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Not for Shrinking Violets

There is something reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper in designer Pinar Eris’ clothes. I guess it’s the crinoline, the fishnets, the gloves and the hats that make me think “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” I think at heart Eris might agree. But there’s also a little rock, a little heiress, some flamenco and just a touch of Harajuku. That’s a lot to cram into one collection. Taking it all in is like interpreting a work of art.

Maybe the organic eclecticism comes from the lack of a theme or concept to each collection. Instead Eris designs like a painter with a dress form as her canvas. She colors with fabrics, shades with darts and pleats. She says she’s also inspired by music, mostly pop, rock, grunge and classical. I can see shades of Axl in a plaid strapless number, and hints of Courtney in a few baby dolls. But I also see Piaf in a few Parisian dresses. Eris says, as with her favorite artist, Jackson Pollock, it’s only after she’s finished that she sees her influences.

“I’m a night girl,” Eris tells me with a thick Bond-girl-like accent, while we sit at the Coffee Bean on Sunset and Fairfax surrounded by wannabe actors on cell phones. “I love evening wear. I love to dress up. I design for someone who is like me, a night owl, someone who doesn’t hide in the corner, but loves attention and is confident, strong and likes to express herself through her clothes.” And though she likes to present her fashions in an edgy way, many of them could be worn out to dinner, to a nightclub or even the opera.

Eris, who moved to California from Turkey in 1999, held down two jobs to fund her fledgling line. After her first collection was done, she didn’t know how she was going to find the time or the money to get the word out. Enter MySpace.

The networking juggernaut might be best known for launching music careers and relationships — so why not fashion?

“MySpace saved my life,” says the petite blonde. “A friend suggested it and I can’t believe the response I’ve gotten. I’ve met people in Tokyo and London who want to carry my stuff.” She also met British singer Imogen Heap. Heap is Eris’ type of girl — a fashion risk taker. They scheduled a meeting a few weeks ago in L.A., and Eris is working on a few costumes for her in hopes that she’ll get to see them on the stage when Heap tours here in November. Almost 7,000 friends later, with a slew of eye-arresting images on her MySpace profile, people are finding her. She had so many queries flooding her in-box, she had to create a link called “Inspiration and Frequently Asked Questions.”

“When I was a small girl I wanted to be a fashion designer,” says Eris, “but that was quickly erased from my head. My mother begged, ‘Please, Pinar, be practical in this country.’ So I kind of forgot that dream.” Her “practical” alternative, fine arts, didn’t seem to please her parents either. “What are you going to do with that?” her family asked. “Turkey is a modern Muslim country, a little America, so many things are the same,” says Eris. “Still, they don’t really allow young people to express themselves. It’s very conservative; lucky for me my family was a bit more open-minded.” They eventually supported her decision and helped her come to America.

She landed in San Diego and took five years of classes at a two-year school. “Education is different here. In Turkey you take a test which decides what you should be, but here, you could take anything. I went crazy. I took everything I could. I took drawing and painting, and jewelry design,” says Eris. “But when I took that first fashion class, that was it. I knew that was all I wanted to do. The dream came back.” Eris decided three years ago to move to L.A., the entertainment capital, figuring spotlight-starved starlets would hunger for her designs.

Now she’s just down to one day job, designing in her spare time, and finally has a sales rep to place her line. She’s working on a 16-piece spring/summer collection and is planning a huge fashion show in March, a McQueen-like production with a band, artists and acrobats. And next month, she’s launching a Web site. “My ultimate goal,” says Eris, “is to be sold in boutiques in all big cities all over the globe.”From MySpace to a store near you.

Pinar Eris’ ready-to-wear pieces range from $140 to $400; for more information, visit www.pinareris.com or www.myspace.com/pinareris.