On January 16th, deadline a mere 10 minutes away, I was sitting at my desk reviewing a few articles that my fellow fashion journalists were just about to turn in. The buzzing chattering that had been filling the 22nd floor suddenly subsided and silence instantly tooks its place. I looked up from my white computer screen to see that the editor in cheif of Labelle magazine was standing right at my humble little desk, looking at me with huge brown eyes. I had never actually spoken to her face-to-face; sure she sometimes called me in the middle of the night to remind me that I had a function to go to and that I’d better be dressed to the nines and be polite because I was representing her and the company. But her actually coming down to my floor just to talk to me? Unthinkable! Naturally, I thought I was getting the ax because I was wearing Manolo Blanik’s from two seasons ago. She had been known to do that before, but she had never done the dirty work herself. I was very confused to see her in such an unfamiliar setting. There she was, the feared and revered editor-in-chief and founder of Labelle, thirty-three year old Michelle Labelle. She stood before me, power teaming out of her size 7 1/2 Dolce and Gabbana purple velvet stilettos. Her black hair falling into perfect waves onto her black Victorian lace dress that had been designed exclusively for her by Chris Crossweller himself. “Tomorrow at noon you will be at this address.” she said placing a small piece of paper on my desk, “I would have told someone else to do it, but they’ve all proven to be completely incompetent.” she said softly yet firmly, her eyebrows arched as if she found this amusing. I noticed that I hadn’t been breathing for a few seconds. “Dont be late.” Then she spun on the heel of her shoe and went back to her office on the top floor leaving a lingering scent of Chanel No. 5 by my desk. The paper felt like silk. And the black writing was stylish and bold yet feminine at the same time. It gave an address, down by Soho. That should have been my first clue as to what was waiting for me. I quickly googled the address to see what sort of torture I would have to go through. “Oh Jesus.” I breathed when the answer appeared on my computer screen.
The building looks as if it hasn't been inhabited for the greater part of 200 years. I checked the address again. Yes, this was it. I put on a brave face and tried to control my excited heart. In my four and a half inch stilettos (which were in season) I walked up the gray marble steps to a dark purple door with a doorbell right in the middle of it. I rang. I waited a few moments and then the door opened. The man behind the door was my favorite designer in the entire world, thirty-one year old, Chris Crossweller. Once again, the shock of actually having him all to myself for an interview was mind-blowing, but to have him answer the door was wicked.
He stood at the door, a smile radiating from his youthful face, “You must be Sophia.” He held his hand out to me, I nearly died.
“Yes, I am.” I couldn’t muster anything smarter than that out of myself. I was completely star struck. In front of me was the only straight fashion designer in existence and he just happened to be absolutely and breathtakingly gorgeous. “Come on in then.” He ushered me into the dark and gloomy house, which smelled strongly of cigarettes. “Can I get you a drink before we start the interview?” he asked, his raspy New Jersey accent completely enthralling me. “No.” I squeaked, my heart pouding somewhere in my throat. He escorted me into a sitting room completely furnished with plush velvet sofas and reading chairs. Books and photographs lined the walls in tasteful elegance. I looked at a picture of him and a beautiful European model and got a little sad, possibly the mood of the house getting to me. I sank into one of the couches and he sat at a reading chair surrounded by cigarettes and the ever-present bottle of diet Coke. “Michelle told me that you were the best interviewer that Labelle’s got.” A half smile played on his face as if he knew something that I didn’t. “Did she really?” I asked nervously, “Well, I’ll do my best.” I chuckled. “Yes, you’d better start acting professionally!” I thought, “and stop gawking at him!” “I’ll do my best to answer your questions.” He took a long drag on a cigarette. “Ok, we could start off with the inspiration for your line. You’re known for designing edgy, macabre clothes. What part of your brain does that come from?” “Look around you.” He flailed his arms at the surroundings, “This isn’t your typical home. It was built back in 1845 and was owned by a prominent lawyer and his family, back when Soho was a respectable place to live, most certainly.” Another long drag on his cigarette. “Wel,l the good man had been living here for about 5 years when suddenly his wife jumped off the fifth floor balcony and killed herself. I sleep on the fifth floor and really do believe that this house is haunted. I draw on that fear and darkness for my designs. I love looking at pictures from that time and reinventing them to suit the needs of women and men today. I would love to see women walking around in petty coats, but realistically that would never happen.” “So you use your feelings?” “Yeah. The music I listen to helps a lot. I love lyrics with lots of imagery. I need to have imagery for me to feed off of. I listen to songs and in my head I can see the video, I dress the people in my head and then put it on paper, which in turn turns into a patters which turns into a piece that I am always extremely proud of.” “What do you feel when you see your designs on people?” With this question he took a long drag on his cigarette to think for a while. “People think that clothes make the person. Not so. Its how you wear it that does the trick, as a designer I can only do so much. You could wear my clothes and be a bubbly happy go lucky sort of person and completely transform my design into something that I didn’t intend for it to be. If you want to be like my ads, you’ve got to have attitude too. For my designs the attitude that you have to have is mostly surly, and I understand people if they don’t want to be like that. I understand completely.” He took a si of his diet Coke. “But when I see people in my clothes, no matter how they wear them, its the best feeling that you can imagine. When I see Michelle Labelle, for example, she’s a big fan; I get giddy like a little kid. I just want to go back to my studio and create something else for her to love. Its like an obsession that you just cant stop. I want to keep on making beautiful clothes for people to wear with confidence and pride.” His pale skin glowed bright pink when he said this and a smile erupted on his face, just like alittle kid.
“You design a lot for celebrities, who is your favorite to design for?”
A half-smile lights up his face some more, “Myself.” He looked up at me as if waiting for my reaction. “Everything I wear, I designed. It’s the only way I can make it raw and real. If it suits my needs and fits my crazy lifestyle, its real and I can resent it to the world with confidence.” “Tell me about your new collection, its called Revolution, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is.” “What is the new look?” “Military style.” “Colors?” He put out his cigarette. “What if I show you?” “That would work!” He laughed and hot up from his chair and then looked at my shoes, Prada. I felt slightly embarrassed. “You might want to take those off, we’ve got one hell of a climb.” I giggled and then he escorted me to a narrow, dark staircase and we went up. And up. And up. And up. And not one speck of light was seen. It was almost as if we were going down into the depths of hell. Finally, he stopped and took an old, rusty key out of his vest pocket and unlocked a door at the very top of the staircase. Suddenly we were drowning in light. “Come on in.” He said stepping through the white portal. Once indise the room, it occurred to me that this was nothing at all like the rest of the gloomy house. The French doors were wide open, letting the sunshine bathe the walls and floors. There were sunflowers on his desk and color photographs of him and smiling people. His desk was orderly and he had a lovely see-through box filled with watercolors, colored pencils and specialty markers. Crosweller walked to a closet and opened the doors wide revealing another little room, this one overflowing with mannequins. Quickly, he began to drag them all out. “I should have done this before you came. I don’t know why I didnt think of it.” The first dress he pulled out of the closet took my breath away completely. it was floor length and made of ten completely different silks, purple and green and orange and red and black and blue. All with different prints on them. Flowers and polka dots and stripes. Yet as different as they were, it was the perfect combination. The second was equally as stunning, a tiny metallic number that strongly reminded me of the movie, Gladiator. I wanted to try it on so badly. He pulled twenty different outfits from that little closet. All of them completely thought out and painstakingly put together. One that stuck out to me the most was a dark purple wedding dress. “Just experimenting with this one,” he joked. “What does all of this have to do with a revolution?” I asked staring at the beading on a mens blazer. “Nothing really.” He muttered, “except for the fact that everyone wants to start one. My clothes used to be for one type of person. Not anymore. Each piece stands individually. This dress for example,” he brought me to a woolen dress that I was dying to put in my bag when he wasn’t looking, “Does is scream Chris Crossweller to you?” I looked at it. No, it didn’t. There was no lace, it wasn’t even dark. It wasn’t made of velvet. “No.” “Exactly. But if I pair it with this,” he grabbed a beautiful white lace top with 3/4 sleeves that had ruffles pouring from them. “It turns into my signature look.” “So everyone can start a revolution?” He nodded and smiled, “I’ll be behind a silent revolution...how great is that?”