Fashion watchers did a double take when Trina Turk’s black-and-white plaids debuted at New York Fashion Week in February. This titan of Palm Springs poolside chic was showing a decidedly cooler side — one that was influenced by menswear and included layers of wool.
Turk launched her own line in 1995 after working as a designer for a number of brands, ranging from Ocean Pacific to Anne Cole. Today, Turk’s multifaceted Los Angeles-based company creates women’s wear, Mr. Turk menswear, accessories, fabrics, stationery and home goods. Eight Trina Turk stand-alone stores are part of the mix along with trinaturk.com. (A store in Atlanta is scheduled to open this summer.) And last summer, she collaborated with Banana Republic, producing a collection that was sold in 450 stores.
On Friday afternoon, Turk talked about her first trip to Richmond, her very first showing at New York Fashion Week in February, and what’s next.
Come meet Turk on Wednesday, May 1 at Saks Fifth Avenue at Stony Point Fashion Park from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Ten percent of all store purchases will be donated to the Valentine Richmond History Center’s Costume and Textile Collection, the South’s largest.
Q. What were the best things that came out of participating in New York Fashion Week for the first time?We are based in Los Angeles, and on some level, we are somewhat off the radar from the New York press. Our company is 17 years old and we’ve had slow and steady growth. We just realized we needed to be in New York. There is benefit to be included in the roster with all the important American designers. …Our Palm Springs association has taken on a life of its own. It has been a touch point, but some think that everything we are doing is for a desert lifestyle, but that’s not the case at all.
Q. What influenced those black-red-and-white fall 2013 collection pieces?The overall theme of the collection was California modernism, the urban side of living in California and not all about living at the beach. There’s a bit of menswear influence with those enlarged, classic menswear patterns. And the black-and-ivory classic combination is something that everyone can embrace with that deep red.
Q. And what about those hats?We wanted a strong fedora to carry through the menswear look and we worked with Albrizio in New York to create it. The hat in the New York show and one with a slightly short brim will be in our stores and online in August.
Q. Looking ahead to fall, what would be your three essential items?I would say an oversized coat would be important. We are showing a shape that is more voluminous that looks new. Then some kind of variation on a luxurious sweatshirt is a really important trend. It’s this kind of slouchy style of sweatshirt but it’s elevated with fabrication, variations in solid silk georgette, silk prints, mixed media. For three I would say something in leather. We are doing interesting colors like cognac, oxblood and a deep, rich teal called lake.
Q. Where do you go for inspiration on a daily basis?I am addicted to Instagram. I read Women’s Wear Daily, sometimes online, sometimes the paper. And I usually listen to NPR and most of it is not related to fashion news. To be a good designer, you need to know about what’s happening in the world.
Q. If you were to be trapped in one museum overnight, what one would you choose?I think it might be fun to stay in the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice because it’s a Venetian palazzo. That seems like it would be fun plus she has an amazing collection of 20th-century art there.
Q. Where do you plan to vacation next?My husband [Jonathan Skow] and I plan to travel to Berlin for the first time and then we’ll meet up with our friends Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler in Capri. …I want to see more of Africa since I’ve only been in North Africa and I would love to spend more time in Vietnam, Thailand, South America, Rio…My bucket list is so long. I don’t know how I’m going to get through it if I continue to work.
Q. What designers have influenced your work?My favorite male designer is Rudi Gernreich, who worked out of Los Angeles starting in the late 1950s. He was revolutionary at the time because he did away with interlinings and stiffness. He is one of the pioneers of modern clothing. And because he wasn’t a big New York designer, he flew under the radar. He did amazing prints. And the press grabbed onto his topless swimsuit that his muse Peggy Moffitt modeled. When I’m vintage shopping, I always seem to pick up Pauline Trigere, who was working in the 1950s and 1960s. She is most well known for what Patricia Neal wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And Miuccia Prada, who is wildly creative and does amazing shifts in silhouettes. Right now, I think Celine represents modern dressing for women.
Q. What’s next for Trina Turk?We are launching shoes for spring 2014 and while we’ve dabbled in handbags, we haven’t developed a full line but we will in fall 2014. We also have a line of bath and beach towels coming out in spring 2014 and we are working on launching Mr. Turk at wholesale. … The thing that has led us into other categories has been prints. That’s what led us into swimwear, led us into home. Anything that can be printed can be a Trina Turk product. We have a massive print arsenal, an archive of 500 print designs. And when we think of a new purpose, a new use for a print, we can readapt it. — As told to Susan Winiecki