You might recognize Keith Lissner from Bravo’s The Fashion Show, but this latest designer turned reality star prefers to be known for his keen fashion sense and pretty dresses rather than his on-air alter ego. The Chicago born designer is the creator of two clothing lines: Keith Lissner, his three-year-old demi-couture collection of made-to-order dresses, and Keith by Keith Lissner, a contemporary collection whose first season recently launched. Lissner also has a steadily growing following in the custom-made bridal market.
Holding up the red “Elizabeth” demi-couture dress, Lissner quips, “She is the star of the fall collection.” And that she is. The scarlet one shoulder creation is comprised of many layers of overlapping skirt panels with horsehair construction on the inside. Each skirt panel has tiers of charmeuse to create that layered effect. The designer said that the inspiration for his fall 2009 demi-couture collection was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pennsylvania home Fallingwater. “Through the layering and architecture of shapes, you can really see where my inspiration started.”
The demi-couture component of his business primarily relies on a clientele of ladies about town who require custom made gowns for black-tie events and galas. But because Lissner is well aware that not every woman has the demanding social calendar that deems $4200 dresses a necessity, he launched the lower-priced Keith by Keith Lissner for the fall. No dress in this collection costs more than $300, although most hover around the mid $200 point.
Lissner insists that his primary focus right now is his line of “gently priced” Keith by Keith Lissner dresses. “The styles are all based on the cocktail dresses from my demi-couture collection. They are the most fun and fulfilling and I wanted to make cocktail dresses that were more affordable,” the designer explained his reasoning behind the new twelve-dress collection, “There are three specific color stories too. There is a pastel colored, light, flowy, and ethereal palette. Then there are dresses more based off of pop colors mixed with gray, and then there is a black, white, and metallic story going on.”
Growing up, the couture dress shop owned by Lissner’s grandmother and great-grandmother sparked the designer’s love of fashion and dressmaking at a very young age. Lissner went on to graduate from the London College of Fashion and worked at both Perry Ellis and Ralph Lauren before starting his namesake collection in the fall of 2006. Interestingly, Keith Lissner’s initial collections included a general grouping of trousers, blouses, and dresses, but after seeing people gravitate primarily towards his dresses, Lissner narrowed his focus.
Although he’s not allowed to say much about the five weeks he spent filming The Fashion Show for contractual reasons, Lissner promised he enjoyed every second of it. “I was actually very comfortable. You forget the camera is there. It’s your silent companion. I couldn’t get rid of it and I couldn’t stop speaking.”
For more information on Keith Lissner, go to keithlissner.com