By Alexander Patino
William Calvert and Melanie Fraser Hart are the talented team of high-fashion and artistic, intelligent entrepreneurship that makeup Callula Lillibelle. The Fashion Q&A team first met
Calvert and Fraser Hart back in February when they were both in town to celebrate the debut collection of their Callula Lillibelle line. William Calvert, who started his own line back in 1998,
only to expand it into a Haute Couture house three years later in 2001 has worked with some of the biggest and most luxurious fashion houses on the planet. Honestly - Balenciaga,
Rochas and Diane von Furstenberg are barely anything to scoff at. Melanie Fraser Hart has lent her artistic eye and talents to Vidal Sassoon and legendary producer Arnold Kopelson; so, it
was only natural that when Fraser Hart asked Jeffrey Poe - owner of the famous Blue and Poe Gallery in Los Angeles - for advice on how to turn her dreams of creating a haute, fresh, yet
classically reminiscent fashion line that caters to women of all sizes into a bonafide reality, he immediately introduced her to her future partner in sartorial crime, William Calvert.
Then there’s Joan Horroway of AMC’s hit show Mad Men. What would that buxom, glamorous yet palpably sexy siren of early 60s New York City wear if she were that strong, independent,
fashionable, and undeniably sexy vixen today? Fraser Hart and Calvert are hoping she’ll go the Callula Lillibelle way. Creating elegant, yet fiery “From desk to dinner” dream dresses that
range from sizes 0-14 –when customers are finally going to get the chance to get these in stores later this year, well – they got the ‘mad’ part right.
We sat down with William Calvert in his beautiful Hell’s Kitchen showroom to talk about his early days in fashion, what he thinks about the future of couture as we know it and what he hopes
to bring to the table with his new line, Callula Lillibelle.
FASHION Q&A: William, I know you have your own couture line. With Callula Lillibelle, do you have to
restrain yourself? Do you find yourself having to pull back somehow since this is a considerably more
affordable and accessible line?
WILLIAM CALVERT: Melanie’s role is to be the expert on being a woman - to be the sounding board and
benchmark for the line. Mine is to create clothes that are cool, hip and flattering and wearable. When I move
away from couture, which – the price point can be a bit pressurized as you can imagine – I think there’s a
freedom that comes with this price point because there is no spending 10 days to get something just so. It
either works or it doesn’t and you move on. Not everything is going to fit within the concept and certainly we
quoted Mad Men 2010, but I don’t know that a draped jersey Grecian dress will really fit with the collection well,
so you have to work with what fits organically.
FQA: You have quite the pedigree. You’ve worked at J. Mendel, Balenciaga and Balmain. Holistically it’s an
insane education, but can you pinpoint that one moment that really struck you with that feeling that you’re a
part of something really important?
CALVERT: There are probably a couple of instances, but I do remember one in particular. I was sitting in the
studio at Balmain and we were working on the couture collection and the inspiration was Gaudi. They took four
different kinds of Swiss cotton pique – the finest cotton you can buy. It feels like silk. They took four different
textures of pique, because it’s a tone on tone weed, and they cut it up into little bits like shattered tile and then
pinned it back onto the dummy, interlocking like a jigsaw puzzle. No identical patterns touching each other and
slowly sewed it back together into this fitted suit and then rebeaded each seam with four rows of seed beads
or seed pearls. You watch that and you’re not really interested in making underwear.
FQA: What do you think about the future of couture, considering what has
happened recently, especially concerning the fall of the Christian Lacroix house?
CALVERT: It seems like there will always be people that can afford that. But, there are
millionaires and billionaires around that want that kind of life and can afford that kind
of life. So, on that side, I think there will always be a customer for it. But can people
afford to keep producing it? I think, at the same time, that there is room for anything
that is great. Christian Lacroix was great, but he never consistently had his Pierre
Berge that can figure out how to make it work. He was busy being an artist – he
needs someone that can make the numbers works. Those clothes aren’t 123 to
FQA: Where can your customer go to get your Callula Lillibelle line?
CALVERT: Callula Lillibelle well…we’re still working on that. So all I can give you right
now is states. California, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas,
did I say Virginia …?
FQA: So, they’re not going to have to look too hard?
CALVERT: No not at all. Everyone thinks, “Oh great, it’s your first season. Where can I
get it?” They don’t understand it’s our first season – it’s not shipped yet. We’re in the
throes of manufacturing the first season and that goes on in July. But hopefully there
will be a handful of amazing stores.
Pictured designers Melanie Fraser Hart and William Calvert of Callula Lillibelle
Photo Credit: Michael William-Paul
FQA: It’s your first season, but have you already begun thinking about your future
CALVERT: I’m already half way done with it. Haven’t started cutting, but I’m halfway in there
FQA: Mad Men 2010 is a very specific style and aesthetic. Are you keeping in line with that
for future collections?
CALVERT: Well I think as the line evolves that the starting point will certainly evolve. We’re not
doing modern takes on vintage. We’re trying to capture that feeling that vintage clothes can
give when you look at them. Or even better, if you see one of those films and you have a fond
memory of it but you didn’t see it yesterday. It’s the memory of that feeling, not “Oh look, I’ve
seen that skirt in 1962.” What’s the point? We’ve permitted this messy world into existence
and I think people want a little polish in their lives.
FQA: Making the decision to have a line that caters to women from size 0 to size 14 –
where did it come from?
CALVERT: Everyone loves to see some supermodel with some couture outfit walking down
the street. It looks amazing because it’s an ideal. It’s a gasp moment. But there are people
that are not six feet tall and aren’t international supermodels. Beauty is more about how you
carry yourself more than how you look like. There are plenty of people with uneven eyeballs,
crooked nose and a misshaped mouth that are gorgeous. You can be beautiful at any size. It’
s all about attitude I would say.
Couturier William Calvert Tries His Hand at Haute Accessibility with the
Mad Men Inspired Collection for His New Line – Callula Lillibelle