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Liz Giardina, Derek Lam 10 Crosby’s VP of Design, Rocks Heirloom Jewelry and Her Own Creations

Liz Giardina, 10 Crosby Derek Lam VP of Design

Liz Giardina didn’t go to fashion school. She studied sculpture at Washington University. Then the vice president of design for Derek Lam 10 Crosby immersed herself in digital and silk printing. That led to an apprenticeship on Savile Row.

It’s an unusual, even circuitous, path for a designer. Yet, 10 Crosby’s fall collection seems to reflect this sophisticated, erudite approach to fashion. These are clothes that exude depth and intelligence—characteristics Giardina expertly exhibits in conversation.

As the cooler season dictates a more substantial wardrobe, 10 Crosby’s textured collection offers smart choices for fall. Its head of design tells us why.

Derek Lam 10 Crosby Reversible Wool Blend Coat with Removable Genuine Coyote Fur CollarWhat inspired your fall collection?

Fall was inspired by textiles. It’s such a wonderful season for fabrics.

We were really attracted to a lot of the masculine winter textiles like windowpane and glen plaids in menswear fabrics. There’s also a lot of cashmere and wool outerwear. We liked how these looked next to floral prints, how they play together with that mix of feminine and masculine in really classic fabrics.

Often we come back from sourcing materials in Paris, and then decide which way the collection will go. We may work with our factories to redevelop fabrics, for instance the windowpane and glen plaids.

Do you have any favorite pieces from this season?

One of the things I loved about the Nordstrom store I visited was how our clothes just popped against the white background. Our double-faced wool coat looks great in the stores. And that fabric is fantastic because it’s completely reversible. There is also the floral print dress with a scarf in silk crêpe de Chine that’s beautiful and versatile.

For your honeymoon, you mentioned you visited weavers in Indonesia.

I come from a family of quilters and crafters in the Midwest. That may be where my interest in fabrics came from.

On my honeymoon in Indonesia we made it part of the trip to see weavers who were isolated. In Bali we saw people doing double ikats that are only done in that part of the world. We hiked to places where people are still dyeing and weaving their yarns. They’re doing the whole process. We did a lot of different research and bought a lot of textiles that I brought back to the office. I was even able to sit in a backstrap loom and actually weave cloth. To support these people who are still practicing these crafts is very important.

Derek Lam 10 Crosby Reversible PeacoatYou mention you’re interested in fabrics but you have a background in sculpture.

My undergraduate degree was in fine arts with an emphasis in sculpture. One of the things that was great about that sculpture department specifically was how very open it was to different materials. I was really interested in working with fabrics in a three-dimensional way.

Where else do you look for inspiration?

I am inspired by nonfiction. I read a lot of biographies. I finally read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. And I just read The Goddess Pose about Indra Devi and how she brought yoga to the West. When you read there are a lot of strong visuals that come with it. You can envision their clothes, what the interior of their homes was like. It’s a good starting point for inspiration.

For instance, for his last collection (spring 2016,) Derek was really inspired by Nina Simone. Have you seen that movie, What Happened, Miss Simone? I feel like its all summarized in that first scene. It’s incredible. But there is this attitude and sensibility that came from that movie that inspired that collection.

For my first season with Derek, all the colors and fabrics were inspired by the buildings of [Mexican architect] Luis Barragán—his dyeing and painting of cement. That came from a book I read about architects. So those images were on the mood board. It’s a really multifaceted process when we develop the season. Every season working with Derek is very special. We start differently each time. There are some seasons where we start from sketching. Other times we start on forms.

Do you have any guidelines or principles that inform your design?

We really set out to fill that white space in your closet.

One of the things that’s really special for me about this job is that I am actually the customer. I am 35. I make enough money to buy the clothes, and I shop in those places that sell them. So I am in a position to ask myself what do I want right now, what do I want to wear. We have an all-women design team at 10 Crosby that are really in touch with customer. We are often in stores trying things on.

And I am so engaged with what the customer wants, not just from an aesthetic perspective. But I am wearing the product almost every single day. I have no work-life separation in a very beautiful way. I love wearing something and getting immediate feedback.

Derek Lam 10 Crosby Wool Turtleneck DressWhat are your favorite items to wear that you’ve designed?

I really like our knitwear a lot. We made a great cable knit sweater, a long turtleneck one. We have a lot of fine-gauge knitwear that’s great for layering. We also do great coats! I love the one with the coyote collar this season.

You’re obsessed with jewelry too. Any favorite pieces?

I wear a lot of jewelry. Since I got engaged it’s messed up my jewelry game a bit. Once you have an expensive ring on your hand it’s hard to stack and mix. So I’ve started wearing a lot of necklaces, some from my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother. I am wearing one now from my father’s mother that has all the baby rings on it; it has five baby rings. She collected them. My mother put them on a necklace and gave them to me. I love how jewelry is passed from generation to generation and as women we get to engage with it.

When I got married, my husband’s mother gave me a bracelet that four generations of women had worn. I never take it off. It’s a gold Persian cuff.

Being a woman is so cool.

—Britt Olson

Shop: Derek Lam 10 Crosby