Past meets present in a fresh and modern way with clothes and accessories by Portland-based designer, Lindsey Reif.
Portland-based designer, Lindsey Reif, is a small town girl at heart. Born and raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Lindsey was shaped by rural roots that have bestowed her with an appreciation for design that takes time. She understands that for something to be done well, it will not necessarily be done quickly, and she applies this philosophy to her own eponymous line of clothing and accessories.
Reif takes design ideas that were very fashion forward when they were first introduced, but have now become iconic of a time in the past. In this way, Reif is able to successfully achieve an aesthetic that is simultaneously modern and classic–two seemingly contradictory ideas that meld flawlessly when approached this way. When asked to describe her line, Lindsey chose words like “approachable, edgy, classic.” These terms may not intuitively complement one another, but it’s an apt description of Reif’s transcendence of time and technique.
Where are you from and what do you want people to know about Lindsey Reif the designer?
I’m originally from Deadwood, South Dakota, which is a super small town of about 1200 people that was recently made famous by the HBO show Deadwood. Yes, it’s a real place! Deadwood is about 45 minutes from Mount Rushmore and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. The Black Hills will always be a big part of who I am, but the city was calling my name! In 2002 I moved to Portland, Oregon, where I’ve been living ever since.
When did you realize this was your passion?
I’ve always loved making things, but never really thought about being a designer until I was about 20. When I first moved to Portland, I started attending college and completed a major in Spanish and Applied Linguistics. Sewing started for me as a hobby and the more I learned and experimented the more I realized that it was what I wanted to do with my life. Since I didn’t go to fashion school it’s definitely been a learning curve every step of the way, but I think that just makes me more determined.
Where do you pull your inspiration? What other designers/artists do you look to? Who or what are your biggest influences?
I pull inspiration from everywhere. Bauhaus art posters, mid century furniture, and the little details found in vintage clothing constantly inspire me. I also pay attention to street style and they way people actually wear clothing–I’m intrigued by form vs. function and how they can be one in the same. Dion Lee is a huge inspiration for me, as well as Alexander Wang and Ann Demeulemeester. Francois Hardy, Edie Sedgewick, Alexa Chung, Chloe Sevigny and Rihanna are among my style icons.
What is exciting you right now in the world of fashion and design?
I’ve noticed that clothing is becoming more minimalist while accessories are taking center stage. Accessories and shoes are such a fun way to change an outfit and add a splash of color so I think it’s a really smart way to go!
What is the most thrilling aspect of the creation process?
The biggest thrill for me definitely comes from seeing a collection go down the runway or getting back photos from a lookbook shoot! It makes all the hours of hard work worth it to see the final product all together. I also really love seeing people wearing my designs on the street!
Portland is producing some amazing designers right now. What’s in the water?
Ha! I think it’s the supportive community we have here, really! Because Portland is not a fashion mecca (yet!) and doesn’t have a lot of the resources of places like New York, designers have to ban together and pool resources and knowledge! I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support of local boutiques, press, and of course the shoppers. Portlanders are also very prideful, and they like to support local artists, which is awesome!
Dream collaboration? If you could collaborate with anyone past/present who would that be?
Presently, Chloe Sevigny. Past, textile artist Gunta Stölzl.
Where do you hope to see Reif five years from now?
I hope to see both my clothing and accessories being carried in stores nationwide. I would love to be collaborating with other designers and possibly designing new things like shoes or housewares.
You left South Dakota 11 years ago and relocated to Portland? What spurred the move? What drew you to Portland?
Yes, I moved to Portland in 2002. Like so many 18 year olds, I wanted to exert my independence and find out who I was, and Portland seemed like a great place for that. I was always attracted to cities, and Portland is a good size – not too large that it lacks a personal feel but big enough to have the perks of a big city like things to do and great food. I was also attracted to the natural beauty of the Portland area, it reminds me a lot of home. I love having nature so close to the city limits!
Did the move alter your aesthetic?
In a way, yes. I was 18 when I moved, and hadn’t started designing at the point, so I would say that at that age, I had no real aesthetic then. It solidified here in Portland, but the foundations obviously started back home.
How do your small town roots influence your creative process?
I think coming from a small town has given me an appreciation for the design process as a whole. It’s easy to get caught up in “fast fashion” but I think there is something more genuine about craftsmanship and designs that have longevity.
When you design, what kind of woman do you have in mind?
The REIF woman is independent and creative, and has a strong sense of her own personal style. She seeks out clothing that is unique yet ubiquitous and is not afraid to take risks or try new things when it comes to fashion.
Is Reif an extension of your own closet?
Absolutely. At the end of the day, if I wouldn’t wear it, I won’t design it! When designing a new collection each season I think about what I want to wear at that time.
How do you want a woman to feel when she puts on your pieces?
I want her to feel confident, comfortable, and sexy. Yes, you can have all of those things at the same time.
Takes us through a day in the life of Lindsey Reif.
My morning consist of drinking coffee, hanging out with my cat, answering emails and blogging inspirational images. I’ll often make a run to a fabric store or do a little thrifting, then I head home and start sewing! I’m a night owl, so I can often be found sewing late at night, unless I’m out with friends!
Do you have a daily uniform? What’s your go to piece, or pieces?
I mostly wear skirts and dresses, so black opaque tights are a wardrobe must for me–I wear them almost every day during the fall and winter. I also own more babydoll dresses than is probably necessary, and I have an extensive collection of grandpa sweaters and chunky infinity scarves.
What has been your proudest Reif moment to date?
Seeing some of my turbans on an episode of Portlandia!
Turbans are one of those timeless pieces, but many women don’t think they are capable of pulling them off. What advice could you offer?
I would tell them to try one on! Nearly every woman I’ve encountered that has apprehension about wearing a turban has totally changed their mind once they put them on and realize how comfortable and versatile they are. They are great for bad hair days or the beach, keeping your ears warm in winter, and look great with long flowing locks, pixie cuts, top knot buns and everything in between! You might think you aren’t a “headband” person but you probably are, just give it a try!