How Carleen's Kelsy Parkhouse Assembled Her First NYFW Presentation



"Good things come from leaping out of your comfort zone," Kelsy Parkhouse shared during our catch up, "whether it's a fashion week event or something else."

Earlier this week we had the opportunity to witness this firsthand as we joined Kelsy and her growing community to celebrate her brand Carleen's premiere NYFW presentation! Held at Splacer and in partnership with body-positive modeling agency We Speak the show was an inspiring way to kick off the festivities of fashion month.

Design-wise, Carleen has always been a favorite of ours here at Brand Assembly (just ask our very own Hillary France!) and we instantly fell in love with Kelsy's quirky nod to Spring. The collection highlighted some of the brand's signature accents which included powerful prints and denim everything. Did we mention there was also a gigantic pool-inspired quilt (which appropriately spells out 'NO DIVING') that Kelsy created exclusively for the show?

Even so, we still found ourselves diving deep into our conversation with Kelsy as she kindly walked us through the show. In our chat with the flourishing designer we touched on the inspiration behind the collection, her experience putting together a fashion week presentation and what she hopes her clothing contributes to the contemporary shopper's wardrobe all year round. Read on for more and visit The Style Line for an exclusive second part of the interview featuring more on Kelsy's relationship with We Speak. 

Please reintroduce yourself!

I'm California born and raised, currently living and working in Bushwick, where I design Carleen, my women's clothing line - with frequent trips to the Garment District, of course. I love my dog, swimming, reading and cooking (this has been true for as long as I can remember).

Congrats on your first presentation! Why did you decide to show this season and what about this particular collection excites you the most?

Thank you! I'm so excited. Usually our lookbook is the only narrative we get to tell for a collection, so I wanted to create an opportunity to expand and elaborate on that. It's really nice to bring everything to an offline space. I have a lot of textiles that I'm really excited about in this collection - everything from a print that's a bit of a throwback to our very first collection, to a red fabric most commonly associated with mechanics and an expanded denim group... I'm always loving denim!

With NYFW being accessible via social media how do you think the relationship between fashion and technology impacts designers more than anyone else? How did you use technology throughout the process of getting ready for the show?

This is something I'm still navigating, what to reveal and what to play close to the chest. I spent some of the pre-presentation time experimenting with Instagram's new "story" feature. It's nice to be able to share things in a more ephemeral and less composed way.

Walk us through the process of planning for a NYFW presentation. What are three of the biggest takeaways for you as a result of going through this process?

1. Rely on friends and family - I did this on a very small budget and quite literally couldn't have done it without calling on every resource I have. My mom flew in from California, my partner headed up and executed most of the set design, one of my best friends did light and sound and those are just a few of the big things. I called on friends for styling, jewelry, invites, day-of help, everything really.

2. I've been pretty comfortable in my lookbook/appointments routine and it was anxiety inducing to add this to the mix, but also very satisfying. Good things come from leaping out of your comfort zone, whether it's a fashion week event or something else.

3. A general rule I always go by: make sure there are snacks!

Can you offer any tips or advice to fellow emerging designers who are looking to do more during a week like NYFW? In your opinion what are the biggest benefits for designers that come with participating? 

I kept telling myself that just because I did this once doesn't mean I have to make it a recurring event. You can do almost anything once! It took some of the pressure off and now that I've done it maybe I will want to do it again, or in a different way. This is my first time doing this, so I think it'll take a little time to really see all the benefits, but the response so far has already been great.

What do you hope this collection contributes to the contemporary shopper’s wardrobe for the next season? 

I feel like a broken record, but I'm really into my denim group! I really hope customers respond to seeing one of their favorite fabrics in silhouettes and styles that offer a little more innovation than their everyday jeans but are just as low maintenance.


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