Photos by Michael Powers“Who is this woman that I see wearing my clothing?” Designer Sarah Aaronson contemplated this question as she struggled to come up with a name for her line. “I initially came up with Doppelgänger — totally creepy and dark but kind of feminine — but it’s too casual.” So Aaronson started envisioning the woman who would wear her sculptural ensembles, creating a persona as it were: “She doesn’t wear Juicy Couture — she doesn’t believe in that. She’s not afraid of dressing up and wearing diamonds to the market. She’s humble but confident in who she is. She reads books. Has a really great a sense of humor. She can wear ridiculous things and laugh at herself too. Can’t deal with people with fauxhawks — she can’t take that at all. She hates the whole idea of conformity and uniforms and people dressing according to what a magazine said. There’s a pull between masculine and feminine, and there’s a dark, mysterious side. She has a real black sense of humor and is not afraid to make really wrong jokes.” Meet Edith Palm. The name, like the line, plays off the dynamic that informs Aaronson’s design sensibility: a wild romanticism, sparked by influences ranging from 1960s motorcycle boots to Art Deco to Russian Constructivism — but filtered through an innovative aesthetic. It’s all about creating something wearable while making a statement — artistic, political — and not looking like anyone else. Aaronson launched her line in fall 2003 with a collection she called “At Lastly Bloody and Ghastly.” Let’s just say she has an abiding appreciation for Victoriana and, as the title suggests, Edward Gorey. But let it be noted that her collections do tend to change dramatically. Her second, “The Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep,” was based on Moby-Dick. And her most recent, featured at Gen Art’s “The New Garde” installation in March at MOCA, involves Bolsheviks invading the Wild West. Suffice to say, she loves a good story.? You might not guess that Aaronson is a local, born and raised in Los Angeles — Hancock Park to be specific. Not when she says, “I want people to wear gloves.” Clearly, she’s not a SoCal jeans-and-tees kind of gal. We’re chatting at her studio apartment in (no surprise here) one of Hollywood’s classic Deco-era buildings. Tucked away in the kitchen is a sewing machine and a rolling rack. In other words, a typical setup for a designer just starting out. She’s not quite at the point where she can support herself exclusively through her design, but she’s developed a good word-of-mouth clientele for her imaginatively detailed custom clothes, often made with vintage fabrics, although she’s starting to tinker with silk-screening. Aaronson also works as an assistant to the owner of Resurrection, but not doing sales, mind you. She’s done that retail-slut routine — Agent Provocateur, American Rag, Barneys — after a couple of tries at higher education. Which she thinks is an amazing thing to have, but . . . college, well, after a year studying fashion at Syracuse, she “was not having it at all.” Too cold, and all those girls with their matching Kate Spade bags. Aaronson came back to L.A. and went to Otis, which lasted about a semester. At 18, she wasn’t ready for that commitment. Besides, she knew, always, from day one, that she would be a designer. Made clothes for her dolls, had fashion shows for them, got her first sewing machine when she was 13. It was a retail job at Aero & Co., one of Los Angeles’ leading boutiques for showcasing up-and-coming designers, that proved to be the turning point. Owner Alisa Loftin introduced her to the city’s vibrantly avant design scene: Magda Berliner, Jared Gold, Kime Buzzelli and Grey Ant, to cite a few. “It opened my eyes,” she says. “It was really exciting to me because these people were doing their thing. And doing really amazing things. It exposed me to a lot of different people and I thought what Alisa was doing was really great.” Aaronson started designing, and had her first show — of oversize unisex ties — while still at Aero. Eventually, Aaronson hopes to have her own atelier, to know her customers. “I want to be influenced by them as well as vice versa.” And she’s not interested in catering to the fashion industry’s timetable, the “this season” or “that season” deadlines. “Not to sound cheesy, but it ruins the creative process. I think that’s going to affect me a lot — the decision not to completely comply with those regulations. We’ll see where it takes me. I just want to make it on my own.”

(above and below): Vintage wool knit, lurex and wool jumpsuit
with vintage buttons

(above): Upholstery fabric with velvet trim

(above): Designer Sarah Aaronson

Edith Palm is available at Aero & Co., 8403 W. Third St. (323) 653-4651 or
CREDITS: Model: Ting Ting (Otto Models)
Hair & makeup: Alma Anguiano

LA Weekly