It's a Family Affair: An Interview with Family Affairs

Family Affairs designer and daughter Nina Elgi, at work in her studio.

Ever wanted to know the story behind some of the stunning dresses you see on our site? I was struck by the recently launched Crystalline Sky Dress, with its pretty flutter cap sleeves and vintage glass buttons, and wanted to learn more about its designer, mother-daughter design duo Family Affairs.

I caught up with the daughter, Nina Egli, to ask her about the inspiration behind the Crystalline Sky Dress, and how Family Affairs got started.

How did you get into fashion? Is it something you have always been interested in?
My mum had a successful career in fashion, so it was always part of our family life. Expression through fashion was encouraged. When I had my punk phase and dyed my hair all sorts of colors, my mum thought it was an interesting fashion statement! I didn’t plan to get into fashion as a career, though. I was studying acting in New York, and, [to] make some money on the side, started making charm bracelets with a friend. I did jewelry and acting at the same time for a while, then decided to devote more time and energy into fashion. That is when the idea for Family Affairs became more clear; it was always lingering at the back of my head to do something with my mum. Suddenly, we had a brand, a seasonal collection, and I haven’t looked back since!

You live in Brooklyn and your mom lives in Zurich. How do you keep in touch and collaborate on collections?
E-mail and Skype! My mum and I share movies we’ve watched; we connect a lot through movies and wardrobes in movies. My inspiration sensors are always on, and if I see something, I mentally put it in my inspiration folder. I usually collect images on my computer that I file into different subject folders, which I send to my mum, and she sends me drawings. So, when I visit Switzerland every couple of months, we have already covered a lot of the shapes and themes.

We love your Crystalline Sky Dress (above) in our shop. Can you tell us more about it?
It’s a very flirty, fun dress referencing the ’50s. It’s inspired by the John Waters movie Cry-Baby… I like the ’50s with a little rebel edge. The buttons are really special. I found them in the basement of one of my suppliers, and they are vintage glass buttons made in prewar New York!

What was the behind your Spring 2011 collection?
My inspiration was a trip to the south of France, [from] quite a long time ago. My sister, best friend, and I took the night train to Marseilles. We had the perfect summer trip, laying out on the rocky beach, making Super 8 films, sitting in a café just watching the day unfold, then taking train trips to surrounding towns, ending up at a garden party in Cassis, laughing and talking about boys and listening to mix tapes. The lavender fields of the south of France, honey soaps, golden sunlight, a careless, perfect summer… I thought back on that trip and wanted to create the perfect summer collection that you could bring in a suitcase: pieces to wear at the beach, on your bike, at a party!

Can you tell us about a typical day in your New York studio?
The wonderful and sometimes also challenging thing about having your own brand is that every day looks different, and your schedule can change any minute. There is a lot of e-mail correspondence with stores, production and press, new collections to think about, buttons to find, fabrics to look at, pieces to drop off with stylists, preparation for trade shows or pop-up shops or launches, [or] collaborations and shipping! There really is never a dull minute!

About Erin

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  1. meghan @ out of order 03/30/2011 at 2:51 am #

    so interesting, thanks!

  2. Rosaspina Vintage 03/30/2011 at 9:44 am #

    I can’t express how much I love Family Affairs (and how much I adore the Crystalline Sky Dress, it’s actually in my ModCloth wishlist) so this interview was a pleasure to read. It’s always interesting to know more about a designer you admire.

  3. Solange 03/30/2011 at 11:11 am #

    I love Family Affairs! Will you be carrying any other styles of their fab new collection?

  4. Lauren 03/30/2011 at 2:09 pm #

    Beautiful interview… and I am so in love with that dress!
    Nice sketches too ♥

  5. Liz 03/31/2011 at 11:58 pm #

    I loved this interview, please continue to share more of the people who actually make the clothes! I so desperately wish this dress was in my budget, I hope someone else is able to enjoy it!

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