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For Nanette Lepore, Choosing Prints Is Like 'Building a Painting'

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Nanette Lepore certainly has a stronghold in Boston, where her print-heavy and fun-loving collections continually pull women into the brand's Newbury Street boutique. Lepore stopped by the chandelier-adorned store last night for an event with the Junior League of Boston, greeting guests in one of her own looks, a neon turquoise tweed dress and peplum jacket complemented by metallic strappy sandals and an anchor necklace. Furthering her expansion as a lifestyle brand (which already includes footwear, accessories, and swim in addition to her main apparel line), Lepore just released her first home collection, aptly titled "Villa" and full of vividly colored textiles.

Lepore's enthusiasm for American-made clothing and sustaining New York's Garment District has made her a prominent figure in the fashion industry, coupled with an effervescent spirit and colorful personality that appeal to trendsetters like Michelle Obama and Blake Lively. We spoke with the designer about her notorious prints, why young designers shouldn't always focus on the runway, and which local institution caught her eye on this trip to Boston.

What was the catalyst for launching home?
I had so much fun decorating my house that I was ready to plunge in, and I knew I had these rich materials and such a history to my company. Every month I have to ship a new collection, and after we do it once for clothing, it's done. It was fun to invigorate some older prints and see them come to life as a bedspread or pillows—embroidery and beading, things we've only worked with in small amounts. You can put a bed top together like you would accessorize jewelry.

What in your opinion is the power of a good print?
Every month we have to come up with a new feeling and mood, so it sets the tone. Sometimes I'm feeling more ethnic, Asian inspired, maybe a beautiful digital floral or something tropical. I love prints because it's like building a painting. We start with boards that are a big collage before we actually make the clothing. So we put the color story together, then fill in the prints and the textures. Prints tell a story.

What has been your strangest source of inspiration?
I brought an apron once that turned into the most beautiful exploding floral print. Recently, for our Fall show, I bought a weaving in a flea market and took it apart then put it back together as a patchwork. We did it as a digital print, so you could really see the handwork and the stitches, even the little sequins that were in there. It became a gorgeous print. I also like to play with proportion, taking things that are tiny and exploding them.

Who is your Boston customer?
A lot of people come here for school and stay, so someone who is really part of the community but also is cosmopolitan. Very urban, but also there's a femininity to the Boston girl. You don't walk around and see everyone in just black looking mad. There's a happier spirit to Boston than we have in New York. And people get so excited for spring.

Your dresses are great for parties. What is your favorite type of occasion?
Well I like celebrating, but personally, my Christmas party at my house is probably my favorite occasion. It's really fun and you never know what's going to happen. We have something called the "tinsel dance" where we put on "Waltz of the Flowers" from The Nutcracker and we get everyone on the dance floor with tinsel.

What advice do you have for young designers?
Don't always feel like you have to start with a fashion show. Remember that it's good to learn your customer and start as a shop. Make it fit, make it sell. It is commerce and not just art; there's some confusion.

And you got your start in a boutique setting.
Yes, I got started with a shop in the East Village. It was great because I really got to study the customer and what she wanted.

You have quite the celebrity roster already, but who else would you like to see in Nanette Lepore?
Emma Watson; I don't know if I've ever seen her in it. And Lupita Nyong'o. I loved what she wore to the Oscars. We had just been planning our next resort collection with a lot of pale blues like that and there it was.

What is your favorite thing to do while in Boston?
Usually I love to shop, so today I mixed it up and did the Museum of Fine Arts for the "Think Pink" show that we heard about on NPR.
· Nanette Lepore [Official Site]

Nanette Lepore

119 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116