She’s a Chicago native, who’s currently pursuing her design dreams in New York City, and with clients including Tina Fey, Heidi Klum, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Giuliana Rancic and many more Samantha Sleeper is moments away from being a household name. This week the design darling opens her first brick and mortar pop-up shop in the Windy City, at 46 East Oak Street (right between David Yurman and Jill Sander) which will be open for both shopping and custom appointments until May 26th.
Meanwhile, we’re declaring it ‘Samantha Sleeper Week’ over here at TCLB, where we’ll be getting to know the designer (and new mom to 3 month old Mason!) a bit better, playing dress up in her stunning collection, and doing some style spotting as Chicago’s most fashionable flock to her Oak Street outpost. Today we kick things off with some quick Q+A…
So how did all of this get started?
It started in my apartment! A lot of it was an evolution during my time in college, at Parson’s. I was designing things and I started wearing my own pieces that I would make in jewelery [class] or costume design. I worked at a high end boutique and I would have clients come in and ask who I was wearing, so after I while the store owner asked if I wanted to have a few pieces in the store on consignment, and I said of course! Eventually Cyndi Lauper’s stylist started pulling some of my pieces and giving them another life, it all started from there.
Was fashion design always the plan?
Always! When I was 11 I decided I wanted to be a designer and my mom took me to Parsons and F.I.T. in New York for my birthday. We saw the senior shows, I chose Parsons, only applied there, went there, now I teach there… I was on a fast track early in life!
That’s such a full-circle moment that you went to Parsons, and now you teach there! What do you teach?
I teach concept design. I started teaching concept design for thesis and that was interesting because you’re overseeing 13 mini collections, and helping them articulate their visions. What I’m doing now is sophomore concept design where they’re just trying to figure out all the essentials of design and trying to learn what a tuck back is, what flats are, how to make a mood board proper, etc.
What have been some of the highlights in your design career this far?
Definitely being on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily when I was with NPRPA. There have been a lot of mini triumphs and then expected highlights, such as seeing my things in magazines. It was very cool initially, but then when people started wearing my dresses on their wedding day it felt almost more monumental because it’s something they’re going to look back on for the rest of their life. I think the first time I saw someone’s official wedding photos I started to feel differently about everything.
How would you describe your personal style?
It changes a lot. It used to be much more rock and roll, with a lot of leather, vintage dresses, and super high heels, but during and post pregnancy I didn’t want to buy all new clothes so I’m trying to reassociate with what makes me comfortable, after being out of my comfort zone for the past year or so. I just really like to play dress up everyday. Some days I like to feel very bohemian and vintage inspired, and other days are more modern and conceptual- it’s always a mix! I think it’s important to wake up and say to yourself who do I want to be today? and, what will help me feel that way? I never want it to stop feeling like I’m playing dress up.
What’s the next step?
It’s constantly evolving and changing. I still have the big picture vision of being an international design brand, but I want to make sure I’m understanding what is really making me tick and making me want to work. Growing the business is the general MO, and how we do that specifically is still yet to be seen. I’d love to have an atelier in Chicago! I’d love to have a place where I can do couture pieces here. That would be amazing!
Want more Samantha Sleeper? You can…
- Come back to the blog everyday this week!
- Stop by her pop-up shop at 46 E. Oak Street in Chicago now, through the 26th.
- Find her pieces in select boutiques nationwide.
- Check out her facebook page, or website (which is currently under construction).
- Email her with orders and custom/bridal inquires at: email@example.com