Top Drawer wants to get into the minds of Asheville’s notable fashion forecasters, trendsetters and style icons. In this series, we ask boutique owners and designers what inspires them and what tips they have to pass along. Here, R. Brooke Priddy, creator of Ship to Shore (426 Haywood Road, West Asheville, 242-1378) introduces us to the ingenuity of shoe mogul Christian Louboutin, the style savvy of a leather-bound journal and how a Speedo convinced her to move to Asheville. Always innovative, Priddy is growing her business by moving 10 items into manufacturing for distribution to the international market. She’s currently looking for investors.
How long have you lived in Asheville, and what brought you here?
R. Brooke Priddy: My folks retired here in 2000. I was living in Manhattan at the time and coming down to Asheville to visit with them on the holidays. On New Years Eve, 2003, I found myself at Vincent’s Ear for a SexPatriates show. They were playing a Stooges cover and the lead singer [Chris “Dirty Martini” Bower] was wearing a Speedo with a floor-length fur coat and chains of gold. I danced with 100 strangers and felt like I was at home for the first time in my life. I moved my business here in 2004.
Do you follow trends or stick to classics, and why?
BP: I like to watch what people are wearing and, sure. I enjoy looking through magazines. The collective subconscious of the fashion world is undeniable and fascinating. In our mediatized culture it is almost impossible to ignore external influences. The best I can do to find my own personal creative voice is to build a habitat within my studio space—surrounding myself with colors and objects that inspire me. It is always the fabric that moves me the most. I work exclusively in stretch fabrics and I spend a great deal of time searching to find the perfect blends. I find it important to let go of the attachment to the concept of “classic” or the power of “trends” in order to create something new.
Who is your favorite designer?
BP: Elisa Jimenez is a primary inspiration to me. I had the pleasure of knowing her and going behind the scenes at her fashion shows in New York City. She is first and foremost an artist and a lover and creator of beauty and joy. Her designs reflect her independent spirit, and she has taught me a great deal about freedom. I believe that Project Runway gave a poor representation of her point of view as a designer.
What luxuries do you count among your necessities?
BP: A deep and lengthy bathtub: If all else fails, Tractor Supply sells horse troughs for under $50. A spiritual devotional practice, every morning, without fail. Better Botanicals Dandelion lotion: It smells like falling in love. A fountain pen and a leather-bound journal that fits in the pocket of your overcoat—I carry them everywhere I go; you never know when the beauty takes hold.
When you shop for art, what styles are you drawn to?
BP: The meticulous and the adventurous.
Which books or films do you turn to for inspiration?
BP: Recent Book: Arboretum—tree drawings by David Byrne. Two films that always float my boat: Black Cat, White Cat by Emir Kusturica and Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders.
Which one item (or outfit or accessory) in your wardrobe is your foolproof piece?
BP: Tall, stacked heel boots with built-in pockets. If you plan to live in Spandex, then you have to find new and inventive places to hide your keys.
What is your favorite Asheville hangout?
BP: Other than my studio? At my new neighbor’s place, The Admiral (400 Haywood Road, West Asheville, 252-2541). Their green beans almondine made me do a little dance.
See images of Priddy’s work in next week’s Top Drawer.