The Whimsical Design Duo
ABOVE: (LEFT) ERIC SCHLÖSBERG AND ELIZABETH AMMERMAN AT THEIR STUDIO IN NEW YORK CITY. PHOTO BY WENJUN MIAKODA LIANG.
It was one of those fateful New York moments when Elizabeth Ammerman, a Pratt freshman straight from the Texas Bible Belt, walked into the trendy SoHo boutique Seven New York. One of the salespersons happened to be Eric Schlösberg, a fine art and fashion student at Parsons, who felt an immediate affinity towards Ammerman’s eclectic style, perhaps matched only by his fixation on glitter and Marilyn Manson. With a rapid-fire Facebook friending and a glowing recommendation to his boss, Schlösberg got Ammerman a job at the clothing store. For the next four years the two would work side-by-side, party every night, and together dream of outlandish fantasty outfits on days off.
But it wasn’t until Ammerman was a senior that they decided mere reveries would not satisfy their yearning for whimsical, costume-inspired garb. To the surprise of none of their friends, the pair set out to create their own line, Ammerman Schlösberg. Both hold full time jobs–Schlösberg as a sales manager of Dover Street Market and Ammerman as a technical designer at Brookyln Cloth–so workdays and wild nights quickly turned to workdays following worknights, chased with dashes of sleep in between.
In a fervor of sewing and boundless imaginings, the pair churned out their first collection for Fall/Winter 2013, inspired by middle-school. By Spring/Summer 2014, their Alice in Wonderland-meets-Matrix-themed designs caught the attention of VFiles, which chose the designers as one of the three labels featured in the fashion-culture website’s debut group show. Next thing they knew, Naomi Campbell was shot in their crocodile vinyl cut-out crop for the cover of L’Officiel China .
Serious as their rise might be, the duo swears by a LOL aesthetic, which means what you think it means: it’s all for the laughs. The Ammerman Schlösberg customer is down for only the most carefree brand of fun.
We met with Ammerman and Schlösberg at Schlösberg’s apartment in the Financial district after their photo shoot. Looking chaotically fabulous, Schlösberg had on glitter eyeshadow, and Ammerman was close to barefaced, hair-up, in a red bustier dress.
RACHEL SMALL: You met in New York, and both went to school here. Did you guys have the same taste in clothing when you first met?
ERIC SCHLÖSBERG: We had a super similar aesthetic. It’s weird. It’s not exactly the same but we vibe really well.
ELIZABETH AMMERMAN: We tap into each other.
SMALL: Liz, how did you get into fashion?
AMMERMAN: It always seemed natural, like I was meant to do it. I would always wear weird clothes.
SCHLÖSBERG: You have a certain way of putting yourself together and it evolved into making your own clothes.
AMMERMAN: It just becomes an obsession. I like putting together outfits.
SCHLÖSBERG: I feel like you have this passion for dressing yourself. You’re always putting yourself together in the weirdest, wackiest way possible. Then all of the sudden you find this need for that one piece that you can’t seem to find, so you make it yourself. Then you realize, “I am really good at this.” It evolves.
SMALL: What about you, Eric?
SCHLÖSBERG: I grew up in Miami, Florida. Which is a super weird place. Also because it is the complete opposite of where Liz is from. It is really glitzy and excessive and over-the-top. But I love, love, Miami. The people there are crazy!
I’ve been a huge Marilyn Manson fan my whole life, since I can remember, probably 2nd grade. In 4th grade I went as Marilyn Manson for Halloween. My dad could not believe it…in good way. He is the best—my dad is fucking awesome. But I walked out of my bedroom in giant, wooden, penny-loafer heals—not even Marilyn Manson shoes. I put together my whole costume and I made this big cape. After that I started making the things I would wear. Little stupid things–I would take fishnet stockings and cut the crotch out and wear it as a shirt.
SMALL: Why not.
SCHLÖSBERG: I just evolved this sense of style.
SMALL: Liz, where are you from in Texas?
AMMERMAN: Amarillo. It’s really conservative. I wasn’t allowed to wear anything crazy. I remember I took my mom into this store called Deb. It’s a really white-trash, awful store. It was when the Spice Girls were popular so they had these crazy stripper-heal, strap, black platforms. I took my mom. I was around 10. I was like, “I want these.” Then she ran out of the store really mad and wouldn’t talk to me. My parents were always telling me to take it down: “It’s not a fashion show today.”
SMALL: Moving back towards the present: you guys clicked and started working together. And then what?
SCHLÖSBERG: We became family—New York family. Liz is like a sister to me.
SMALL: How did you wind up coming together on this line?
SCHLÖSBERG: We were at work one day. I think we were probably both hungover, hanging out on the staircase of the store. A thing that we do a lot is we will just start talking about an outfit in our imagination. We will just keep it going until we have this vision; until both of us are on our knees in awe: “That is it so cute.” I think it probably stemmed from one of those conversations. Just like, “Why the fuck don’t we do this? We should.”
SMALL: Can you give me an example of a piece that arose from one of those conversations?
SCHLÖSBERG: I have been all about French duster dresses—skintight with a huge poof coming out from the bottom.
AMMERMAN: We have both been into Mortal Kombat–the girls in that. Also Final Fantasy and just the whole video game costume culture . It’s super weird. These video-game designers come up with these crazy–
SCHLÖSBERG: –The women, they are assassins but they are so romantic and beautiful.
AMMERMAN: They are easy kill.
SCHLÖSBERG: We are really heavily influenced by all types of costume. I feel like every time we shift the way we dress, it is this go hard or go home attitude. We go deep into our look of the season.
AMMERMAN: Sometimes that goes into a subculture—
SCHLÖSBERG: —and all of the sudden we are inspired by that subculture and our collection evolves from whatever we have been diving into for the season.Right now, we are both into this princess, warrior, assassin, romantic, Renaissance bride. Our work tends to have this element of humor in it.
AMMERMAN: If it was just costume, we would take ourselves too seriously.
SCHLÖSBERG: We love the idea of ugly-cute. It’s funny to us. If you can’t laugh at what you are wearing even a little bit, it’s not fun. You should have fun.
SMALL: What are you guys bringing to the New York fashion scene that’s new?
AMMERMAN: A sense of fun. Not as serious.
SCHLÖSBERG: Not so uptight.
AMMERMAN: Even the weird collections are still a little serious.
SCHLÖSBERG: It’s so annoying, because even if a weird collection is not totally serious, you’ll read some interview with the designer and they are totally shitty and uptight and pretentious. That totally kills everything you just did for me. We just want to bring a sense of laidback chillness to the fashion world.
SMALL: How do each of your individual aesthetics play out in your designs?
SCHLÖSBERG: I love everything girly and over-the-top—ruffles and bows, lace and rhinestones, and glitter everything. [laughing] Glitter!
SMALL: That’s a huge contrast to your second grade Marilyn Manson.
SCHLÖSBERG: It’s about mixing the two. It is all about blacking out your teeth and red lipstick dripping from your eyes, covered in bows.
AMMERMAN: I am really into Pagan stuff. I am actually way too obsessed with Cosplay and over-the-top and costumes. There is just something so generic about it but still really weird and unsettling.
SCHLÖSBERG: There is something more modern about Liz. Together, there’s that perfect balance.
SMALL: What was your reaction when you found out you were selected for the VFiles show?
SCHLÖSBERG: Jumping up and down excited. Then we just sat down and really started working. I had to leave work early that day, I couldn’t even be there anymore. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, our first season, we would both go to work from nine to seven, and then we would work from seven pm to three in the morning. Then she would sleep on my couch and we would wake up and do it all over again. On the days that we were off, we would still be together working.
SMALL: Can you tell me a little about what you have planned in February?
SCHLÖSBERG: It’s like a costume history exposé.
AMMERMAN: Of vomit.
SMALL: What’s piece are you most looking forward to seeing completed?
SCHLÖSBERG: There is a coat of my dreams. It’s pretty special.
SMALL: Do you literally dream about it?
SCHLÖSBERG: I kid you not, I had such a serious dream about it. It was happening. It was this gigantic coat that dragged behind me. It was trimmed in white fur that was destroyed at the bottom from the dirty sidewalks. It was amazing. It was a moment.
SMALL: What were you doing in the dream?
SCHLÖSBERG: Just sashaying down the street.
SMALL: Going forward, do you want to stay in New York?
SCHLÖSBERG: There’s something about New York. It’s just a perfect spot for us to be. There are so many eccentrics in this city that wear costumes everyday. It is such a great place to be inspired.
SMALL: What eccentrics are you thinking of?
SCHLÖSBERG: There’s this homeless guy I see everyday. He is just, amazing. He’s in SoHo. Sometimes my boyfriend sees him sitting on the platform of the 6 drinking, sitting up against the wall drinking. Sometimes on the streets, but he is always really drunk. The last time I saw him he was wearing black dress pants with a pink tutu, and a Hawaiian shirt with a long-sleeve shirt under it. But the scariest part about him is that he is always wearing a Joker mask from Batman. So no one knows what his face looks like. It’s the white face with the red smear, the Heath Ledger-Joker.
SMALL: That’s terrifying.
SCHLÖSBERG: It has the hair on it and everything. It’s a full pullover mask. He drinks through the mask. It’s so fucked up, but his outfits—with the mask—are everything to me. He’s perfect. He just does his thing and he yells at people. I look for him because his outfits are on point.
SMALL: Have you asked him to take a picture?
SCHLÖSBERG: I wouldn’t even think once about doing that. That’s so scary. He’s super aggressive. I watch him, and if you look at him the wrong way…I’ve tried to pretend that I’m texting to take a picture of him, but it came out so blurry. I was like, “Fuck this. I have to go, this is too much.”
AMMERMAN: I really like the people, recently, at Gothic Renaissance. Weird, steampunk Goth people that are in full costume all day.
SCHLÖSBERG: I recently just discovered Cipriani Ballroom on Wall Street. On random weeknights at around 7:30PM they have huge Gala events. Lately I have been stopping to watch the women get out of the limo—old New York city money women—in these huge gowns and hats and gloves. There is something about watching people of that era getting dressed like that. “Oh we are getting dressed for the night.” People don’t do that anymore.
SMALL: What’s your dream thing to design costumes for?
AMMERMAN: Period stuff would be really fun. We met somebody this weekend at a party who did the stuff for Spring Breakers. Something like that—really trashy and slutty or iconic like that.
SCHLÖSBERG: Someone reading this article should call Liz and I to style their movie! It would be super cute.
AMMERMAN: Movies would be so fun.
SCHLÖSBERG: I have a weird thing for holiday costumes. I love a St. Patrick’s Day costume. I love a Christmas costume.
AMMERMAN: You’re obsessed with Christmas.
SCHLÖSBERG: I think it’s the ugliest holiday of the year. It’s hideous in that beautiful kind of way. It would be really fun if the two of us could make these super short, red velvet Rockette outfits with ugly white fur trim.
SMALL: I feel like interest in holidays has infinite potential for future capsule collections.
SCHLÖSBERG: There will be a Christmas collection, I am telling you!
AMMERMAN: Not even a resort collection, a Christmas collection.
SCHLÖSBERG: We will have a Mrs. Claus inspired Christmas collection. That would be something we would do–like a Spring/ Summer collection inspired by Christmas. Short little summer dresses in green and red and tinsel. We’d make them light up somehow.
SMALL: Who is your ideal customer? How do your pieces fit into her daily life?
AMMERMAN: She lives by LOL, that’s our big thing.
SCHLÖSBERG: You have to be able to laugh and to be able to get it. You have to have a sense of humor. She’s just a really cool, eccentric, interesting person.
SCHLÖSBERG: Fearless with a great imagination. The clothes we design hopefully give her the confidence to live out her character in her personal fantasy.