Edited by Amanda Gabriele on
Designer Amanda Elle wasn’t originally the type of girl who dreamt of becoming a fashion designer. But in 2009, Amanda launched a couture-inspired clothing label and then jewelry brand in New York City. Born, a natural artist, attending a specialized high school for the arts as well as NYU Steinhardt’s studio arts program, studying drawing, photography & sculpture, she brought her creative flare to the fashion world. From experimenting with her artistic talents, she created Lolli Popitt – a tastefully provocative and fantastically girlie line which brings you the joy of childhood dress-up in the realm of high fashion — and jewelry line Crystal Knuckles which already has loyal fans like Uma Thurman and Ke$ha. I was able to stop by Lolli Land, her Chelsea design studio, and talk to Amanda about the labels & her transcendence from sculptor to designer, what inspires her and what she has in store for Lolli Poppitt and Crystal Knuckles.
What made you want to start designing?
I never thought I would pursue a career in fashion. I originally did not have formal and technical training, I didn’t go to FIT. I went to school for fine arts, so I always assumed I’d do something in that realm but didn’t know what that would be. But then I started making my own clothing and got some really great feedback. My pieces developed quick notoriety because of their eccentricity and experimental appeal. It led me to start branding the label and making custom dresses. I realized my passion and that creating clothing was my art. It is what I wanted to do, but I did not want to work traditionally and looked at clothing as wearable art. Although I taught myself about the fashion industry as a business, as far as being a designer, I am first and foremost an artist before anything else – an artist with a fashion business.
You started out reworking vintage clothing? Do you still take a lot of inspiration from vintage fashion for your line? Is the line still costumesque?
From what was once an ‘inspiration collection’ of crazy altered vintage clothing, a handful of these pieces were later reworked to create a RTW collection which is consistent with my conceptual ideas yet is more universally wearable. It creates an attainable outlet for girls to dress up in their everyday lives that I thought the fashion world was lacking. I am inspired by vintage but now use new fabrics that are re-orderable.
In your bio, it says you pay a lot of attention to the “magic of childhood dress up.” Were you a super girly girl as a child or did you have some tomboy in you? Did you play with Barbies?
I did have Barbies, I loved them, but I wasn’t super girly. I always went against the grain. All of my girlfriends loved pink but I loved purple. But I like pink now and feel it can be extra cute and feminine, but in my collection, there are dark details too. I think it’s more about dress-up and reconnecting to the characters which inspire the dresses and the idea of adding fun to the wardrobe in everyday life. You can explore dress-up in a more grown-up and sophisticated way by wearing Lolli Popitt.
I love your housewife dresses! When you design your collections, do you keep specific people, like the housewife, in mind or are they imaginary, inspirational characters?
The housewife dress is just a satirical piece created for runway. These dresses are kind of poking at society’s idealistic housewife since they are really short & sexy.
What are some of your other styles?
The Lolli Cupcake dresses are the brand’s trademark. They’re girlie, fun and cute, which all describe the line. We call the feathered dresses “Fairy Dresses.” The psychedelic pieces are 60s mod styles and the “Doll” pieces often have a lot of lace and embellishments.
Lolli Popitt is for “daring who like to stand out in a crowd.” Could you walk me through the ideal day-in-the-life of a Lolli girl? What does she do? Who does she meet?
If wearing one of our couture pieces, a Lolli girl should probably by prepared to meet and talk to anyone because she is bound to get attention. These dresses are conversation pieces, so she must be daring to wear them. But when wearing our RTW pieces, a perfect Lolli candidate is confident and just wants to have fun with her wardrobe.
When I wear the crazier stuff, I think I kind of become a performance artist. I think the clothes can bring out a personality that you may not have known you had.
So, you don’t always have to be a fashion risk-taker to wear Lolli Popitt? Does the Lolli Girl ever dress down?
Although the line is risky and avant-garde, that is not our entire collection. The line IS wearable. The really crazy stuff is just an over-the-top and accentuated take on our conceptual ideas. But the garments are wearable. They can also be worn every day without the commitment to that non-stop attention that our couture yields.
I noticed a lot of your designs feature inner-wear as outer-wear – corsets, bras, bustiers. What inspired you to focus on this trend for Lolli Popitt?
The feathered bras are technically lingerie, but you can wear them out. You can wear them alone with jeans or a skirt, but I think they look best accompanying something. They are fancy and functional. They can be worn underneath a button down (revealing the feathers) as well as over a slip with a skirt to make them fancier. Musicians have worn them to red carpet events and in their music videos.
The lace lingerie shorts were originally created to go under the dresses that we put down the runway, but we then realized that they compliment the clothing really well.
Where do you find inspiration? Who are your style icons? What other designers and artists do you look up to?
I was inspired by performance artists like Leigh Bowery, who literally was his art. He dressed-up eccentrically every day for all to see. Joanna Frueh, an artist/writer who studied the correlation between femininity, sexuality and beauty in everyday life. Twiggy’s signature dresses have inspired my psychedelic pieces.
Recently, I have been dressing musician, Neon Hitch, an incredibly unique performer whose daring and organic style embodies the ideals of both of my lines, especially the Crystal Knuckles jewelry.
My aunt, Carole Feuerman, a well-known photo-realist sculptor, is one of my biggest idols. Learning from her has helped me see how I could create a foundation to turn art into a business.
Your Crystal Knuckles jewelry line looks amazing. How did you get started designing jewelry and what is the inspiration behind the pieces?
I’ve always collected crystals. My aunt would give me a crystal whenever I saw her while growing up. My initial collection was started using those stones, the ones that I had from my aunt. I owned several over-sized rings which I loved and thought that using natural crystals to create jewelry would be a really unique idea. In fact, in gemology you’re supposed to have a crystal on you at all times because they are said to bring healing and protective powers. The rings will be featured on Ideeli.com and we are currently in contact with Henri Bendel, Barney’s & Scoop NYC. I will keep you posted on what’s to come!
You can learn more about Lolli Popitt here.