Ellen Quade, head designer and founder of Elliette, doesn’t concern herself with trends. While the 2018 catwalks are full of casual, athletic-inspired looks and designer sneakers, the 27-year-old designer is focussing on timeless pieces to suit any season. Quade, who launched her label in 2017 after a five-year stint with Cynthia Rowley, describes her label as “feminine and vintage-inspired,” with a dash of sex-appeal. Poolside party dresses that balance a classic ’60s vibe with the modern minimalism of silk separates define the Elliette line.
Travel and nightlife inspired the resort line, designed to transition from day to night. These days, the Chicago native spends her time between New York and Los Angeles, although international travel remains a part of her lifestyle and business model. “I love to go to Milan,” she tells Culture Trip. “The architecture, gardens, and secret side streets—everything is beautiful. The people are super stylish and the vintage shopping is amazing.”
In a Q&A with Culture Trip, Quade discusses her design inspiration, offers tips on packing like a fashion designer, and explains the pleasures of dressing up.
Culture Trip: Tell us about your design journey. How did you learn design?
Ellen Quade: I’ve always been a very creative person and loved to make things. My mom taught me how to sew when I was a kid and I would go with her to flea markets and estate sales to find vintage fabric that I could make into dresses. I was always very eccentrically dressed at school. My personal style and my design sense have evolved in tandem—but everything I do and everything I design stems from my love of vintage.
CT: What did you learn from working at New York designer Cynthia Rowley?
EQ: My time at Cynthia Rowley taught me how a traditional brand worked. I knew that I wanted to create something new with Elliette.
CT: Let’s talk about dressing up. What do you find inspirational and valuable about dressing up, especially in a world that seems to favor a casual aesthetic?
EQ: Style is always personal and there are so many people that look amazing and pulled together with a more casual vibe. That’s just not my look. I love to be dressed up. Part of it is the process. I enjoy listening to music while I’m getting ready decide what to wear. I will almost always be in a dress and a heel, even if I’m going to a dive bar. That actually makes me feel cooler. I love the phrase “dress like you’re going somewhere better later”… and own it.
CT: What makes your collections ideal for travel?
EQ: The easy-to-pack, breezy silks and cottons, pieces that have something extra special. You always want to elevate your style a little bit when you’re traveling.
CT: When going on holiday, what are three essential wardrobe essentials you never leave home without?
EQ: An amazing dress that can be worn during the day to wander around and can also dressed up at night, denim to pair with silk blouses, and a pair of kitten-heeled sandals that you can walk in but still make you feel pulled together.
CT: What advice on packing do you have to ensure you arrive at your destination in style?
EQ: Think about your color scheme in relation to your destination. I always have a mood board in my head when I’m packing.
CT: Who are your style icons, and what about them do you admire?
EQ: Pilar Crespi for her effortlessly chic vacation looks in the ’70s, Jacqueline de Ribes for her easy elegance, and Giovanna Battaglia for her fearlessness with fashion.
CT: Looking ahead to fall, what do you predict will be huge on the runways and in stores?
EQ: I really don’t focus on trends and what is hot right now. We are a year-round resort brand whose main point of distribution will always be direct to consumer. My customer wants to spend her money on timeless, well-made, multi-purpose pieces that she can wear now and five years from now. I’m working on introducing smaller, limited-edition collections throughout the year. This will give Elliette girls special pieces that not everyone will have and they will be able to get these new pieces throughout the year versus the typical fashion seasons. I am trying to create ‘Future Vintage.’