The English designer Louisa Parris has proper Brit credentials—the clipped accent, the Central Saint Martins degree—but her designs are as inspired by San Francisco, the city she called home for several years before returning to London, as by her native turf.
Parris studied womenswear at Saint Martins, but when a job at Apple beckoned her then-boyfriend/now-husband, she made for the Golden State. In San Francisco, Parris worked on an eveningwear collection, which would eventually win the Styles International Award at Gen Art in New York. But when producing her evening pieces became more than she could manage on anything but a private, by-commission basis, she turned her attention to something smaller: scarves.
“My first love has always been doing the gowns and the eveningwear,” Parris explained by phone from London. (She still creates them for private clients.) “But what’s been so fantastic about doing the scarves is that I have complete control. They support the gowns. To me, they’re like small paintings.”
Last season, Parris’ debut scarf collection was a hit at Colette. Her follow-up collection for Fall picks up the same graphic motifs and rich, pastel tones as the first, inspired by her life in San Francisco. “I would wander the streets, and I loved the houses and the architecture, how the colors were so vivid, and the intricate details,” she says. As influential as the surroundings was the fabled California sunshine. “Today it’s been gray and raining and I’m just like, why did we move back?” she sighs about London’s famous murky damp. “I’m so passionate about color, it really gets to me. It’s been such an influence, that California light.”
The distance between eveningwear to scarves may seem great, but Parris says the leap was logical. She works in silk for both—for the scarves, silk twill and silk georgette—and emphasizes drape with both. (Her larger scarves, at 50″ x 50″, are big enough to be worn as tops.) And then, she adds, scarves are a family tradition. “I think my grandmothers always had scarves around their shoulders,” she says, “with a brooch, very together. It would match their handbag and their shoes and their lipstick. My mother always had fabulous big scarves around her shoulders, and me and my sister always wore scarves because she had. It just fit as the accessory I wanted to put my fingerprint on.”
In the Fall, the scarves will return to Colette, as well as shops in Brussels and San Francisco. They’ll also be available at Parris’ online shop, www.louisaparris.com.