear the Dreaming print, you’re not haunted; you are the haunting. There’s something pretty incredible about that. And Pleet is no stranger to hauntings.
On several occasions she described herself as feeling "echo[es] of some sort of memory" each coming from her two late grandfathers. On one occasion, just before hearing the news of her grandfather’s passing, she and her sister were "visited by a cat at a cafe…the cat was extremely comforting." Their grandfather loved cats, so Pleet believes that this was a consoling energy sent to her and her sister directly. She confided that she doesn’t "know why there would be horrible hauntings…I’m happily haunted…more cobwebs, please!" And More cobwebs are, indeed, coming this way, as Pleet hinted that the Fall 2016 collection will be partly inspired by Morticia Addams and her notorious lopped off rose heads. I’ll be casually refreshing the online shop until this collection is released!
While Pleet is the auteur, so to speak, of her namesake collection, she does many collaborative projects with photographers, filmmakers, artists, and her own husband, Patrick Pleet, who uses his architectural background to assist in the design process. It is truly an irresistible energy of passion, love, and curiosity that surrounds the entire studio. Samantha Pleet’s philosophy of fashion and design blends elements of magic and sorcery that can only come from the most ethereal of dreams. She believes that "when you’re an artist or designer, things just appear in your head. Same thing with dreams--things conjure themselves. It’s like you’re reaching into the universe and it’s giving you visions."
Ms. Pleet’s effervescence carried our conversation to wonderful places, and I am sure reading about it will be as fruitful for you as hearing it was for me. If you’d like to learn more or buy an original design please visit samanthapleet.com, or follow Samantha Pleet herself on Instragram and/or Snapchat (she admittedly does not hold back on Snapchat!): @samanthapleet. There is currently a special 25% off sale for the mid-summer solstice with the discount code "solstice"!
To re-center, we ended our discussion with some sillier questions found below. Enjoy!
Some Fun Facts About Samantha Pleet:
Haunted House or Alien Abduction:
Haunted House ("Bring on the Vampires!").
Dune, Harry Potter Series, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
Mermaids or Zombies:
If you could bring any fashion icon back from the dead to model your clothes, who would it be?
What is a "guilty pleasure" inspiration for you?
The X-Files and Star Trek (Only the original and Enterprise).
One food you could never live with out?
Pasta, or some fresh sour dough bread. *She was sad to just have one food to choose!*
Where do you hope your next travel destination might be?
Venice, Italy--"It’s the easiest, most magical destination--a jewel."
If you could have any pet in the world, what kind of pet would it be?
An alpaca, but just for petting! *She is not too fond of pets inserted her husband, Patrick.*
“A Day at the Oracle Club” Photography Amanda Jas/ Model Jenna Gribbon
“The Future is in Your Hands Part 1” Photography Maya Fuhr / Model Genesis Vega
“Spellbound Wanderer” Photography Patrick Pleet / Model Gabriella Cetrulo
Samantha’s Grandmother’s Bedroom via Samantha Pleet’s Instagram with permission
All other photos taken by Kailey Tedesco
Kailey Tedesco is a full-time poet and a part-time taxonomist of vintage collar dresses. She will soon receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University, and she's the co-founder of Rag Queen Periodical. On any given day, you can find her musing on the Season 5 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and munching on French pastries. Get to know more at ragqueenperiodical.com or follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram: @KaileyTedesco.