Thursday, 30 August 2012

Interview: Melissa Coker, Wren

This week's interview is with designer and founder of Wren, Melissa Coker. After stints assisting Alex White at W and André Leon Talley at Vogue, Melissa turned her hand to fashion design, starting LA based label Wren in 2007. Since then Coker's youthful and carefree aesthetic gone from strength to strength, proving a firm favourite with the likes of Leith Clark, Gia Coppola and Clémence Poésy to name but a few.

Where are you and what are you doing right now? In LA, working on wrapping up Spring 13.

Did you always dream of being a fashion designer? Not at first. It kind of happened by accident! I have a background in editorial and through a twist of fate I ended up designing. There were a few things that I wanted and couldn’t find in stores, so I had some friends set me up with pattern makers and I started making things for myself. I made ten pieces and realized that I basically had a small collection. Wren was born.

Tell us about your past jobs. What lead you to your current position? I worked in the fashion departments at Vogue, W and Details and was recruited from there to provide design direction for corporate brands. That brought me onto the apparel side of things and eventually led to my role as a designer.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your designs. My inspiration comes from a mix of things. I draw ideas from films, art, travels, and books. Also friends and girls I see on the street.

Describe the Fall 12 collection in 5 words. Classic, feminine, quirky, smart, cool.

What inspired the name Wren? "Wren" is named after Jenny Wren, a winsome little creature from the Dickens' Novel "Our Mutual Friend" who makes dresses for her dolls.

Who is the Wren girl? The Wren girl is bookish, but still very cool; feminine, but also not afraid to be a little bit of a tomboy too.

Does your personal style influence your designs? Almost everything I design is something I'd love to wear or fills a hole in my own wardrobe.

Do you have a favourite material to work with? Vintage sequins and tarnished shine, plush velvets and luxe brocades. I love mixing textures and pairing shiny with dull, soft with hard 

Do you have a favourite Wren piece? There are certain dresses that I wear constantly.  It's a real illness.  A few friends seem to be suffering as well.  I've shown up to meet both Leith Clark and Tennessee Thomas and we were wearing the same dress.  I find that cute.  It's like we're in a gang and the baby doll dress is our uniform.

You recently collaborated with Tavi Gevinson, Leith Clark, Maximilla Lukacs and Sarah Sophie Flicker on the film “Beware of Young Girls”. Tell us about a bit about this. How did the collaboration come about? Leith and I have worked on many projects over the years together, including the Spring 12 film we made with Gia Coppola.  Tavi and I have been in communication for quite some time now about this and that. She is such a smart, interesting, and grounded person - a true inspiration. When we were developing the project, the directors, Maximilla Lukacs and Sarah Sophie Flicker, had the idea that she should star and sing the Dory Previn song"Beware of Young Girls". Needless to say, I was over the moon on the idea. 

Any other dream collaborations? We collaborated with Minnetonka this Fall and that was a dream come true for me. I've been wearing MInnetonka mocassins my whole life so that was a very special collaboration.  We also have a dream collaboration cooking presently, more on that soon.

What other brands inspire you? Chanel, APC, Beams Boy, Charles Anastase and Lulu Frost.

What are your 5 wardrobe essentials? Printed dresses, colorful cardigans, full skirts, flats and a sun hat. Can't let the sun eat me alive here in LA!

Any beauty rituals? Less rituals, but maybe signatures. I nearly always have red nails and wear bright red lipstick for evenings out.

What’s coming up next for Wren? Spring 13 is wrapping up and we're going to be moving right into summer.  It's going to be very California inspired, which I'm looking forward to.  We have a collaboration with Lake & Stars in the works for the season -- our first foray into swimwear. 

Describe your perfect day. Would probably involve time spent with friends, staying up very late, having lots of fun.  Or, since it's my perfect day, it would be that but in Tokyo.

Wren is available to purchase from

(Photographs courtesy of Wren)

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