A Toast To Sally LaPointe

22nd September, 2015

The first time I was introduced to Sally Lapointe, we ended up unexpectedly hanging all afternoon. We instantly clicked, connecting over our similar adventures in the fashion business, our challenges as young entrepreneurs, and our love of clean, beautifully-made clothes. Her designs are as classic as they are cutting edge ~ created for cool, smart women who demand artfulness and integrity. She is one of my very favorite up-and-coming New York designers, for her sophisticated and streamlined aesthetic that upgrades everyday dressing.

Ever since that first visit, I’ve been looking for a good excuse to get together.  Finally, at the end of a recent workday, I rang her up and popped in with a favorite bottle of Ecco Domani’s Pinot Grigio. Over a glass of wine as the afternoon waned, I had a chance to learn more about her creative journey, her unexpected sources of inspiration, how she likes to entertain at home and what she’s most excited about for Fall. Read on!
SallyLapointe2Kelly: One thing I have read about you is that you grew up painting. I was excited to hear that because that’s how I grew up! I was a little nerd in my room painting the walls and living in my own reality and I discovered fashion much later in life. I know that was your journey as well which I think is so cool.

Sally: It’s interesting. I’ve thought about this a lot! Coming from Marble Head, Massachusetts, it’s a very small town. You’re not very exposed to the larger world so I did grow up painting and going into the basement and digging up my parents’ random junk and putting it together. That was definitely my first experience in art! I didn’t discover fashion until I got to college, which is crazy to think about because I was already 18. We had to do a two week course in anything we were thinking about majoring in, so I was like, ‘fashion might be interesting’? So you took a course and they assigned you a designer and you had to do a project based on that designer. And I remember they assigned me John GallianoSallyLaPointe6
FROM LEFT| Sally LaPointe Textured Silk Drape Dress, Ecco Domani Pinot GriogioSally LaPointe Satin Front Tie Bustier

That’s cool!

I was like, who?! I had no idea! But my professor was like ‘Go do some research!’ and I remember seeing his collections and they were farther back. Seeing how he was able to just completely put a story and emotion and everything out, I was like oh I can do this!

This was probably in the early 2000’s when he was doing his crazy hobo collections.

Yes! It just instantly clicked for me. I also think the fast pace of fashion appealed to me.

The constant change?

Yes! I was at Rhode Island School of Design. I went and I saw the painting department, and I saw the fashion department and there was something about the fashion department. There’s energy! From then on, that was my path. That’s so cool that you were the same!

When I read that about you I was like, there’s a reason we connect! We were both the girls growing up painting and were like, ‘OH fashion?!’ I didn’t have any conception of fashion growing up! It was not a part of my life.

No magazines! None of this stuff on TV! It was absolutely nothing like what it is today.

Do you remember the first piece you ever designed?

I remember freshman year at RISD, I wanted to make my own Halloween costume so I was like ‘Mom I need a sewing machine!’ So she took me to Kmart and we bought a $50 sewing machine, which was my first! I remember feeling like, ‘Are you sure you’re going to buy this for me?’ $50 was a lot! And I made an entire costume out of bandanas. I think that I also bought those at Kmart.

So what was the costume?

I was bandana girl! (laughing) I sewed them together all weird and it was two pieces! SallyLaPointe7You don’t have it anymore?

Maybe my mom does! She could totally have it in the basement. She saves everything!

I have a couple of my old fashion school pieces that are still in storage! They are so embarrassing now, but I can’t bear to throw them away.

Isn’t it funny??

But that’s the thing about fashion! As soon as it’s cool, it’s already embarrassing.

That’s a good way to put it!

Having John Galliano as your first entrée into fashion is pretty major. Who were some of the other designers you looked to as models as you started to learn about this field?

That was actually a huge part of Sarah [Adelson, Sally’s cofounder & CEO] and I starting the company out of our 500 square foot apartment. We did so much research! It was like, ‘if we want to do this, how do we do it?’ I remember looking at Rodarte a lot because to me they always kept their artistic integrity. They did it on their own terms. They seem like they always come from a place of passion and it’s undeniably creative.

They’re artists who chose fashion as their medium.

Exactly! So that and I remember looking at Proenza Schouler a lot. We would go to their websites, see what stores they were in and see what awards they won. Go look at them on the floor. We did that a lot actually! SallyLaPointe8
ABOVE LEFT| Sally LaPointe Leather Jacket

It’s interesting to study the labels that are still small because it’s so easy to look at the mega brands and feel like there is such a disconnect; it’s hard to know how to find your place in that world.

We never had the ultimate goal to be a Michael Kors or Prada or something huge. We kind of always want to keep our hands on it! We’re still growing.

One of the things that is very special about your work is that there is always an artistic bent to it. How does that process work – taking this very conceptual idea and translating it into something wearable?

I’ve learned that the biggest thing is to not be so literal. At the end of the day we are making clothes and you have to look at the shirt or jacket and want to put it on instantly. When I refer back to my inspirations, I always say it’s the ‘idea of’ or ‘the feeling of’. I don’t ever want anything to literally look like anything else.

You may have this great point of reference but just because it’s a great concept doesn’t mean…

Just cause you like birds doesn’t mean you have to birds on it! I’m crazy about all the details: the music, the lighting, the staging, even the pace the girls are walking at and obviously the hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, all that stuff! It’s almost like producing a play. You’re conveying the essence of an idea. Like this season was about Pina Bausch. People were like, ‘oh I felt that!’ But you can’t make it too literal.

I like her as a muse for you because I think she really embodies that dark but fragile beauty.

Yes! A little bit of romanticism. She was so raw and put it out there!

But also very delicate. That’s a hard balance to strike, and I think your clothes do it well.

That’s very interesting! Thank you for noticing!

I’m a real fan!

That’s so cool!

ABOVE| Sally LaPointe Bead-Embroidered Fringe Top

As someone who knows you personally and has watched your collection evolve over several years, when I watched Fall come down the runway, I was like, ‘That’s Sally!’ I felt like it was a really beautiful distillation of everything you had been working towards.

That means so much! I agree. Everyone here felt that too! Like ~ finally ~ this is where we want to be! This is what we’re trying to say.

This is the DNA of the brand.


I loved the fringe pieces! But I love that it wasn’t a bohemian fringe situation, it was very much a strong, powerful statement!

That’s what I try to do with my fabrics. I have this love affair with sequins, but I do it in an unexpected way. That element is something that’s important to us! SallyLaPointe4You also use fur in a way that’s very fresh. It’s not a Dynasty  moment. (laughing) Speaking of fur, Fall collections are in store; what are you most excited about from a fashion perspective?

I love designing Fall! I am obsessed with fall and winter dressing. You can layer! I love everything about the winter. I’m excited to wear the Fall pieces I ordered. I have a bunch of this collection but haven’t been able to wear it yet because of the weather.

One of the things I think is great about fall is how we entertain at home more, which is so intimate and special. I know that you like to entertain quite a bit.

I actually did Sarah’s bachelorette party at my house on Saturday. It was 8 or 9 girls and I kept it really simple! I am a HUGE home person; it’s my sanctuary. I’m really big on lighting. Just like with the collections, I love setting the mood: scented candles, fresh flowers. I had a ton of hydrangeas in black boxes. We have a backyard and we have little lights all around. I’m very clean and organized, so the space is very Zen.

Do you have any standby secrets for how to elevate an at-home event?

Its all about lighting, flowers, and music! SallyLaPointe5And good wine of course! What’s your favorite music for entertaining?

It depends on the crowd, but classic rock kind of always works. Everyone can get behind the classics! You never want anything too specific. Even in the studio when I am playing music, I like to keep it easy for everyone. Good background but nothing too upfront.

How do you go about picking music for your shows?

It always comes so randomly. This season I did a Kaki King song. I work with a DJ and there is always a starting idea, but he molds it and makes it into something new. My fiancé is also a musician so he is constantly showing me new music, which is great.

For Fall, did you try to work with the music that Pina Bausch danced to? Or was the concept completely disconnected by that point?

What I loved about her work was how unexpected it was, so for the music I decided to go with something that you wouldn’t expect. We did a little bit of hip hop.

I feel that in a way, not that your work is punk, but you’re a little punk in that you love to turn an idea around and flip the expectations.

Yeah. Not having it be so obvious!SallyLaPointe9 ABOVE| Sally LaPointe with her adorable long-haired dachshund, Snow  BELOW| we are so grateful to Ecco Domani for their ongoing patronage of young designers through the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund, and for their support of our continuing series aimed at inspiring everyone to upgrade the everyday ~ be it through backyard movie nights, ballgowns at brunch, or getting to better know an inspiring friend over a fine glass of wine!SallyLaPointe10PHOTOGRAPHY| by Lindsay Brown

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