Elise Ã?verland Fights for Her First Runway Show

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Published September 11, 2009

By the time her first runway show (Sunday evening), Scandinavian-born, New York-based designer Elise Øverland is tired of leather-on-leather. But she isn’t tired of Mexican fighting masks, “erotic yoga,” or Rachel Feinstein on her doorstop, a bottle of tequila in hand.

FABIOLA BERACASA: How are you?  I’m sure this is complete madness for you.  I’m catching you in the middle of fashion week which is a disaster

ELISE ØVERLAND: I do acupuncture every three days. I actually just came from it. And Kundalini yoga. It’s like getting free drugs.

BERACASA: I’ve read about it—it’s like meditating.

ØVERLAND:  It’s totally addictive—it’s like sexual yoga.

BERACASA:  Sexual yoga? So you feel centered right now?

ØVERLAND: Yeah.

BERACASA: Tell me the story behind you becoming a fashion designer

ØVERLAND: I started with music, because I’ve always been so passionate for music. I started dressing musicians for the stage. So it had nothing to do with fashion-it was just one outfit for one rock star, onstage. I did that for a while and then I outgrew it.

BERACASA:  How long ago was that?

ØVERLAND: This company is two years old. But this is so different from how I was working, because when you’re working with one person you get really into that person’s soul and what they feel like doing.

BERACASA: So now you feel less connected to your client?

ØVERLAND: Yeah, because now when you design it’s a concept. You have the kind of girl you dress, for but it’s not the same.

BERACASA: Tell me about the collection that you’re working on now.

ØVERLAND: I’m not the kind of person who takes one strong concept and works everything around that, like after watching a movie or something. I just keep evolving as I go. When I start it’s [LAUGHS] nothing like what it is in the end. But my starting point this season is Mexican fighting masks.

BERACASA: Mexican fighting masks? You know what, I can’t visualize them in my head. Can you describe one for me?

ØVERLAND: They’re colorful. I’m always inspired by strong, powerful, beating of blood—I don’t know if it’s my Viking background. They’re the wrestling masks.

BERACASA: Oh the wrestling masks!  I think I know what they are.  They’re like cloth and material, right?

ØVERLAND: They’re leather.

BERACASA: Like a robber’s mask. But they’re painted.

ØVERLAND: Yeah, there’s this one robber in Mexico who became famous for never taking his mask off and he became like a national hero.  

BERACASA: Like Nacho Libre right?

ØVERLAND: Then he had this 40-year glamorous career. Then on one talk show he took his mask off and all these people saw was this beaten up old man. They all were shocked since they all thought of him as this 20-year-old guy. It struck me that this was similar to all the crazy plastic surgery people do. Because you kind of keep masking yourself for so long you don’t really know the age of the person underneath like a skin mask. BERACASA: [LAUGHS] I know a lot of people with skin mask.

ØVERLAND: [LAUGHS] If you took it off you don’t even know what you would see anymore.

BERACASA:  That’s very funny. How did that translate to the collection?

ØVERLAND: It’s more of a mystique of what’s on the top and what’s underneath. It’s more conceptual than just tracing the mask on the body. I feel like everyone now has such a rock ‘n roll in the way they dress.  It was always my style when I was 16, so now I’m so over it myself.

BERACASA: You’re over yourself.

ØVERLAND: It’s time to move on. I don’t think you’ll see one pair of rock ‘n roll pants.

BERACASA:  So you changed direction a bit?

ØVERLAND: Yes, because I don’t want to repeat myself. There is leather but it’s not like before.  My first collection was 95% black leather on top of black leather—

BERACASA: I loved it!

ØVERLAND: People were shocked, and they were like, “Who is this person?” Now everyone wears it feels normal.

BERACASA: Do have girlfriends and people that inspire you daily in your work?

ØVERLAND: Rachel Feinstein showed up at my door at one in the morning with tequila. She was visiting my neighbor. I looked at my rack after and I was like, “I wouldn’t have anything for her to wear.” It really opened up my mind. I want to design for the personality but not the body.