You’d be hard-pressed to find a label that so artfully combines period femininity and timeless chic as Los-Angeles-based Wren.
With a name alluding to Dickens’ fragile little doll’s dressmaker, Wren cites influences across history and art, such as The Great Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan, the Sexual Revolution, and the photography of David Hamilton.
With such a wide range of inspiration, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Wren founder and designer Melissa Coker has developed a label that is singular in its juxtaposition of disparate elements. Coker‘s touch is both feminine and clean, with designs that effortlessly balance period romance and modern elegance, a sort of contemporary nostalgia.
In the following interview, Coker took some time with The Volts to discuss her vision, her influences and her love of the unexpected. Read on as The Volts takes you through the looking glass into the surprising and poetic world of Wren.
The Volts (V): Wren certainly has an “heirloom” feel, with the romance of different eras cited as influences in previous interviews. Can you tell us a little bit about how you work that “subtle, old-world romanticism” into a modern line?
Melissa Coker (MC): It’s something that comes through naturally and effortlessly. I’m inspired by eras gone by yet reflected through a modern eye – a hint of times past.
V: What is it about antique sequins, silks, tarnishing and other classic feminine touches that you love so much?
MC: I love tarnished shine and things of that ilk – I find beauty in the contradiction, the unexpected pairing. I’m naturally drawn to all things feminine and ladylike, ever since I was a small girl. In kindergarten, I got in trouble for strongly insisting that all my female classmates eschew pants in favor of skirts and dresses. Clearly, my love for the feminine runs deep.
V: Aside from dreamy period influences, there is another side to Wren which is quite sharp and modern. What are your favorite contemporary influences?
MC: I find the people around me immensely inspiring – friends, strangers, the occasional actress. I love to see how people put things together and combine things in new and unexpected ways.
V: You’ve said in interview that you began by making clothes for yourself and only later realized you had the makings of a label. What happened in the interim? How does one go from designing for one’s-self to launching an entire line?
MC: The time period from point A (designing the pieces) to B (launching the line) was surprisingly short. The samples were made up within a month. It was a tightly edited capsule of a collection, no more than ten pieces or so. A couple of encouraging sales appointments with stores and I decided to jump in and go for it.
V: Wren is based in L.A., but you’re originally from Lake Forest, Illinois. How has either place informed your designs, if at all? Which do you think has made the bigger impact?
MC: The aesthetic of my youth is very classic, almost preppy. That holds a great influence on me to this day; I love classic elements, whether it be fabrics, colors or silhouettes. I love the juxtaposition of something classic with something modern, or something classic with extreme feminine touches and the like. It ties back to an overarching theme – the unusual or unexpected pairing, combining disparate elements to produce something new and modern.
V: You seem to have a general mistrust of fads and trends, and you’ve offered the following advice before: “better great tomorrow than good today.” Do you feel you design for posterity? If so, what’s the trick to achieving a timeless chic without being old-fashioned?
MC: I feel like people should dress for themselves, not because a magazine told them to wear something. In my mind, there’s nothing worse sartorially than the overly trendy. I respond to personal style more than to trends. The key to achieving timeless chic is choosing elements that suit you, with an eye to the world around you. A Dolly Parton quote I came across recently says it all, if you ask me: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
V: If you had choose one era to live in purely based on the fashion, what would it be?
MC : The 60s.
V: If there were one fashion trend you could ensure would never exist in the future, what would it be?
MC: Anything that looks overly costume-y or fashion victim-y.
V: And while we’re on the subject of the future, what can we expect from Wren in the coming years? Do you have any new projects lined up?
MC: We’re working on expanding our retail presence. [We] have some exciting collaborations in the works and plan on exploring accessories and intimates in the near future.
V: Finally, The Volts is based in Montreal. Do you have any particular advice for our Canadian readers about staying classy and feminine even in cold weather?
MC: Key piece: a great coat. It’s what the majority of people will see you in and a chic coat will instantly update your look.
Don’t miss the Wren sale that starts tomorrow at 11:55 AM EST!