Interview With Designer Keith Lissner: On The Launch Of His New Online Store For Keith By Keith Lissner Today!

by Rachelle Hruska · April 20, 2009

Keith Lissner has been a little well kept secret among many of NYC's top socialites and celebrities. However, not even his incredibly humble nature can hide the gorgeous dresses he is responsible for from leaping into the limelight.  Though the mega press outlets and television shows (he is going to star in Bravo's latest designer show in May) are just catching on, Keith has been making me feel like a million bucks for many months.  And, with the launch of his Keith by Keith Lissner line TODAY on his site (yes, now anyone can buy his recession-proof dresses from anywhere in the world!), I figured it was just about time to sit down with my friend and get an official interview, you know, so I can tell Oprah "See I knew him when..."

Let's start with the basics: When did you know you wanted to be a designer? How did you get started in fashion? I knew I wanted to be a designer from a very early age. I have a grandmother who owned a couture dress salon and she would tell me fantastic stories about the ladies that shopped there etc. It was the type of store you simply don't find anymore. There were no dresses on display. Instead, the women would be presented with the dresses my grandmother felt were appropriate for them to wear. If something did not look right she would refuse to sell it. However, this rarely happened because these women trusted my grandmother implicitly. To me, these stories were intoxicating and created my romance with fashion.

I first went to school at The London College of Fashion in London, England. Upon graduation, I began designing at Perry Ellis for several years before moving to Ralph Lauren.

However, I chose to branch out on my own to design a collection of women’s demi-couture designer eveningwear called Keith Lissner. Likewise, I also have a bridge line of gently priced cocktail dresses called Keith By Keith Lissner.

Where do you get your inspiration? Each season I find a point of inspiration as varied as the Greek legend of Icarus, the history of the Royal Ballet and the punk legends of the 1970’s. But ultimately the collection is defined by my youthful interpretation of “timeless style” and a passionate dedication to craftsmanship. But, perhaps more important than any of that are the bevy of chic women about town whom I dress. They are my friends and clients that require cocktail dresses for their extremely busy social calendars. If they like what I've done, then I know I have succeeded.

More than any designer I've met, you recognize the importance of details. The finest qualities, hidden bra strap holders, and layered bodices are just some of the things I love about the dresses I've worn of yours. Why are details important for you? Details are so important because they can make or break a piece. If you design the most beautiful dress, but it does not have the proper inner construction, it won't fit properly and thus destroy your design. Likewise, I also want my dresses to offer the wearer a sense of luxury. In a time when a woman can have almost anything they want at a mark down price it is crucial to offer elements that they can not get anywhere else. You must be the full package or the customer will simply move on.

How would you describe they "Keith Lissner" girl? The Keith Lissner woman is feminine, unique, and exuding a great sense of self. Lets just say she is not the wallflower at the party.

What is the hardest part of your job? The hardest part of my job is that moment just before I first release a collection at fashion week for all to see. I am a perfectionist at heart and deeply attached to every collection.

You always look fabulous, often seen wearing amazing hand print scarves and blazers paired with t's. How would you yourself describe your personal style? Truthfully, my style is always changing, but I suppose for the moment I could say that I am preppy meets a bit of rock n' roll. Ultimately, it is what I feel most comfortable in and expresses what I am feeling.

How do you decide what to design each season? Where has the inspiration for your past lines come from? Each season I begin with an inspiration. Often something that has had an affect on me from my past. The story of Icarus, The Royal Ballet, 70's Punk, and most recently the home Falling Waters by Frank Lloyd Wright. From there I let my imagination do the work. Each one of these ideas spins into a color palette, silhouette, and general mood for each collection. I learned this skill while in school in London. It was a very freeing technique that allowed me to express myself while telling a story through a collection.

Who are your style icons? The Marchesa Casati, Diana Vreeland, Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet.

What will you be doing this summer? I spend the summers in Fire Island generally with the occasional trip to the Hamptons to spend time with my friends out there. However, I do love Manhattan in the summer. It's so quiet and accessible.

Who are some of the favorite people you have dressed? Some of the more notable women I have dressed include Emmy Rossum, Taryn Manning, Janet Jackson Paris Hilton and Natasha Beddingfield. However, my social girls are truly my favorites to dress. They inlcude Adelina Wong Ettelson, Rachelle Hruska, Devorah Rose, Keren Eldad, Olivia Palermo, Kerry Cassidy, Tamsin Lonsdale, Tia Walker, etc. etc.

We are all so excited about your Keith by Keith Lissner line. Explain why it was so important to you to offer an alternative to high cost coutoure for your brand. Are you satisfied with the quality of the pieces? Where can we find the line? Thank you, I too am so excited about this line. Keith By Keith Lissner was created because I was constantly hearing from young women that they love my dresses, but simply can not afford them. This broke my heart because I would love to dress all women regardless of their economic status. So, I challenged myself to come up with a line of dresses that are gently priced and speak to my design aesthetic. I am absolutely satisfied with the quality of the pieces. If I was not, I would not sell them. The line is available to everyone at Retailers to be announced in the near future.

If I wasn't a fashion designer I would be .....? I believe I would be a photographer. My goal in life is to create beauty wherever and however I can.

My favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon in the city is.... Head to brunch at Pastis with my boyfriend, followed by a romp through the gallery district in Chelsea.

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