Just about a month ago, we checked in at the Tuleh show in Bryant Park, and caught fleeting moment with designer, Bryan Bradley. But after a show packed with multiple vignette-style collections, we missed out on a backstage connection because Mr. Bradley, deservedly, was mostly interested in sleep.
Since then, he's been detoxing, plotting out next season, and spending time at the Savannah School of Art and Design's Atlanta campus, where he's the Designer Mentor of the year, but as luck would have it, took time out from his busy schedule (and a dress full of pins) to call correspondent Rachel Raczka yesterday to talk shop.
So why short stories?
It came to be when I read a piece from the New York Review by Deborah Eisenberg and thought about the affiliation between how short stories versus the novel, just the structure of them. Typically I think in terms of fashion shows, it's it's own narrative art. I read a lot, so a novel has always been the model of how I set things up, but a short story, those are more dramatic... [the vignettes are] all related because they're all from the same person, but somehow I found the structure more charming, more right for right now.
What were some of the inspirations for the stories? Did they come as separate thoughts?
The last look 7 looks were all bridal. I called it Proposition 2, because, well obviously they were all women, and this was our reaction to Proposition 8 in California. Love is love. The second [story] was the Van Dykes, 7 to 10 were tough looks. It was relevant to me because there was an article in The New Yorker that was hysterically funny to me about a radical group of lesbians in the 70's, who gave up their jobs and wore tough leather clothing and lived in their vans.... The stories are meaningful to me, but separately, they don't need to project directly into the fashion show.
Short stories or not, projection or not, what was your personal favorite look from the show?
The thing about it for me is that they were all in their own way a reflection of Tuleh and the idea of a Tuleh woman. My favorite is always the first look out. I don't plan on it, it just always happens that way.
So what's casting like? What's the strategy?
It's not my strong point. The thing for me is when all the girls come in, I just want them all. Alvin, our casting director, he's a genius. Tuleh doesn't want to just every girl that's in the most popular editorials right now. It's about a certain grace and the way they walk and their personalities. I think the whole thing comes off as more of a labor of love and fashion when the girls we pick are really intimate. The right outfit on the right girl is a kind of magic, more than the show itself. Those 3-4 days of intense casting and fitting is the soul of the whole thing to me.
24 hours after the show, what were you up to?
BB: Sleep. (laughs) Typically, I do that anyway, but this show was very stressful, more stress than I've had in years. I went to bed literally two hours after the show and didn't get up to eat for at least 24 hours, and that's a lot for me! The only way to re-energize is to really rest. I think I stayed in bed for at least 3 days.
Do you read the reviews? Is it antagonizing?
Not really. I sometimes watch a DVD of the show. This time I did. But the whole process of production is more engaging for me, much more than the reflection itself.
But you got some travel in, you were just in Atlanta, what was it like?
I was at the Savannah School of Art and Design. I'm mentoring fashion students and this was our introduction. This was also the first time I've been to Atlanta, and I just found it charming. I had such a good time with just random interactions, like the concierge at my hotel. I had a blast with the students too but it was funny to be back in that kind of environment after 100 years (laughs) It was beautiful there, and not hot!
You did a collection of rugs with Roubini last spring, what's next? Are you breaking into home-goods?
That was a blast! It was a really fun project and it's ongoing. I'm getting into the swing of things and would like to treat it like fashion, with a collection every 6-8 months. This is my first really serious home furnishings project and I'm already working with Roubini on other products, like table top and pillows.
Are you a home decor guru yourself?
I think if you're a designer, it's part of your nature. But sometimes I look around and I think I'm still living in my college dorm room. It's like clothes, I love clothes, I love every aspect put into making and wearing them, but I don't put a lot of attention into dressing myself.
When do you start planning for next season? Are the cogs already in motion?
I've already started understanding what next season will be. At the very end of a collection, probably a week before the show, a certain point I'll stand back and be like okay, we're done. Usually because whatever I've started sketching at that point doesn't fit in, so it will probably be what the next collection will be about.
Can you drop us any hints?
It's rough because we're still in the trial and error point. It's ongoing with my pattern maker and myself. Just today we were looking at rough drafts of things and what I came away with is this general proposition. But when we start looking at prototypes next week, it'll become more obvious to me.
So YSL did Twitter, McQueen had a live runway web-cast, what's your take on social media?
Oh that all seems a little late on the uptake for me. Oh they're Twittering now, but by next fashion week the whole idea will have moved on. The whole thing is relevant in some part of the fashion life, but I also think fashion has lost a lot of it's allure and mystique because now the general public knows too much about how it works. There's no screen between the inter-workings and the audience. I think like most things with fashion designers, it's just a passing fad. And next season, we'll be on top of the next fad again, but just a little bit late.
-- RACHEL RACZKA