We love it when fashion and art converge. We found just that when we met up recently for a chat with local fine artist and fashion designer Rachel Znerold, who does everything from painting to reconstructing vintage wedding gowns for modern-day brides to creating one-of-a-kind apparel and accessories using upcycled and scrap materials.
Read on for more about Znerold’s designs, inspiration and current iPod obsessions.
How long have you been designing?
I taught myself how to sew when I was 24, and I am 29 now. In high school, I adjusted my clothes. My parents didn’t have much money, so I would go to thrift stores, sew and cut clothes to make them fun and fashionable.
How do your fashion designs connect with your art?
I work with fabrics the way I do paints. I will do clusters of appliqué, and I try to mirror the cluster of shapes that take place within the natural world.
What is your next project?
My next goal is to dye a few of my dresses. I am always learning.
How do you stay inspired?
I stay inspired by old movies, like, look at those puckered sleeves and making it my own. Color is huge. I am a color maniac. I relate to flowers and organic colors and shapes. Traveling is a big influence for me. Last summer, I went to Peru. Peruvian textiles are made with such a wide array of color. I was really moved by it. I like meeting the women and figuring out where my textiles come from. I find recycled materials, travel and anything in the natural world inspirational.
Do you have a design philosophy that you follow?
All of my fashion shows are for not-for-profit organizations. I believe in giving back to the community.
I don’t want women to have to fit a certain shape to be sexy. Women of every size should feel fashionable….Everyone is beautiful and deserves to have a pretty party dress.
Who are your favorite designers?
Alexandar McQueen, he was the bad boy of fashion. He embraced organic materials, playful silhouettes and drama. Growing up, I related to Betsey Johnson. Jean Paul Gaultier, because he embraced corset forms, performance art of fashion and the feminine figure. He was self-taught, and he was the underdog coming up. I love that story. Classic forms like Chanel. I feel like I can learn a bit from each of them
So what’s an average day like for you?
Diving into these Tupperwares of vintage scraps, and, a lot of times, I spend it putting scraps next to each other, draping them on the models. A lot of working with people, fitting, pinning. Depending on the projects I have, I will spend a few days painting. I try to keep them separate. So the paint won’t end up on the fabric! I think a lot of it is putting in the hard work, face time in the studio, finding inspiration. Also returning emails, arranging models and makeup artists and dropping off new deliveries to boutiques. I do it all, from hand-sewing the clothes to distribution. It’s definitely about multi-tasking.
What is on your iPod right now?
I love Bat for Lashes, Elliot Smith, Sarah Vaughan and Fever Ray.
Where do you see your line in five years?
I see myself moving into more couture and artistic, dramatic pieces. I really enjoyed doing wedding gowns. I want to design costumes for music videos and photo shoots. I am working with a group working on eco-friendly staple pieces…I love making one-of-a-kind pieces.
Where can we find your work in San Francisco?
At Loft 1513. They sell local designer pieces. You can also shoot me an email to order something custom made.
— By SF Indie Fashion Contributor April Miller
All apparel and art pictured above by Rachel Znerold. Photography courtesy of Julie Michelle and the I Live Here project.