Lisa Jacobs' Handmade Funky Fashion
To do so otherwise, she says, might be a wee bit pretentious.
"For a longest time in the local fashion scene, people would always ask which fashion school I went to," she says. "I'd always tell them about how I learned how to sew in Girl Scouts. And they always seem to be disappointed by that. Like it makes me less cool."
By day, she teaches art classes at a Glendale elementary school. At night and on weekends, however, she can be found behind her Viking sewing machine turning deconstructed sweaters into legwarmers and scarves, or creating colorful clothing from scratch.
Jacobs has sold her clothing and accessories at any number of locally-owned collective boutiques, whether it's the now-defunct C.O.L.A.B. project or at Indie ArtHouse, the co-op and workspace she helps run on Grand Avenue.
So what are you wearing?
A boutique-style dress that I got at Plato's Closet, because I really like things to be affordable. Then I'm wearing a vintage Christian Dior belt, because you gotta have an accessory that's vintage, and some handmade earrings I created from early 1900s red glass beads from Germany. I really like to wear layers, so I'm also wearing a vintage slip, and some strappy red suede shoes from Urban Outfitters. I like to mix boutique with vintage and handmade.
What's your favorite outfit to wear?
I pretty much like to wear a dress every single day, but I have this one dress. It's an early '70s, lightweight, neutral-colored dress, and I've pretty much have worn it pretty regularly for almost 15 years. It doesn't have a tag on it, I don't know who made it, I got it for three, and I can't get rid of it. And it always works, no matter where I'm going or what I'm doing.
What's the last item of clothing you bought?
I went to a thrift store today and I got a silver tinsel '60s mod dress.
|photo by Claire Lawton|
Where do you usually shop?
If I'm looking for something new, I really like to support the local boutique, so places like Bunky and Frances that we all know about are my favorite. My new favorite for used stuff, however, is Plato's Closet. It's not like anything fancy, but I like the fact that everything's super affordable. I'm also a thrift store junkie.
What do you like to accessorize with?
Earrings. I'm an earrings girl. I have a large collection of handmade, vintage, and boutique earrings. It's my favorite accessory. I feel nude without them.
The clothing you create seems rather folksy and more accessible than other fashion. Why is that?
Maybe because I want to be. People always ask me if I'm going to L.A. or New York where I can really try to make it as a fashion designer. The thing is, I don't really want to make it, because the kind of stuff that I do would be $300 in some bourgeois boutique. Those places are fun to shop if you have the money, but I kinda like that I can go out around downtown Phoenix and regularly see people wearing stuff I made.
What's your most recent sighting of your work?
I saw a girl at Bikini the other night wearing a skirt that I made from vintage polyester with a cute trim on it. And I didn't know her, but I got excited because that was something I created.
Much of what you make is wearable art in a sense, even the stickers you've made as Sticker Club Girl. What's the attraction?
I've always liked to make things that are functional. Even as a kid, I was really interested in making things that were pretty and you can use it for something. Maybe because my mom, when I was little, would make trinkets that went into our living room, and I wasn't allowed to go in there and touch the art. And I wanted to play with them so badly. So that's what triggered the whole want for my art to be tangible.
What's your favorite tool to use?
I have an over-locker [sewing machine], so I have the ability to make things more professional looking where the ends are stitched nicely. My focus is on the art side of it. Apparently with using vintage fabrics, those fabrics are almost art themselves. But with all the silk-screening, embroidery, and appliqué, just customizing things, I think there's where my particular niche is in fashion: making each piece into it's own piece of art.
What item of clothing do you most covet at the moment?
Pretty much any sort of 1950s-style, high-waist summer dress. That's what I'm into right now. Usually if I want something, I just get it. There were these shoes at Urban Outfitters that were strappy summer sandals that looked just like shoes that I had when I was about six years old. And I just loved them and wore them every day this summer. And I just went and bought them. And I try not to go places where things are expensive, so that I don't give myself that urge.
Where would you love to have a shopping spree?
Anthropologie. I don't go there very often, because I leave there with that sense of want I described, and I don't try to do that to myself. But all of their clothing is vintage inspired with bold prints and a lot details to the accessorizing of the dress.
Who are some of your style icons?
Oddly enough, Andy Warhol. He was obsessed with shoes. One of his first jobs was illustrating shoes for magazine ads. And then, with his influence on art, it transcended into fashion. So there's this whole influence on the fashion world because of Andy Warhol.
Who are your favorite designers?
Betsey Johnson, because I love bright colors, I love textures of lace and bric-a-brac. Her line, especially her older stuff, has layers and layers of colors and textures. And that's what I'm all about. So I think that she embodies my fashion sensibilities a great deal.
Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes:
When I was about 13 years old I used to subscribe to Sassy Magazine. And they had a page every month called "Do It Yourself," and they would tell you how to make some item of clothing. And oh, I waited for that thing to come in the mail every month, rip out the page, put it in a file, and make every single thing. Like they told you how to take a one-piece swimsuit and cut it up into a two-piece. Or you could take a paper plate and cut it up into a pie, and use the pieces to make a roll-up cap. That's when I started to take my sewing skills from Girl Scouts and using 'em to make stuff for myself. I used Sassy to customize my whole wardrobe.
Name five items every woman should have in her closet:
1. A basic dress that can be accessorized easily, either denim or black.
3. A good collection of belts.
4. Socks and tights. You can use these to coordinate an outfit and make it super funky really quickly.
5. A good coat. I've got an entire collection of coats in every color and texture you could imagine. It doesn't make sense in Phoenix in the summer, but are obviously good in the winter.
Which do you prefer: Summer or winter clothing?
I'm totally into winter. I love wearing layers, scarves, hats, and all that. I wear my summer dresses all year, only with a sweater and tights, and that would be a winter outfit.
What's one item of clothing you should never buy at a thrift store?
I would never buy panties at a thrift store, personally.
Name an item of clothing that's best when it's vintage:
I'm always a sucker for a vintage dress. They're usually handmade or custom-made. The fabrics are going to last 20 years longer than any dress you buy today, even though they're already 30 years old.
What is your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix:
To dress as individuals and to add costumery into their daily lives. I feel there are so many fun and funky pieces out there that people are afraid to wear because it's not what you see every day. But I love it when people are dressed with personality.