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Meet the Designers: Callahan

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Considering the fact that our sunshine-y city pretty much only offers 2.5 seasons (Spring, Summer, and a wee bit of Fall), many local brands ignore knitwear altogether, instead focusing on breezy basics to wear year-round. But the beauty of designer Michelle Callahan's eponymous collection is that she's able to give customers both.

Callahan specializes in knit pieces that are practical for varying temps by adjusting materials and designs from season to season. An oversized boyfriend style (one of the brand's best selling) could be a chunky cableknit in the winter, and a super lightweight waffle for Spring. And some silhouettes transition too. For example, the brand's current collection boasts off-the-shoulder and low-back sweaters as well as a sexy cropped tank and cut-out bodycon dress for s/s'16.

The knitwear line, also happens to be impressively affordable, offering pieces that sit comfortably in a $68-$178 range. We learned a bit more about the lust-worthy line including what aspect of LA life drives its stylistic directions and how Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen fans helped kickstart Michelle's career in fashion.

 

How did you find you way into knits?

After graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in Apparel Design & Textiles I worked in the fashion industry for a number of years as a buyer and merchandiser. There I realized how sweaters and knitwear were always a strong category but, in my opinion, under developed in the contemporary market. Since fashion can feel so saturated with the constant appearance emerging lines, I thought I would have a better chance in creating a niche for myself if I started with one category: sweaters and knitwear. Also, growing up thrifting and roaming flea markets for vintage I always kept my eyes peeled for cool, unique knitwear. I feel fortunate that I was able to focus on a category that I love creatively but also knew was a smart business decision.

How do you translate knits for LA's weather?

We use different yarn weights and knit qualities for Fall and Spring. For Fall we use heavier warmer yarns, and for Spring we switch to lightweight, breathable yarns. Since Los Angeles has such pleasant weather that errs on the side of warm we make sure include medium weight styles in every collection.

 

What was your earliest fashion memory?

When I was 15 I started a jewelry line inspired by Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen—when they were at the height of their big sunglasses, oversized cardigans, bohemian bracelet phase. I made several bracelet styles, took pictures of them and posted them on my Live Journal (I KNOW) where girls from different Mary-Kate & Ashley fan pages started commenting and buying them in the comment sections. My parents were thoroughly amused by it all and my mom would take me to Michael's everyday after school so I could pick up more beads and supplies. It was my first taste at entrepreneurship, design and I was hooked. It was such a cool feeling to know that other girls liked what I liked and made. Unfortunately, the business was short lived—as became preoccupied with being a teenager—but I look back at that time fondly and giggle at all.

What was your inspiration for the new collection?

I'm inspired by contemporary trends and vintage styles. Each season we use unique yarns and knit designs on basic but forward silhouettes. I always say I design the line for the effortless cool girl so each season we incorporate these elements but still make sure we stick to our aesthetic.

 

What's your favorite piece from the new collection?

I always love our Boyfriend Sweaters. They're oversized and slouchy, making the fit great for dressing up and down. It's so easy to sport the with denim and sneakers but then switch to a heel and still look cool, effortless, and sexy. This spring we are offering the Boyfriend Sweater in a great light weight yarn with a waffle knit design.

What aspect of LA life most influences the line?

Los Angeles is a super casual city but at the same time Angelenos are aware of trends and conscience of their appearance. That casual cool LA energy is what influences the line the most.

-- interviewed by Ashley Tibbits

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