10 Minutes with Maisie Schloss, the Designer Behind the Kanye West Backed Label Maisie Wilen
Born and raised in Chicago, educated in New York, and currently based in LA, Maisie Schloss is the American designer you need to keep your eye on. The designer’s semi-eponymous label Maisie Wilen (Wilen being the maiden name of her mother) launched at the beginning of June in LA with the backing of fellow Chicagoan Kanye West; becoming the first brand to receive the support of the creative polymath’s recently announced emerging creative talent incubator programme.
Whilst studying at Parsons, Schloss cut her teeth interning at Opening Ceremony and worked as a designer at a mass-market swimwear brand after graduating, before heading across the country to work for Yeezy in Calabasas. “It was actually my friend Zoe Latta who does Eckhaus Latta who gave me an introduction there,” Schloss explains over the phone from her showroom in Paris. “When I started there, I was really low on the totem pole as just an assistant but I was able to work my way up quite rapidly,” she continues. “You wear a lot of hats and have a lot of visibility to many of Kanye’s projects. It’s not so much like a corporate company where it can be so regimented and you each have your own little box. It’s really special to be able to take advantage of the opportunities there.” From joining Yeezy in 2015 as a womenswear design assistant and progressing quickly to womenswear designer, West encouraged Schloss to start her own line with his support and seed funding towards the end of last year.
The sprawling white-walled and polished concrete-floored space of the Night Gallery in Downtown LA was the location of Maisie Wilen’s debut presentation. Models stood on plinths and were interspersed amongst the paintings on display, whilst guests including West, Tremaine Emory and Shaun Ross mingled in the impressive space. Styled by Krissie Torerson, the girls looked ready to jump down and attend a private view, these were the kind of clothes you want to be seen in and you want to be photographed in. Form-fitting and fun, inspired by robotics and rhythmic gymnastics and realised in a hyper-saturated colour palette with prints that verged on trippy, Schloss’s first Pre-Spring collection consists of 27 styles and almost 90 individual pieces. “I feel like I could style for days. There are so many great outfits to come out of it,” she says. Pieces range from playfully nostalgic figure-hugging cowl neck mini-dresses, chunky woven skirts, boxy textural jackets and sporty skins woven with holes that anchor to the hands, and will begin dropping in stores in late October and early November.
Jetting across the Atlantic a couple of weeks later, during Paris Fashion Week Men’s Schloss hosted a second and more intimate presentation in a suite at Le Maurice Hotel where models lounged and guests sipped cocktails. A few days later, in between sales appointments, we spent 10 minutes with Maisie Scholss to talk design, Disney films, LA and all things Maisie Wilen…
HF: Congratulations on your first collection! How does it feel to have been supported by Kanye and launch your own label?
MS: It feels so great. I feel tremendously lucky and grateful for that opportunity. It was great working for him and it is such an honour. He’s been so supportive with everything with the brand.
HF: How would you define your approach and aesthetic?
MS: Maisie Wilen is a contemporary womenswear line and I have a very creative process but at the same time it’s very regimented and hyper organised. I create these systems that really dictate the aesthetics of the work. It’s really print driven as I really enjoy designing my own prints. You know it’s playful and has a sexy edge to it.
HF: Did previously working as a swimwear designer inform your process?
MS: Working in super mass market swimwear really trained my eye for small proportion details. So much of designing swimwear is three-eighths of an inch versus a quarter of an inch. Which elastic should I put in and also the materials and how they hang to the body. While on the surface it seemed like quite an uncreative job I feel like it really technically changed me in a way that I am grateful for.
HF: Your debut standalone collection is informed by robotics and rhythmic gymnastics, what piqued your interest and where do you usually turn for inspiration?
MS: I was first drawn to them purely aesthetically. I love looking at images of robotics, particularly pieces with AI, sort of human-like robots as well as the rhythmic gymnastics costumes. I was a figure skater so it was sort of similar costumes but a lot of it was seeing it in the Olympics and seeing imagery that I thought was really interesting. There are so many amazing images of girls who are strangely contorted that I love aesthetically but when working I thought that they really mirrored my practise in that I’m so regimented and disciplined with how I work and I ultimately make something that looks very organic free-flowing. I also often look at fine art and draw inspiration from various artists or movements from throughout the vastness of art history. I always go back to the Renaissance or something like that, it’s really a mix but a common theme in my work.
HF: Why have you decided to show Pre-Spring and Pre-Fall collections rather than starting with Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer?
MS: I just felt like it was best with timing when the deal was completed. I didn’t want to have to wait until September and I was eager to get things out. Additionally, I loved that it coincided with Menswear, coming from Yeezy and particularly supported by that brand and there is so much presence with the Yeezy community at Men’s. So, I liked that there was that overlap there and I felt like it was less traditional, you know it was a bit rebellious.
HF: What first got you into designing?
MS: It’s always been the best thing in my life. I was always very into art, you know, painting and drawing. Around age twelve was when I started training to be a designer, I feel, and began taking sewing lessons. Schools I went to in Chicago, where I grew up, offered some fashion lessons for High School students so I took a bunch of those. So, it’s been a focus for quite a while – most of my life.
HF: Who are you designing for?
MS: I feel like my customer is very confident and creative, somebody who loves to play around with clothes and is fashion conscious. She follows the industry but at the same time doesn’t follow every trend- they still have a unique point of view. They’re all very wearable silhouettes, they have some edge to them with the colours and the prints. I feel like when a woman buys these they’ll really have a place in her closet so she can wear them all the time, especially with the fact that they’re so great for wearing either together or mixing and matching. I really want the customer to get a lot of use.
HF: What first drew you to LA?
MS: Honestly, most of it was the weather. On top of that, I really loved what was coming out of the industry over there compared to New York which was very – I mean there is undoubtedly a lot of talent in New York – but it is very formal. Whereas in LA it was a lot of people who were just sort of going for it with their experimental projects. I thought that there was a lot of energy to it and was really exciting.
HF: How do you unwind after a stressful day?
MS: I do love hanging out with my friends. Sometimes I’ll just hang out at home, there’s this spa called Wi Spa in Los Angeles which is like this giant Korean spa – my friends and I go there. It’s a lot of saunas and it’s a little hoaky but we love it. I will definitely do that when I get back from Paris.
HF: What are you obsessed with at the moment?
MS: I think this reflects my work where I like to do things systematically. I decided that I was going to watch all the Disney animated movies in order. I started with Snow White which was the first one and worked my way through them. I’m actually quite far through it – I just finished Wreck it Ralph – I’m really far along and it’s taken me a while but that’s been my hobby these days. I love watching how the animation style has evolved. Sometimes they go back to the traditional and sometimes for a few movies they’ll try something new. It’s really interesting.
HF: If you had to pick a favourite, which one would you choose?
MS: I think I would choose Aladdin but there are so many good ones. A lot I remember from my childhood but Lilo and Stitch was one that I’d never seen that I was really surprised by, it was so good!
HF: If we had 24 hours in LA what should we do?
MS: Definitely go on a hike because there are so many good routes. I love going to Brentwood Park the beach is great but that’s obvious though. Maybe I’m going to plug Wi Spa twice in this interview – it’s 24 hours. In terms of food, the Mexican food there is the obvious one there are so many good places for Mexican. There’s lots of good Korean food and a lot of good Thai.
HF: Is there anything exciting you have coming up on the horizon that you are able to share?
MS: Well not quite yet but stay tuned because I certainly have things in the works but it is a little soon to start talking about them yet.
Photographs by Sam Massey
maisiewilen.com / @maisie_wilen