July 14th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Leah lands in the City –  NYC

L.A. designer Leah Redmond, creator of GORDON, a fresh new collection based on palaka, did not take a straight path to fashion design. She says she was just a little too local and low key for a career that usually requires a lot of time in the spotlight.

“I always felt like if you stood out, you were picked on,” Leah recalls of her small kid time in Honolulu. “You didn’t want to stand out. The most subversive thing I did was wear covered shoes. I was so painfully self conscious I ended up veering toward more subversive fashion like Japanese designers – not overtly sexy fashions. Love of fashion was there (in me) but I didn’t dress to stand out.”

So how does a painfully shy girl growing up in the casual atmosphere of Honolulu end up designing her own line in L.A.? Well, for Leah, life took lots of twists and turns, and she was willing to go along for the ride.

You know, sometimes fashion just happens to you, and it takes courage and creativity to hold on to it and let it take you where it – and you – need to go.

Leah’s first trip to Paris in 1998

After graduating from Punahou, Leah didn’t have a clear plan or path. She chose U.H. – Manoa and majored in French because she wanted to “get through college quickly” so she could travel. And travel she did. She studied for a summer in Annecy, France, where she found that “Speaking French to French people was scary.”

Rather than returning to finish her studies at U.H., she stayed in France, in the Loire Valley, and graduated abroad. She then joined an au pair agency on the Swiss border and “That’s where I really learned French. The three kids taught me.”

From France she moved to London, where she worked for nine months for Angela Stone, a wedding gown designer, in Parsons Green. “I was an intern and all-hands girl,” Leah explained. “The first day I remember she had me cut out a pattern in silk charmeuse. I had no formal training and I must have been horrible.”

Leah did have a little experience working in the costume shop at Kennedy Theatre at U.H.-Manoa, but there wasn’t a lot of silk involved there, and “I had never made a garment from start to finish.” While working on wedding gowns, she discovered a knack for beading. “I had a light touch, so I discovered hand sewing,” she explained.

Leah’s first sewing experience came at U.H. Manoa’s Kennedy Theatre.

Following her time in France, Leah returned to Hawaii “To make a little money” to enable her to move to NYC. “You’re too young to know you can’t,” she said with a chuckle. “As shy as I was, I knew I wanted to work with costumes. I loved clothes. The reason I got into costumes, it felt safer and less committal. I was still working with clothes, but not having to stand out or have a personal point of view. I always wanted to do fashion but didn’t have the confidence.”

On arrival in NYC, Leah simply picked up a Time Out magazine and perused a list of theatres. “I picked the first eight and sent my resume to those eight and one theatre responded immediately that they needed a wardrobe supervisor for a new play, “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.” It was the Off Broadway Theatre Workshop and Leah worked there until 2000.

Leah’s first Off-Broadway play, where she worked as Wardrobe Supervisor.

The next play Leah worked on was “Dirty Blonde.” “It went to Broadway and I went with it,” she said. She worked in theatre for 17 years, until 2014. The job demands total dedication. There are eight performances a week. The Wardrobe Supervisor must maintain all the costumes for the cast. There are alterations to work on all day and you need to be on hand throughout the show in case of mishaps that can happen on the stage.

About the time she was working on “Aida,” Leah decided it was time to get some formal training in fashion, so she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology from 2000-2001. Through FIT she was given an opportunity to intern with Alexandre Plokhov, designer of Cloak. In this atelier she was exposed to Plokhov’s exacting tailoring techniques and “His minimalist, perfectionist details and fabrics,” Leah explained.

Leah was fortunate to be working with Cloak in 2004, when they won the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Foundation Fund Award, which is one of fashion’s pinnacles. Cloak won along side Thom Browne and Proenza Schouler. (Forgive me for name dropping, but hey!)

The creatives at Cloak. That’s uber designer Alexandre Plokhov in the center.

Leah met actress Debra Messing on Broadway and “We got along really well and she asked me if I wanted to be her dresser on her TV show, ‘The Mysteries of Laura.’ I loved it but it burned me out working more than 70 hours a week. I longed for warmth and consistency and a slower pace. If I’m going to put 75 hours a week into a project, I want it to be my project.”

The crazy hours and insane pace of her career were not what finally drove Leah to go west. It was the feeling that “I hit saturation level in New York City. When you stop enjoying your city, and wanting to explore it, it’s time to go.” L.A. was calling, and she moved west in 2016.

Leah gets a hug from actress Debra Messing.

Leah made her first palaka dress in 2015 and friends loved it. “They said ‘You should start a business with that dress,’ and I did,” she explained.

If you missed it, check out my previous blog about GORDON, Leah’s fab new line of palaka dresses.

https://paularath.com/2018/07/gordon-meets-palaka/

For the moment, the only place you can buy GORDON is at www.shopgordon.co

-Paula Rath

 

 

Leave a comment:
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.