Eva does not walk. Eva bounces. There is a gaiety in the designer's step that fills any room fortunate enough to receive her. In the vast open space of the Eva Franco design studios -- sitting on the top floor of an old building in downtown LA -- this is no small feat, especially for a woman of such small stature.
I am standing in the middle of the Eva Franco studio, surrounded by the hustle-and-bustle of the busy small business, taking in the endless rows of garment racks and fabric rolls, when Eva bounces up to me, beaming. I am greeted with a hug, as though we were old friends and not new acquaintances. "Did Charity give you the grand tour?" she asks, wearing a smile that could melt an ice cube. Charity, Eva's fashionably bespectacled assistant, has indeed begun to show me around the facility, introducing me to sample-sewers, production coordinators, and one very charming fabric-cutter named Bob. After spending thirty seconds with Eva, I understand why everyone at Eva Franco is so overwhelmingly warm. Eva's ebullience is infectious.
"Did you ever see that show Passions?" she asks, and I nod emphatically. We are in her office now, a small room clad with antique taxidermy and a vintage couch that has been reupholstered in a loosely-woven tapestry of brilliant design. Cabinets are topped with retro treasures galore, globes and miniature carved animals. On her desk sits an uneaten lunch and a fresh magazine tear of a big-name designer's recent advertisement, featuring a dress that looks suspiciously like something Eva had done seasons prior. In 1999, Eva, then a young actress, was relocated from New York to Los Angeles to star as Mimi in the soap opera Passions. An FIT graduate, Eva began making handmade halter dresses as a hobby. The fabrics were found and recycled, sometimes coming from vintage pillows. She started with a single rack, ten dresses, at the Fairfax flea market -- a favorite haunt of LA's young fashionable bohemians. Seeing the Eva Franco look, flirty vintage dresses in shape-concious flattering silhouettes and eclectic retro fabrics, it is easy to understand how the line grew from there. Now, Eva Franco creates a full line of women's clothing, all designed and made in Los Angeles, carried at Anthropologie, Modcloth, Lord & Taylor, and over 500 specialty boutiques.
We are moving throughout the sample-production quarter of the studio now. Every few steps, Eva is is stopped by one of her staff of fifteen. Questions are answered and decisions are made. "What makes your line special?" I ask, as we slide between racks and tables. In response, I am shown endless samples of gorgeous fabrics, custom creations from the weave up to the print. Jacquards and tweeds, photo prints and overdyes, are all carefully designed, inspired by unique vintage treasures from around the world. The variety is astounding. Black featherweight cheesecloths are printed with filmic white dots. Shaggy textured fibers are layered in repetition. Micro-suedes are perforated for an unexpected American-sportswear aesthetic. Divinely drape-able satins are printed with photorealistic landscapes. Boldly colored jacquards are designed to show a pop of their backside. Textured lacy crochets sit atop corresponding simple weaves. "We design every piece from the fabric up," she explains. Over-purchased yardage is dyed for a fresh new look. "And we like to recycle. It's important to be eco-concious."
There is an overarching theme of collective community endeavor in everything Eva has created. From the sourcing and production methods utilized to support local business to the collaborative design meetings, Eva Franco seems to be a line built on good-natured, dare I say wholesome, principles and an unfortunately outdated foundation of ethics. Eva is torn away for a moment to field inquiries and I stand staring at a wall of art that Bob has designed above his cutting desk. "See, you start over here," he explains, gesturing to the left side of the wall, "with birth. And then you go through life, in all of the stages, and in the end, you have your infinite wisdom." The final mark of infinite wisdom features a key hole through which an illustration of Eva's eye peers out. "It's an Eva-lution!" he exclaims. In that moment, freshly inspired by the world of Eva Franco, I cannot help but concur.
|Eva Frajko, the Hungarian-born designer and CEO of Ava Franco|
|Eva's design assistant, Charity, keeps her notes handy (rimshot?)|
|The pattern room at Eva Franco, where patterns are printed and fittings are conducted|
|Eva Franco promotional images, tacked onto a covered cork board|
|Vintage whimsy abounds in office decor|
|Vintage textiles, like the one above, are picked up on trips around the world and used as inspiration for future collections|
|The many fabric faces of Eva Franco (the ink-line hippo is inspiration for a future fabric design, all others are Eva Franco)|
|One very small segment of the current inspiration board|
|Garments on racks surround the fabric cutting table|
Eva Franco has just launched their Fall 2011 collection. See below for a sample of the styles to come! Don't you just love how it's all very Mad Men meets English countryside?
Eva was kind enough to give me this beautiful skirt during my facility tour!
|Hat - H&M, Jacket and Belt - J. Crew, Skirt - courtesy of Eva Franco, Boots - Santee Alley, Prescription Eyeglasses - Old Focals, Purse - vintage Dooney & Bourke|
Support women-owned-and-operated small businesses and ethical apparel manufacturing; ask your favorite local boutiques to carry (more?) brands like Eva Franco.