Amber Perley has had a calling in fashion since she was five years old, when she began designing her own clothes by stapling together pieces of fabric. When it came time to launch her own line – several years down the road and a fashion degree from LSU later – Amber built her collection around a vision of the southern lifestyle in which she was born and bred.
Pearl Southern Couture reflects the rich cultural heritage and down-home charm of the deep south. Each of Pearl’s collections is based on a city south of the Mason-Dixon line – the current Spring 2012 collection is inspired by Charleston, S.C., and next Fall’s collection promises a New Orleans edge. In every collection, we see classic pieces that reflect that beloved style – a little bit preppy, a little bit hippy, and always southern.
The line, founded in 2008, is produced in Dallas and sold in around fifty stores throughout the southeast, including Beehive, Hemline, and Owleyes in Austin. The young designer, a Dallas native, now calls Austin home.
Q & A with Amber Perley
Can you tell me about your Spring 2012 collection?
The line is inspired by Charleston, SC. All the pictures, which you can see on the website, were shot there. It’s a great spring line, with lots of dresses and cute tops, and I use ruffle and chiffon and soft knits. In every collection, I always try to do your basic dress that you can wear during the day or to a wedding or the derby. I want it to be something that’s versatile and has plenty of detail. Lots of the dresses in this collection have cool backs, with criss-crosses and ties. Also, I try to make everything a good cut for all body types. I try to go across the board for all ages as well, so that there’s something for everyone.
Can you give us a sneak peak of what you’re working on now?
I’m designing for the Fall right now. It’s going to be lots of velvet, sequins, and lace. I’m looking to base it off New Orleans, but it’s going to have a Caribbean vibe as well, which people consider to be part of the south. The collection’s going to have a darker, edgier look. I use some pirate imagery, and draw from Storyville, which was the red light district of New Orleans before it was shut down. I’m using rich fabrics and dark colors. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Who is the ideal woman you design for?
One of my muses is Sienna Miller – I just love her! I also love India Hicks. Honestly, I try to think of your every-day, working girl – whether she’s in college or a mother – who loves fashion and wants to go out and have fun. I also really try to keep my designs practical – it bothers me that so much of the stuff on the runways can’t be worn in public.
Do you see Pearl expanding beyond women’s wear?
I already do ties for men, both seersucker and tie-dye ties. I take white linen, tie-dye it, and cut them into ties. Those are really popular with the college guys. Eventually, I want to get into menswear, but I’m still brainstorming with that. Guys want something simple and classic, like a dress shirt, but I really want to think on it before I just throw it out there. I would also love to do children’s, too, down the road.
What made you decide to relocate to Austin?
Austin just felt like more of an inspirational city for me to be in as an artist. Fashion begins on the street, and living here you get so much more creative influences just watching people and going out – it’s such an awesome place. As a young entrepreneur, as well, there are so many starting their own business, and there are always new ideas coming from the tech people here. I’m excited to finally be here!
What’s in Amber’s Closet?
TOMS Wedges “I love TOMS wedges – I’m always wearing them when I go out.”
Savvi Top “I have this one top called the Savvy top – I call it that because it’s a spinoff of the Savannah dress, which has an off-the-shoulder ruffle. It’s one of my first designs and I produce it every season in different colors. I wear that a lot.”
J Brand Jeans “I really love the tie-dye jeans that are out there right now.”
Amber’s Fashion Do’s And Don’t’s
Do: Go out and wear some fun things that make you feel good about yourself. Buy something for yourself every once in a while – it’ll give you a high you need.
Always buy pieces that flatters you and that you feel comfortable in. Take fashion risks, but don’t follow the trend just to follow the trend.
Don’t: Don’t purchase something that’s too trendy and that you wouldn’t normally wear. You’ll look back on pictures of yourself in a year and think you look like an idiot!