By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Alex Mouganis
She is a woman of many talents. Charming, talented and a great fashion designer – five years after starting her own business, Stephanie Paterek has already dressed Lady Gaga and has worked with Nicola Formichetti. Her big runway debut was at famed designer and stylist Patricia Field’s yacht party in June 2009, and Paterek hasn’t looked back since.
With a focus on one-of-a-kind pieces, and an accent on bustiers and sexy lingerie, Paterek’s company NYC Sex Trash is influenced by her love for the 1950s and the gritty punk rock underground of the 1970s. In this Exclusive with FAJO Magazine, Paterek tracks her career so far and tells us how it all began…
HANNAH YAKOBI: Your clothing company has a very unusual name – NYC Sex Trash. How did you come up with that name? Was there a specific incident that sparked the idea?
STEPHANIE PATEREK: When I was in Philadelphia a while ago, I was living in a punk rock house. It was a communal space: everyone had their own room and downstairs we had a space for basement shows. One of my musician roommates had a book called Trash. It was a book about anything to do with trash. There was one chapter called Sex Trash and for some reason it always stuck with me. Now that I think of it, I should actually buy that book…
In college, we had to produce an end-of-the-year business plan for a fake business, and Sex Trash was the name I chose. A few years later, I turned it into a real business! I thought it sounds cool – it’s provocative and attention-grabbing. And when you see the line you realize that it’s really not what you expected – it’s more tasteful and elegant.
How would you describe your client?
My clients are amazing. They range from high school girls to doctors and musicians. I feel like you can really be any kind of a woman to wear my line.
You focus mostly on one-of-a-kind pieces. Do you ever produce collections on a seasonal basis?
It’s a little bit of both; I try to put out a brand new collection twice a year. I usually do 60 pieces and often people will buy that exact same piece. But most of the time I have clients who take the piece as an inspiration and say something among the lines of: “I like the colour of this bustier, but can you add red leather instead of black?” They customize it to their own liking and I really enjoy doing that, always making sure the client gets exactly what they envision.
Could you tell us what you are working on right now?
I just moved into a bright new space in Chelsea, Manhattan. It’s my new studio and showroom. I’m now mostly working on the space, decorating it and settling in. Once I get things in order, I’m going to start working on the clothes again. I’m trying to expand my line a bit and want to start a hosiery collection. I have a couple of design ideas that I’m going to work on and I have been talking with a collaborator about this as well. Hopefully, by early summer, I will have something to show.
I’m still continuing to do my one-of-a-kind pieces and working on a small collection for a new store in Japan. I also just finished another small collection for Nicola Formichetti. He is doing a few pop-up shops in China this month, so he asked me to put some pieces there. That was exciting! I’ve never had my clothing in China before, so we will see how it goes.
Where else can we find your work if we wanted to purchase it?
You could come to my new studio and I also sell in a couple of retail shops. I sell at The Casp in the Lower East Side, Kat Von D’s Wonderland Gallery in L.A., Mise en Cage in Paris and Spider Rock store in Japan.
A lot of your work is very intricate with a strong focus on detail. How do you normally put your clothing together?
I try to put some kind of leather into every single piece. I use lambskin and a lot of very high-end fabrics. A lot of my sourcing is done in New York’s Garment District. I also use a lot of vintage lace and always try to add some kind of embellishment.
Do you ever wear your own pieces yourself?
I do, actually. If I’m going to some kind of a fancy event, I’d definitely try to rock a piece!
What do you do when you are not designing?
Right now, my boyfriend of three years who is a musician, is on the road for eight months of the year. So I always try to go out to see him wherever he is.
I do a lot of thrifting and antique shopping. When I travel with my boyfriend and his band, I always try to make it a point to go to the stores where I already sell my clothing, or the stores where I’d like to sell them.
I also have a little Scotty dog, called General Wallace. He is about a year-and-half. He is a fun guy!
You’ve come a long way in five years. How do you feel about your career at this point?
I love the one-of-a-kind aspect of it. It’s time consuming, so I can’t produce as much as I would like to right away. I have a waiting list right now, which I’m not complaining about, but I’m looking more into the manufacturing part of it so that everyone could have a little piece of Sex Trash!
Right now, I’m pretty stoked on just having this be my only job. Every time I’m on the subway, going to my own space to work on my own pieces of art, it’s just unreal. It’s my dream job. When I have musicians or artists, such as Taylor Momsen or Lady Gaga, wear my pieces on stage, I get to see my pieces come to life. You can’t explain it. It’s probably one of the most rewarding, magical feelings a person can have as an artist.