by Kathleen Harris
Living in the country doesn’t mean you sacrifice style. In fact, for Alicia Adams, a family move from Germany to Hudson Valley, New York, in 2006 to start raising and breeding Suri alpacas was the decision that led to the birth of her luxurious fashion line, Alicia Adams Alpaca.
With a background in fashion PR, it’s no surprise being surrounded by the rare aplacas inspired Alicia to start designing handmade baby booties and hats from their wool. “Then my girlfriends came to me and said, ‘What else do you have? How can I have it? I want to wear it, too!’” Alicia says. She tried a few throws, capes, and soon began producing more and more chic, cozy wear. Now, her throws, soft sweaters, accessories, and darling baby rompers are sold at Barneys and her Millbrook, NY store.
Here, the designer talks about her fashion-forward country look, her closet favorites, and how life on the farm influences her design.
How would you describe your personal style?
Since I live in the countryside, I tend to dress casual but still fashion conscious. I’m a very practical person; I have 4 children, ages 13 to 20 months, and am always on the road. High heels or stilettos are not going to work for me; they’ll get stuck on every piece of gravel. But I still dress stylishly—wedge boots, skinny pants, and cozy tops—I love to layer. I like bigger scarfs that you can wrap yourself in. I also add in a bit of Bohemia with my accessories.
What's your daily uniform?
AG jeans with an Alicia Adams Alpaca sweater or cape with boots or sneakers. Layering is key for me—it’s freezing in the morning and then gets warmer throughout the day so I live in the capes and scarves that we make. My favorite from the latest collection is the Alana scarf (see photo below). And I love to accessorize with jewelry. I always have a long necklace on and tons of keepsake bracelets.
How does the way you dress inspire your work?
I like to conceive and design products that are practical and effortless but at the same time chic, which reflects how I prefer to dress. Luxurious, fuzzy, warm. I admire women who dress up in pant suits and dresses for work, but it’s just not me.
Where do you find inspiration when designing your line?
In my everyday life. Living in countryside is inspiring, but I also look at my friends who are very chic, classy, cool girls from the city. When they visit the farm, they all look fabulous in their weekend look. I listen to then, we brainstorm looks over wine, and I try to find out what feels most comfortable for them.
What's the most cherished item in your closet?
I have so many beautiful things in my closet, but I really love the vintage pieces I have inherited from my mother and mother-in-law: vintage Hermes scarves, vintage handbags, and fur jackets. These are precious hand-me-downs with a story behind each piece. I love listening to the stories—it makes me feel nostalgic and like I am part of the time that they wore it.
And what would we never find in your closet?
Finish this sentence, you can never have too many… scarves, capes—easy-to-layer pieces.
What’s the best way to hang or organize capes and scarves?
I like to fold and store alpaca products in breathable cotton clothing bags.
If you could design a no-holds-barred, no-budget dream closet for yourself, what would it look like?
A walk-in room with a lot of natural light, beautiful wallpaper, and every piece hung or folded properly. No double rows for shoes or handbags. and a puff or table in the middle to sit and lay out clothes. Lastly, I love accessories, so an incredibly organized dresser for my jewelry would be ideal. But I have 4 kids so it’s hard to stay organized!
Whose closet would you love to raid?
My friend (and interior designer) Emma Jane Pilkington! She is always so feminine and beautifully dressed as if she’s from another era.
Anyone who's perused one of Windsor Smith's dreamily elegant rooms has probably been struck with the same thought: I want to live here. And while landing a full-scale home makeover by the famed L.A. designer might be something of a decorating pipe dream, Windsor is making it blissfully easy for us to get a piece of the action. First, there's her gorgeous new book, "Homefront: Design for Modern Living", which comes out next month with a foreword by client Gwyneth Paltrow. (You might have heard of her).
Then, there's her next-level-amazing design service, Room in a Box, which offers a brilliantly cost-effective alternative to traditional design services. How does it work? You provide Windsor and her team with dimensions, photos and inspirational images of the room you want to re-do, and they'll deliver you all the goods to make your dream living room/master suite/powder room/foyer a reality: a room illustration with furnishing plan and storyboard, complete furnishing selections (you can purchase items through the service, or go it alone) and all fabric, wall covering and paint selections. Pretty genius, no?
Here, we chat with the lovely design talent about her Room in a Box success, favorite closet spaces, must-have accessories, and more.
First off, what inspired you to launch Room in a Box?
We launched it because there was a growing contingency of savvy design enthusiasts that really wanted to get to interior designers without going a more conventional, expensive route – but they still want the most beautiful things, they still want what a designer would select. They don’t necessarily want to spend the money on the designer; they want to spend the money on the actual room. I just felt like there was nothing in the market place for this ever-growing number of savvy young women who wanted a high level of aesthetic. There were a lot of feeble attempts at it, like bloggers who were doing it who weren’t necessarily decorators. There weren’t any published, professional designers saying ‘ok, I can bring you to the holy land’.
We know Gwyneth is a fan of the service. What’s the response been from the general public?
We’ve shipped to Abu Dhabi, to Argentina. We have a very, very high return rate – we have customers who have had us do seven rooms in their house. Now customers also have the option to purchase the elements for the room directly through us. You’re not right on top of a client; you’re kind of at an arms’ length. But we feel like the result is the same experience as you would get from having a high-level designer working with you. The difference is that the end user can make it their own. Once you ship them the design, they can engineer or tweak it for themselves.
Have you designed any memorable closets?
We do all kinds of things that are unorthodox, where it’s not just a closet. We had one client in Chicago do a space that was her closet and her office, with a beautiful desk floating in the middle like Aerin Lauder’s dressing room. In another instance, I put mirror-door closets all down one wall of a dining room for a client. Her husband loved all of her beautiful evening gowns, so we created almost like a curiosity cabinet of all her beautiful couture dresses. At first glance it might not seem practical, but it’s not only practical, it invites a fun experience: on a fun Friday evening, he opens a bottle of wine and she tries on all her dresses.
How fun! We love your all-white closet. How do you organize it?
I organize my closet weekly. I’m really obsessed about it. It’s all by color, from the lightest shade to the darkest shade. It’s all hung by length and arranged by category. I love fashion, but I don’t have time to be looking for things!
And how would you describe your personal style?
I call it ‘savvy working girl meets Russian Czarina.’
Do you have a daily uniform?
I wear a white Celine shirt with a skinny jean from Zara (or my favorite pair from Balmain, which I of course don’t wear everyday) and a really great strappy heel. My favorite pair right now are Brunello Cucinelli in a pale natural leather with chunky silver beadwork. I also have some vintage Chanel loafers that I still wear all the time –I’ve had new soles put on them like five times.
What are the most cherished items in your closet?
Usually it’s accessories. I would say my handbags –but in particular, I have a Blumarine little pale blue fur handbag. Then I would say my collection of big, big beach hats I would never get rid of. And this vintage Chanel chunky gold chain.
How do the contents of your closet inform or inspire the rooms that you design?
For one, I only wear probably four or five colors: any shade of pale grey or blue, black, white, and navy. Maybe on a Bahamian vacation I might wear pale pink. But most of my rooms are in those colors –I think they’re so ethereal and diaphanous and dreamy. Nothing is really jolting or jars your eye. I’m also really drawn to a good architecture – like a dress that has a really great shape or form. And I’m drawn to furnishings in that same way too –I’m always looking for a great piece that has you at ‘hello’, like a wonderful chair that has a great silhouette or profile.
And if you could design your dream closet?
My fantasy closet would be a Parisian salon. It would just be a big open room that has everything behind doors. When I’m designing houses, I literally take a room that’s the room of a nice size living room, and I like to put the clothes in there behind beautiful doors. I like to close the doors and look at each piece individually, instead of being overwhelmed. I like it to be really civilized so I don’t get distracted.