Elise Øverland’s signature leather leggings have been known to leave many a fashion lover quaking from just the sight of them.
Make no mistake, these are not your average latex, lame, or spandex-leather-wannabe pants; they are more like a second skin. The supple leather is so inviting when worn that it almost makes you forget that these bad boys will set you back over a grand.
Leather has been Øverland’s forte since debuting her first collection during New York Fashion Week in February of 2007. It’s hard to believe that the Norwegian designer’s celebrated rock-and-roll-inspired pieces once got flack for being too dark and gothic; the clothes she creates couldn’t be more current. Her overtly edgy wares manage to achieve a modicum of sexiness without being the least bit scanty.
Not surprisingly, Øverland’s leather jackets have amassed a following nearly as large as her leggings. The standout is the “Blousey” jacket, comprised of lightweight baby calf leather, cropped, shaped sleeves, and a super thin silk lining- a jacket that can be worn all year round. The virtually weightless leather is also ideal for packing for travel, as it can fold up or scrunch into even the smallest of crevices in your carry-on without compromising its quality.
“My friend gave me a Japanese book about sushi,” Øverland said of the unlikely inspiration for her Fall collection. “It’s amazing to me that you can take a dead fish, cut it open, slash it, and then put it on the table to eat. There’s a kind of macabre quality to it.” The designer herself is wearing one of her own leather minidresses with an asymmetrical exposed zipper and stacks of bangles piled on each wrist.
“It’s a primal rock-and-roll way of serving things,” she said. “There are lots of tiny, metallic green pieces. The collection is called Shimmer.”
Working out of a spacious loft in Chelsea, Øverland’s studio has become a museum of sorts for the trinkets she has accumulated from her extensive world travels, including a giant skull she plucked from a farm in San Salvador (the type of animal still remains unknown). Although born in Norway, the designer has lived in Boston, San Francisco, London, Spain, and now New York, but she insists it’s India where her social life thrives the most. “I travel there every three months and stay for about a month at a time,” Øverland said.
Naturally, the Resort collection that the designer unveiled last month was heavily influenced by her most recent trip to India. “This collection was inspired by traveling and all the pieces are things that I’d want to wear,” she said. “As for the color palette, I was in the desert and there were these weird earthy tones that weren’t necessarily beige or brown; they were more peachy or red from the sun.” In addition to using a shade of peach that is sure to pop against bronzed skin, there are a series of looks consisting of draped basics paired with various leather jackets.
The designer acquired a sewing machine at age four and has been designing ever since. She studied at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and later transferred to Parsons School of Design in New York City before landing a job designing stage clothes for musicians such as Steven Tyler. Øverland elaborated on her relationship with music and fashion, pointing out that her studio is also home to her beloved turntable and an extensive collection of records and CDs. With tunes from The Doors and Nina Simone radiating throughout the spacious loft, she said, “I love jazz, blues, rock, so many genres. I love Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I also love The White Stripes and ethnic North African and Indian Sitar music, too.”
While trying to pinpoint her target customer, Øverland says that there are two kinds of girls she designs for. “I design for the kind of little, energetic, sexy rock-and-roll girl who has no fear and lots of moxy,” the designer pauses, before adding, “And I also design for the art woman, an exotic traveler who might be drawn to one specific leather jacket. Those are the two groups that I have in mind. Clothes don’t have an age; it’s more of an attitude. My customer isn’t crazily following fashion, they want clothes that are built to last.”