clarefeat

It’s A Wrap – A NewsWhistle Q&A with Kimono Designer Clare Frost

Before we start this interview, I have a story to tell. Several years ago, my friend and I were on the immigration line at Istanbul’s international airport bantering back and forth about a certain stanza in Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.” We couldn’t remember it. We’d been wracking our heads all week about these forgotten lines.

And, magically, a woman from behind us chimed in with the lyrics. I think they were . . . “‘Kathy,’ I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh. ‘Michigan seems like a dream to me now.'”

The woman’s name was Clare. She was an American living in Istanbul but on her way to Afghanistan to teach a design course with a foundation supporting Afghan artisans.

What Clare didn’t tell us was that she was a fashion designer about to launch an exquisite Kimono line for men, women and children. Or then again maybe she did. My friend and I were just too stunned that a stranger appeared out of nowhere and knew the words to “America.”

Fortunately, Clare told us, or reminded us, this week about the launch of her silk Kimono line.

So, if you’re in the market for a beautiful Kimono or would like the lines to a certain Simon and Garfunkel song sung, here’s a person we think you should know. . .

***

clarefrost_kimono4-620x394

***

Name: Clare Louise Frost, www.clarelouisefrost.com
Date of Interview: November 15, 2012 (UPDATED September 8, 2015)
Age (if you want to give it up): 31
Birthplace: Washington, DC
Current town: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Designer. I think I can say that now! I still feel the same way about acting and modeling, although I do enjoy both a lot given the right project with the right people.

***

1. What’s the funniest or saddest thing that’s happened to you this week?

This week? Arg. In lieu of answering: Here’s one of my favorite poems in Turkish. It’s by Orhan Veli, who first published it in 1937:

SOKAKTA GIDERKEN

Sokakta giderken,
Kendi kendime
Gülümsediğimin
Farkına vardığım zaman
Beni deli zannedeceklerini düşünüp
Gülümsüyorum.

The grammar in Turkish is really clever and makes it one sentence, but more or less, it says:

OUT ON THE STREET

Out on the street,
When I realize I’m smiling to myself,
I think that people who see me
Must think I’m crazy, which
Makes me smile.

That sort of sums it up. You have to make yourself laugh a little. I hide weird little things in corners of cupboards so I’ll find them later. A plant to make myself laugh, or at least smirk. Do you think I’m crazy?

***

2. What’s your favorite movie? And why?

Oh my, I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum, especially the Gwyneth Paltrow character so I could wear that glorious coat and have Nico as my personal soundtrack.

People are sometimes surprised to hear that I think The Hangover is hilarious. Stu’s face in the morning is precious.

Jacques Tati is a hero; I can’t think of anyone funnier or smarter.

I’m also a sucker for great vampire films, like Nosferatu, Blood For Dracula, The Fearless Vampire Killers

Another all-time favorite I watch every Christmastime is Fanny and Alexander, but I always get the evil bishop’s castle scenes mixed up in my imagination with scenes from Nosferatu. Half the time I want the bishop to bear his fangs, suck the blood out of the young, pretty new wife, and it will be a sort of write-you-own-adventure movie with those puppets coming to life to slay the vampire at the end. Pinocchio stabs him through the heart with his nose, a Christmas miracle.

If there’s a link, maybe all these films are in turn funny and tragic, and use fabulous, diverse, and atmospheric music to enclose the whole new world each film portrays.

I also really love Raging Bull, it’s so decadent and tragic and beautiful. Zeki Demirkubuz’s Üçüncü Sayfa is also about love, loss, and tough lessons, in a way, and taught me a lot about Turkish grammar, so I always have a soft spot for it.

***

3. What’s the biggest risk you took in life?

The decision I took that I was most uncertain about was moving to New York. Scared me to bits.

***

clarefrost_kimono2-620x401

***

4. If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would that be?

Ooh. Ouchy one. Stood up for what’s right more, spoken my mind when I knew what was right or right for me, more. There are a lot of brave people out there that I deeply admire. I wish it weren’t so risky, sometimes, to say what you believe.

***

5. Tell us your favorite joke:

All my jokes are terrible. And old. And stale. Anyway: Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, “this taste funny to you?” Come on, admit it! You think it’s hilarious, too.

Here’s another: Did you hear about the clown orgy? I’ll let you provide the answer to that.

[ED. NOTE: THE ANSWER… “YEAH, IT WAS… FUCKING INTENSE.” ]

***

6. What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

The older I get, the less people I want to tell the deeply buried stuff – protect the innocent!

***

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?

There’s always a way to do what you love. That way often involves a part-time job working 40 hours in a restaurant.

(God bless restaurants for letting so many artists, non-profit workers, filmmakers, actors, musicians and even little designers like me be successes. It is so worth it.)

***

8. Who’s your favorite celebrity? And why?

Can she be dead? Lucille Ball. Fearless, funny. Also Madeline Kahn. Fearless, funny, a class act.

In addition: I wish all the women who stood up and are standing up to Bill Cosby would be just as well-funded in their lives as his celebrity machine has made him. Celebrities are not my heroes; those women are my heroes.

***

9. What’s your strangest phobia or superstition?

I’m terrified of time. Time keeps going and going and passing and it’s just too much even to think about. There’s too much of it and too little of it and you can never keep up. You know, there’s that Simon & Garfunkel song – Time, time, time, looks what’s become of me? I think S & G have addled my brains.

I do also really believe, against all evidence, that wishing a wish upon the first star you see at night will make your wish come true… Also: I would never be able to live without hot chocolate chip cookies. They are coming with me to the proverbial desert island.

***

clarefrost_kimono3-620x397

***

10. Last, but not least, is there anything you want to pitch, promote or discuss? Kimonos, perhaps? 

I do think everyone needs a kimono, and not just because I happen to make them. They feel so good, so sexy, so strong, something neither male nor female, wild and civilized and fierce and demure all at the same time. I have one that my uncle bought for my grandfather when he was on a business trip in Japan. Somehow, I was lucky enough to end up with it after my grandfather passed away over a decade ago. This was the long-simmering nucleus of inspiration for the collection, and my Chain print is a version of the print on my grandfather’s kimono.

I’ve since come out with a hand-printed cotton kimono collection, and my new silk crepe de chine hand printed new collection is about to come out now. Each print has a new story.

***

BONUS QUESTION: How did you know the lines to “America”?

I drove myself to high school after my older sister left for college. The car was a red Mazda Protege, manual shift, manual windows, tape deck. I was sick of pop radio so I copied CDs onto tapes to listen to in the car. I loved Simon & Garfunkel, and Janis Joplin, and some emo stuff we’d better just let be. I thought Simon & Garfunkel spoke to me; their music slipped into the heart of my sixteen-year-old self. It was too cumbersome to copy CDs to have a great variety of music on tape, so I listened to the same few tapes again and again and again. So, sitting in the car in traffic, I memorized a lot of the lyrics. And now, she said ominously, they’re stuck for life.

At 1 am at Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, on the way to Kabul, it was almost out of body to hear the strains of ‘America’ float in, a visitor from another time, another place. Brought me right back to that Mazda.

***

All photos courtesy of Goekhan Suesler/Photosentez – http://gokhansusler.tumblr.com