Photo Credits: Courtesy of Katie Ermilio
You are going to absolutely love rising design star Katie Ermilio. Her designs are simultaneously timeless and modern. As the fourth-generation designer in the Ermilio family (her grandfather was Grace Kelly's personal clothier), Katie Ermilio is poised to make her own mark on the fashion world. See more of her beautiful designs here. I'll be back tomorrow with Part 2 of the interview. Enjoy!
1. What was the first article of clothing that you ever designed?
The first piece I ever designed? I can’t remember exactly because I’ve been designing since I was little. My favorite thing as a child was making my own paper dolls and all of their clothes, so I suppose I was designing before I ever really knew it? But the first piece of clothing that I designed and had made was a mint green baby doll dress that I wore to my eighth grade dinner dance. I sketched it out, selected the fabric, and worked with my father’s seamstress to have it made.
2. Fashion design is literally in your genes. You are the fourth-generation fashion designer in your family. Did you always know you would grow up to follow in the family footsteps?
Surprisingly no. In fact I didn’t even consider design as a part of my future, though I always knew fashion would be. For as long as I can remember I wanted to work in magazines – I love art, writing, typography, graphic design and of course clothes – so I saw fashion magazines as medium that married my interests and went forth to pursue a career in publishing.
3. What is it like to be the first woman in your family to carry the design torch?
It’s so exciting. I can’t imagine anyone happier than me that the Ermilio name and legacy will live on in my work. I’m also so thrilled to be giving the company new life here in New York – while I am a native Philadelphian – my maternal grandmother grew up on Washington Square downtown. Her father (my Great Grandfather, Leopold Porrino) established an insurance agency here in the city that is still in operation. He was good friends with LaGuardia, so there is a huge part of New York in the Ermilio story.
4. Do you consciously try to incorporate elements from your family’s designs, or are they just inherently there? In other words, is there one Ermilio style, or is it different from generation to generation?
There’s certainly a distinct Ermilio style which naturally finds it’s way into my work. This notion of chic gentrified apparel with a relaxed sensibility is a mainstay of my aesthetic (as well as my father’s and grandfather’s.)
5. Was style something you learned, like a trade or an art, or was it something that was more or less absorbed by osmosis by being around your grandfather and father?
My style is complete osmosis, as is my design sensibility. Everything I know about clothes I learned from my father’s shop and spending much of my young life around tailors, fittings, and him. He and my grandfather are both the best-dressed men I have ever known. Of course, as a young girl to me it this was all second nature because the clothing world was my life, and now as a young adult I reflect back on my childhood and can appreciate where my knowledge comes from.
6. Other than designing clothing, what are your most artistic or creative hobbies?
Some people are surprised to learn that I paint, and I’ve always loved art – so going to museums and galleries is a favorite pastime of mine.
7. What habits have you cultivated as you design? Do you listen to music? Do you like a certain environment? Have you developed any quirks to start the process?
My design process can originate from anywhere and I really never know when an idea is going to strike me. I find that my best work (or at least my favorite pieces) are organically inspired. I don’t really sit down and set aside time to design. Rather, I let the mood strike me and go from there. It’s funny – some days I can’t fall in love with any of my drawings and on others I won’t be able to turn the ideas off.
8. What kind of a woman do you design for? If you were asked to design a one-of-a-kind dress (or other piece of clothing) for anybody, who would you like her to be?
I would like to think that design aesthetic marries a sense of timelessness and modernity. My clients span generations in their age range, so I consciously try to create garments that defy limitations when it comes to a woman’s age.