How Does Your Garden Grow? Sweet P + Sage

This Saturday in Seattle, former Project Runway designer Sweet P and her husband, artist Sage Vaughn, will be launching their first official collaboration in a stunning display of fashion meeting art.

Hosted by Pulp Lab, the garments created by these two talented artists will be on display and available for limited edition (three of each design) sale. Thanks to a mutual friend, Julie Wolfson, who writes for laist, I miraculously got the opportunity to chat with Sweet P and Sage about this upcoming show, their art, and more!

C+K: Let's start with a little Project Runway question - how has the experience of being on the show influenced your design career?

Sweet P: It’s opened up a lot of doors to opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible, for sure. Name recognition is a huge thing because it makes your item sellable. In a way it’s kind of sad because I think the whole celebrity thing is a bit silly, but it’s just the way things are - especially here on the west coast (in LA). I definitely believe that the show was a huge thing for me and has allowed me to get to where I am today.

Of course, there’s great little perks too! I’ve been able to go to awards shows and get the swag bag. It’s nice to be on the other end, because I used to be asked to donate items to the bags, and now I get to have them!

C+K: Your show Ghosts in the Garden is a collaboration with your husband, painter Sage Vaughn. How did the idea for the collaboration come about?

Sweet P: We did a window installation once, and that was our only collaboration before this. Kate (from Pulp Lab) had emailed me because we have a mutual friend in common. She knew Sage was an artist, and she wanted to do a show with his work, but he’s restricted as to where he can show because he's represented by a management company. I came up with the idea of incorporating the art onto garments, and Sage loved that, so that’s how the whole thing came about.

C+K: How was is working as a husband/wife team?

Sweet P: There were definitely challenges along the way. For example, one of the dresses didn’t turn out right the first time, so we ended up having to start over. And it’s hard saying to someone “I don’t like this” when they’re an artist too. I’m sitting there looking at something thinking “What do I think about this? Do I like this?” But I just had to tell him when it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, and he understood. I think we both gained a better understanding of each other’s creative perspectives from this project.

Sage: It was interesting. To know that part of the process is created with love makes for a tender and slightly volatile work environment, and you literally take your work home with you.

Sweet P: Sage likes to work on his own, and I’m good at working with people and he was also getting ready for a show so he was really really busy. I would have to book time with him, and kind of keep things moving along. I think I was kind of a pain in the neck sometimes. But, we have a good relationship and we communicate really well, so even though it wasn’t always easy, we definitely worked well together.

C+K: Tell us a bit about the process of applying the art to the garments ~ did you have to experiment a bit to get it right?

Sweet P: We ended up using acrylic paint watered down for one of the pieces because the dyes didn’t work. For everything else, we used fabric dyes and fabric paint. It was a challenge for me to think of how to create a garment to incorporate his artwork without taking away from the aesthetic of his paintings too. The corsage dress is my favorite because of this. It’s very textured fabric and I wasn’t sure how we’d be able to paint on it. We decided to dip dye the flowers, which Sage did himself, and then drip the paint down to create a look that really follows his style.

C+K: Ok, let's switch directions a bit. Sweet P, you recently covered the Spring 2009 RTW shows for MTV What designers were you most inspired or impressed by?

Aurelio Costarella – he was amazing and I’d never heard of him! And even though the show was the in tent, he wasn’t listed. A lot better than some of the big designers I saw.

Christian Soriano’s collection was just beautiful. Gorgeous. He really branched out. I was expecting him to be very heavy handed, and stick with a very neutral palette, but he brought in some color and really it was just amazing.

Balenciaga, which was very beautiful, especially up close. It’s not my aesthetic, but I can really appreciate the art and the design involved.

Marc Jacobs collection put him back on the map. I think everyone was surprised and happy to see him really come out with something that great. A lot of people were talking about it, and it was really original. He definitely stepped it up.

C+K: Many designers and artists seemed to be influenced by their surroundings. Does being an LA gal have an effect on your creations?

I don’t think it makes a difference because the girl I’m designing for is more a hip, downtown kinda girl. Like a Chloe Sevegny. I do get inspired a lot by nature, different things like that, but I’m not so much on the casual end like a lot of designs that come out of LA.

C+K: Is there any current celebrity that you would really love to design for right now?

IF I were good at menswear, I would love to design for Senator Obama or Jon Stewart. I met Jon and I went up to him and introduced myself, and I said ,“Thank you for having me on your show, even though it was just a video clip." And I told him I loved his show, and he said he loved mine, and he was just really sweet and nice. I’m impressed by his wit. It’s refreshing.

C+K: What else have you been working on these days?

Well, besides covering fashion week for MTV news, there are two possible TV shows in the works, so I feel really lucky about that. I’m also in conversations with QVC, but I’m super excited about the TV thing.

I’ve had my own business twice, and I’m tired of being on the production end. I just don’t love it, and I don’t get to design as much as I’d like to. I’ve also designed for larger companies, and there’s just not a lot of much freedom with that. What I’m doing now, It’s more hands on and I can create and design, and it’s allowed me to feel like I’m really getting back to my roots. I look to Sage as my mentor in that area because he gets up in the morning to surf all the time and then to his studio to paint, and I want to be able to do that to – to find that balance.

C+K: Ok, let's talk a bit about your art, Sage. I absolutely love both series of paintings on your website. Could you tell us more about the concept or message behind both the Wildlife and the Wildlives collections?

Most of my work examines the coastline between the learned or enforced aspects of society and the wilderness that surrounds it, both internally - as in children as they grow up - and in the actual cities we inhabit.

C+K: What inspired you to paint children in these 'superhero' settings and costumes?

Superheroes appear when the edge of society starts to come undone. This same edge exists in reverse within children as they are taught the ways of their parents' world. The effect of costumes, whether superheroes or ghosts, on a child is incredible. Everyone understands that the child is suddenly allowed an uniquely inspired freedom of expression when that costume is donned.

C+K: The contrast of nature with the somewhat haunting colorless backgrounds makes quite an impact. Did some of this carry over to the Ghosts in the Garden concept?

Exactly. The simplicity of the colors within the garment showcase Sweet P's strengths and elegance as a designer. Her truths come from exquisitely adept handling and shaping of the cloth. She can create so much from so little. It also acts as a blank canvas for me to then work on. It was important for me to approach this as a textile designer and not a painter. I did not want it to look like a painting on a garment, we wanted it to have the best aspects of both arts without fighting each other. This was also our motto for working together. I hope it was successful.

C+K: From the looks of it, I'd say it's an amazing success. I look forward to meeting both of you on Saturday!

* All images from Ghosts in the Garden by Tommy Clark, model Emma from Heffner Management. Runway images via style.com. All other images via Sweet P's blog and Sage Vaughn's website.