Meet Liise Wyatt and Karly Orr of WyattOrr. They’ve been designing separately and together since 2006, which makes them veterans in the Seattle fashion scene. They knocked our socks off in the 2008 Seamless in Seattle contest, which they both won separately with their individual eponymous collections. We caught up with them recently to check in on what they’re up to and hear their thoughts on how this town treats its designers.
Ali Brownrigg: How did you two meet?
Liise Wyatt/Karly Orr: We met in design school at the New York Fashion Academy in 2006, and right away enjoyed working alongside each other on our own designs and bouncing around ideas together. We found that we were inspired by similar things and liked the idea of blending our design aesthetics. In 2008 we started collaborating on menswear for several local Seattle customers. This grew into a full line of jackets for men, which eventually inspired us to try our hands at women's jackets. There was a period of time where between the two of us we were producing three lines per season. That was a lot to take on, so after really honing our skills and interests we decided to join creative forces completely and merge our aesthetics into one really polished collection for women: Wyatt Orr.
AB: What inspired your spring collection?
LW/KO: Our spring '13 inspiration came initially from wanting to create a collection around texture and contrast. We began working with intricately pleated cotton fabric, which we love, and paired it with silk chiffon and georgette. Then we added leather and started to see some of the shapes in the collection resembling a sort of modern day armor, which we thought was a nice juxtaposition to our other weightless, ethereal fabrics. We tend to use natural fiber fabrics because they feel great on and are really satisfying to work with. This season we used silk, leather, bamboo and organic cotton. Our silhouettes are a little roomy, giving them a somewhat effortless vibe and the ability to be dressed up or down.
AB: Where do you look for inspiration in general? Style blogs? Certain designers?
LW/KO: We get a lot of inspiration from our natural surroundings—the Northwest has such a rich variety in its landscape, vegetation and wildlife, light and temperature. Textures and colors found in our environment continually spark conversation between us about our next season's collection.
AB: Who is the woman you're designing for?
LW/KO: Our unique customer shops at independent boutiques and some high end department stores. She reads avant-garde magazines, appreciates the arts and is psyched to wear a local design label.
AB: What struggles have you overcome over the years?
LW/KO: Sourcing fabric and supplies while living in Seattle is always a challenge. Sometimes we are lucky enough to hop on a plane to LA or NYC, but most of the time we have to source from those cities by mail, which is time consuming. Also, while we are proud to manufacture our clothes domestically in Seattle and Los Angeles, it is very expensive, which makes our final product more expensive. People often think that they can find less expensive clothing from independent designers rather than mainstream established labels, but we actually have very high production costs because our quantities are so much smaller and we aren't sending the work overseas.
AB: Any advice for the new guard of emerging designers in town?
LW/KO: Don't take yourself too seriously. And maybe have a bottle of red on hand for those huge leaps of faith, of which there will be many.
AB: What do you think Seattle needs to support its emerging designers more?
LW/KO: We're asked this question quite a bit and we still feel like a Fashion District, similar to New York or LA, would be amazing. Imagine a hub for high-end fashion shows, studios, show rooms and production resources. More realistically though, local designers would simply benefit from a few wholesale resources, especially for fabric. It is also important that Seattle continues to value the significance of supporting independent designers. The more they are appreciated, the more they can create, and the further our local fashion scene can grow into something unique and wonderful.
You can find the WyattOrr collection at Les Amis in Fremont after March 15. Prices range from $225-$500.