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On the City's Edge

[whitespace] silk dress Skyscraper Style: Andrea Stiglitz's romantic screen-printed silk dress in antique rose, worn under a hand-loomed cotton and viscose knit cardigan, confirms the designer's big-city sensibility.

Sophie Kamin

Local designer Andrea Stiglitz talks about her one-world urban sensibility

By Diana Rupp

Having lived and worked in Chicago, London and New York, Andrea Stiglitz is happiest running her one-woman show in San Francisco. In her Noe Valley studio, the 30-year-old designer talks about her career, philosophy and upcoming fall collection.

Metropolitan: What was it like apprenticing with Vivienne Westwood in London?

AS: Working for Vivienne, I got accustomed to doing things that I didn't know how to do. In fact, it got to the point where I stopped questioning whether or not I could do something. It was completely spontaneous. About half an hour after I arrived on the first day, they handed me a pile of patterns and a pile of fabric. This fabric was exquisite, outrageously expensive lace with metallic heat-transfer designs all over it. And they're like, Here--cut it and sew. We're making dresses for the Paris runway show in two weeks! But I became most prepared to start my own line while I was working at Jemma Kahng [in New York]. It was an extreme technical preparation where I could see the connectedness of every step. It taught me about the reality of running a business and how difficult it can be.

Metropolitan: What are some of the challenges of working in SF as opposed to Los Angeles or New York?

AS: Starting out in SF is definitely easier. There's less weeding out to do in terms of finding fabrics and people to do the manufacturing. Getting your name out there is harder. But being in the midst of the whole fashion industry in NY made it hard for me to be in touch with pure ideas. I wanted a lifestyle that was more in balance, not so far removed from nature.

Metropolitan: Is there an SF fashion sensibility to your designs?

AS: No, the direction of my work hasn't changed since I've been here. I still bow to London, to my memories. I'm a big-city girl. I look at my dresses on the rack and I see skyscrapers.

Metropolitan: What inspires you?

AS: Experience. It ranges from the mundane to looking at the ocean to listening to live music. Suddenly I'll see a garment and I'll go home and sketch it until the balance is right and until the whole sort of linear equation is right. I like to highlight a certain edge. In our society, we look at the hardness in a person as negative. I think our culture is afraid of that strong edge in women especially, but I find it extremely sexy.

Metropolitan: Do you design with a particular kind of woman in mind?

AS: No. What's most exciting for me is to see the same jacket on a size 4 and a size 12 and have it look great on both of them. My things are designed for people. Who's it on? Whoever.

Metropolitan: What do we have to look forward to in the fall?

AS: The first part of the collection is suits which are very structural and reinforced, not soft. Next is a series of garments with deeper, dark-toned lace layered over something even more bright or moody. It's very much like looking at stained glass, with light coming from the inside. What really inspired me, though, is the series of 100 percent silk taffeta separates I did with a sport coat silhouette and a teeny little slash of a miniskirt. The pivotal piece is a pair of pants that has a dart running down the front from the hip to the knee. It is the most minimal piece I've ever created, and it has educated me in how you can make one line really count. That piece is directional for me, and I think it will have much to do with what I do in the future.

Metropolitan: What are your plans for the future?

AS: I would like to do a number of undergarments. It'll definitely start out with a little unbelievable G-string that will lie straight across the hip. Those pieces will become comical. I don't want to say too much about it. Let's just say there will be little secrets underneath that the wearer will know [about], as well as the few people she decides to share them with.

Metropolitan: What would give you the greatest feeling of success?

AS: When there's a woman in Hong Kong, and in Paris, and in Chicago, and in New York, and in London, all on the same day, experiencing something positive and wearing something of mine and having a better experience because of it.

Andrea Stiglitz's designs can be found at Salon de Thê, 6 Brady, 415/863-8391, and Taxi, 1604 Haight, 415/431-9614. Retail prices range from $120 to $580.

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From the June 1-14, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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