Skaist & Taylor enjoying 2nd duet on fashion stage

SAMANTHA CRITCHELL AP Fashion Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor have come back to fashion with a second act, but they're sticking to their favorite tune: a rock 'n 'roll look with notes of girlie glamour.

The duo -- honest-to-goodness BFFs -- say they are committed to creating clothes for their closets, and if that means rompers, eyelet skirts and boucle jackets in a season when many other designers are toning it down, so be it.

"We are primarily wearing our own clothes. I see the label with our names on it, and it's still a thrill. We are SOOO not jaded," says Skaist-Levy of their new line, Skaist Taylor.

These founders of Juicy Couture made a fortune (reportedly $53 million) when they sold their hallmark business of casual California cool clothes to Liz Claiborne in 2003. They exited the brand in 2010, agreed to a non-compete clause for 17 months -- the period Nash-Taylor calls "fashion prison, or hell" -- and found themselves with a lot of time on their hands to browse flea markets and listen to music.

Nash-Taylor, who is married to Duran Duran's John Taylor, even tried to learn to cook. "That didn't work out so well," she says sheepishly. "I can make a roast chicken, but that's about it."

"You dream about having time off, but when it comes, you don't know what to do with yourself," Nash-Taylor says.

She started sketching at the stroke of midnight when the clause expired, but they weren't going to go back to tracksuits and T-shirts they designed for Juicy Couture.

Their look had changed -- really, their lives had changed -- since the late 1990s and early 2000s Juicy heyday, when they'd hang out at Mr. Chow's restaurant in Los Angeles in those pieces paired with Chanel jackets or Louis Vuitton heels. There is a lot more time at the office, explains Skaist-Levy, 49, and from there it could be a school or sporting event, and then anything from a cocktail party to a baby shower.

She says she has worn the opening look from last month's New York fashion show previewing their spring collection many times. The white knit jacket with black piping -- which she wore home on the plane to Los Angeles after packing up their runway -- is the sort of stylish, versatile piece they want to be known for. The same goes for the longer-hem lace dresses and a black fringe dress with strong shoulders.

She might wear that one with gladiator sandals and switch to booties at night, she says. "I want clothes that can take you anywhere, and do it chicly."

Nash-Taylor, 53, pulled the orange romper off the rack when models with frizzed-out hair were finished doing their strut to "Witchy Woman" on a Manhattan rooftop. She's drawn to a look with "a little pop." Ooh, but she also likes the black minidress.

"We've always been attracted to military, Victoriana and anything girlie. Those are running through everything we do," she says.

That gets approval and agreement from Skaist-Levy.

But, really, could these two women always agree? They finish each other's sentences, and often wear matching animal-print outfits.

One of them has to have a little wardrobe envy, right?

Nash-Taylor sets the record straight: "Pam's closet is better: It's the place I like to shop the most."

These women talk about clothes -- a lot. It's an "addiction," they agree. But the experience of creating a juggernaut like Juicy, joining corporate America and then going out on their own again has taught them that their passion is very much a business, too.

Their strategy is not to chase trends but to carve out an identity with their new brand, which targets all the other rock 'n' roll fashion groupies out there. They want shoppers to be able to identify Skaist Taylor and its favorite leather, lace and cool-girl looks with nothing more than a passing glance.

"There's a crazy bevy of minimalists who are very good at their job," says Nash-Taylor, "and we're happy to be at the other end of the arch."

Their previous success allows them to be more thoughtful. Yes, it's a business, but their hearts belong to fashion.

"We're building a new brand. We're dressing our Skaist Taylor girl," Skaist-Levy says. "... We are trying to educate our customer and that will only come with consistency. We're a little bit edgy, a little feminine. We're trying to find new words for 'sexy' and 'rocker,' but that's really what it is and what we're all about."

And when they say "what we're all about," they mean it.

"Pam and I are Pam and I, and we've grown up," Nash-Taylor says. "We wanted to make something that speaks to us today. It's always biographical for us. We call our look California eccentric because we are California eccentric."

___

Online:

http://www.skaist-taylor.com/home.html