Park Slope–based designer Brookelynn Starnes hasn't had the quite the same uphill struggle as most aspiring young designers. She landed a job consulting at Libertine fresh out of Pratt, after styling for labels like Zac Posen, Thakoon, and Prada while still in school. In 2006, Starnes launched Cloak & Dagger, and Barneys snapped up the entire second season. Last month she opened her first stand-alone boutique in the East Village, showcasing her sleek, feminine spring collection. We chatted with the designer about spring shoes, vintage (and guitar) hunting, and the injustice of harem pants.
When did you start designing clothes?
I was very lucky early on, at Pratt: I worked with Brana Wolf, Steven Meisel, Prada, and Valentino, styling people like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Drew Barrymore. I launched my line in 2006, while I was still working at Libertine.
What kind of person wears your clothes?
The Cloak & Dagger girl is feminine, confident, and sexy. It’s not trend specific. I just try to make really flattering, flirtatious clothes.
Who are your favorite designers?
Right now I’m really loving Marni and Balmain. I adore Marni for its avant-garde fabrics and silhouettes and color stories. It’s totally different from Cloak & Dagger — Marni is kind of hard to wear. You have to know how to style it, working with loose, abstract shapes.
What’s the first designer item you bought?
A really nice Coach watch when I was 16. I still have it; it’s gorgeous. It’s silver with a rectangular face and really chunky links.
Where do you shop in New York?
We’re starting to showcase select vintage items in the store, but I never buy vintage in New York. It’s too overpriced and picked over, I can’t rationalize it. I travel all over, scouting new items. I'm going to Chicago this weekend and to Nashville and Knoxville in a couple of weeks. My fiancé owns Rivington Guitars, so I hunt for clothing and he hunts for guitars.
How would you describe your personal style?
It depends on my mood — in general I’m feminine and tailored. Right now I’m wearing patent-leather jazz flats, black tights, shorts, a striped sweater, and a leather jacket. Yesterday I wore a Cloak & Dagger dress and blazer with Givenchy shoes.
Which trends are you appreciating right now?
Hats and bright lipstick. Barbara Feinman makes these great Panama-style hats, and I’ve been wearing a shade of bright, pinky-purple lipstick called Schiap, by Nars. It’s named after Elsa Schiaparelli, this really prolific designer in the early 1900s whose signature was shocking pink.
Which trends do you hate?
I’m not a fan of the harem pants, but I think it’s because I'm annoyed that I can’t pull them off. I’m very petite, so they just look stupid on me. But I see all these girls on the Sartorialist looking absolutely amazing in these dumpy harem pants.
What’s one item you’re saving up to buy?
I just bought an amazing pair of Givenchy clogs. They're not like Dutch clogs; they’re very French-looking. They have a striped dark wood heel and a patent-leather T-strap.
What should every woman have in her closet?
I love the Cloak & Dagger Penelope Trench. It's a great staple — functional, with the most flattering fit.
What’s something you never leave the house without?
A good book, at all times. Right now I’m reading Marie Antoinette: The Journey. I’m totally fascinated with that period. Fashion was insane, with all of the crazy three-foot hairpieces and corsets! It’s awesome.