Classic Fashion from Newport’s Katie Brierley
Monday, July 19, 2010
When I enter Isoude boutique on Bellevue Avenue in Newport, I feel calm, peace and a magical elegance. The whitewashed walls, garment racks filled with exquisite clothing and welcoming atmosphere reflect the classic beauty of designer Katie Brierley and her design philosophy. “It is kind of like magic,” she says of the process of creating the gorgeous gowns and frocks that reside here.
The equestrian influence
Growing up in Brewster, NY, in Westchester County, Brierley, 33, was influenced early by the fashionable women of the horse stables where she rode frequently, women like Kelly Klein, designer Calvin Klein’s wife, who she says had a “grounded, elegant approach to style.” She learned at a young age that fashion is an investment, one that can and should follow you throughout your life. She still has the Hermes saddle, Vogel boots and British riding coats she wore as a young equestrian and wears them often and says they are “something special that get better with age.”
The horses themselves also inspired her. “The confirmation of a gorgeous horse, the beautiful lines, clothing is the same way. Clothing is alive and individual style is incredibly important,” Brierley said.
Learning from masters
The designer studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and apprenticed with Chado Ralph Rucci, the only American couturier to be invited to show Haute Couture in Paris. Designing dresses that sell for $100,000, Rucci showed Brierley the ropes from garment construction to painting fabric to repeating the mantra Brierley would make her own: be brave, follow what you believe and be an individual.
Starting out styling friends who could not seem to find the perfect outfit, Brierley honed her skills and spent many a long night with her trusty Bernina sewing machines. Now she works with several seamstresses, ones who have years upon years of experience, to handle her precious fabrics that she dyes by hand at her renovated farmhouse in Jamestown, RI.
Why she loves Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s potential in art and fashion motivated Brierley and her Pawtucket-native boyfriend Joseph Swiader, a film producer, to move here and start her fashion career in full. “So many artists are decamping to Rhode Island from New York and there is an understated elegance here. My clients are incredibly knowledgeable about fashion and I have created an atelier here in Newport with valued clients who come in again and again.”
In addition to clothing available at the Newport boutique, Brierley relishes the task of creating custom gowns and dresses for her clients. She is also dabbling in bridal gowns and enjoys the craft of creating her work from concept to fruition.
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