A New Age for Trasteverine

Tomorrow, the Fashion Group International celebrates the next generation at their annual Rising Star Awards. Phillip Lim, and most recently Jason Wu, have won the award, which is neither exclusive to Asian American designers nor guaranteed an inauguration dress. Nonetheless, it’s a great honor, and this year’s nominees include the Los Angeles-based line Trasteverine, a women’s ready-to-wear label designed by Michalyn Andrews. We spoke with the designer about sacred geometry, crystal mines.

SYDNEY WASSERMAN: Around this time last year, your presentation of the Trasteverine collection featured a silent film with Devendra Banhart and Chloe Sevigny. Do you have anything special planned for this season’s collection presentation?

MICHALYN ANDREWS: We are planning a ceremony. The collection is influenced by sacred geometry, geomantic myth, and numerical occurrences. We’re recreating a sacred space using the geomantic sign known as the “flower of life.” The 20-foot-diameter design will be built out as a quasi-platform, with mannequins positioned on it along with large crystals we’ve excavated ourselves from a mine that my boyfriend and I go to in New Mexico. Some of the mannequins will be hovering suspended from the gallery ceiling. We’ve yet to decide if we’ll be presenting this installation in New York, Paris or, as, some have suggested, doing it to coincide with the spring solstice.

SW: You’re well traveled, which comes across in the clothing.

MA: I am deeply invested in my spirituality and mystical experience, which I explored initially as an experimental filmmaker. Design and aesthetics are purely instinctual. Since my years in Italy, I have been refining my sense of what the aesthetic really means. I am not convinced that it should be separated from other types of experience. Currently I am trying to understand how mystical experience can be translated into a design aesthetic, and tying this into enduring glamor.


SW: For an LA designer, your collection is very monochromatic and minimalist.

MA: LA is such an interesting wasteland where one has the space to create with less regurgitation, and live, breathe and think undisturbed. I really love it there but there is an aspect of isolation.

SW: How does that compare with New York?


MA: I’ve been based in NY since February of last year and I would say that our clothing is better received in NY. I love working in NY because of its resources.  I will say that because I guess I’m designing for a more New York market it’s beneficial to be in the midst of that market.  

SW: How does the spirituality of the clothing come out in something like accessories?

MA: We have a line of scarves made from milk fiber. The fabric is actually derived from milk, so it has immediate skin nourishing qualities. They are hand silk screened, and the designs have a cosmic woodblock aspect to them. The hardest part was finding an Italian mill to silk screen for us since this is very much a dying art.

SW: Are there any designers you particularly look to for inspiration?

MA: Early Issey Miyaki. We have decidedly different visions, but without fail, whenever I’m in a vintage store, I am always drawn to his stuff. I think we have a shared sensibility.

SW: If you could have any person-living or deceased-wear your designs, who would it be?

MA: Tilda Swinton really exemplifies my idea of a Trasteverine woman.  Or, to play the historical game, maybe Gaspara Stampa—tragic love poems are my thing right now.


Photo by Nadav Benjamin.

The Fashion Group International Rising Star Awards are tomorrow, January 29, 2009, at noon, at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza.