I first met Kelsey Randall in a hotel room. She found my personal email and invited me there, and because this sounds creepier than it actually was, I went. Walking into the small suite, I found a bubbly 20-something with a rack of poufy clothing and one really amazing jacket. It was awkward, but something about her was so cool to me. She still had a full-time job designing at Lilith, but she created her own made-to-order eponymous line on the side. She was going for it, despite the many obstacles there are for a young designer without a celebrity name or a lot of money.
That hotel meeting was five years ago and a lot has changed since then. Her Kelsey Randall collection has become somewhat of a go-to for female musicians. Lorde wore her iridescent gown on stage during a performance in November, Lizzo wore a chain link mini on the cover of New York Magazine, and Karueche Tran wore one of her sparkly looks for her COOLS shoot. “It just makes sense,” Randall tells COOLS in the middle our visit to her Brooklyn studio. “These musicians get to have fun with a ruffle, or sequins, or feather. We work on it together. I think my favorite thing has been working with the same musicians over and over again and really getting to know them. With someone like Eva [Hendricks of Charly Bliss], I’ve been really involved in helping her design her aesthetic. I love whenever she comes over and is trying things on and she’s like freaking out.”
Despite the growing success of her original label, in May, Randall decided to venture into something a little more commercially viable, on the advice of fashion icon Andre Leon Talley. The new line called Georgia, (where Randall is from) is still the same made-to-order ruffle style we’ve come to know and love from the designer, but at a more affordable price point. The way it works is that you pick a style, size, and material, and Randall and her team will make it for you in their small studio in Brooklyn. It’s a simple concept, but one that results in a beautiful, thoughtful piece you’ll have forever.
“Weirdly, I was afraid people would like Georgia better than Kelsey Randall. Like if that succeeded too much it would be a slight to my first brand, which is like my baby,” she explains. “But they’re both me, just different sides of me, and I really just have to remember that.”
Speaking of things that make her, well, uniquely her, Randall’s tiny Bushwick studio (where she also lives) is like a ready-made display of what goes on in her brain. Ruffles, sequins, and feathers are everywhere, but strategically so. Leather jackets and fringe sit on mannequins, and quirky inspiration photos are tacked to the walls. Something vaguely country, vaguely punk rock plays in the background as she gushes about her love of bygone fashion staples like VideoFashion in the ’90s. It’s eclectic but soft, just like her collections.
Though Randall is not new to fashion by any means, (she graduated from Parsons in 2011 and has been actively working for eight years), she does seem to finally be getting the attention she deserves. With press coming from every angle and fashion editors gushing over every new over-the-top piece she makes, its an exciting moment for her career. One that the girl working tirelessly moonlighting for her own brands and randomly emailing editors from a hotel room absolutely deserves.