style files: jaci carley of inhabit

I suspect it’s no secret by now that I have a longstanding love of all things Inhabit. Some brands get my heart for a season, or even a year…but with Inhabit, it’s for life. Their fabrics defy all logic – cashmere that’s somehow both lightweight and sumptuous, cotton so soft that you’d swear it was silk – and their designs always strike that perfect balance between edgy and classic. Smart details like reverse seams and asymmetrical side vents make even a simple cashmere crewneck into a collector’s piece.

So, when their impossibly hip designer, Jaci Carley, offered to do a little styling challenge with me, featuring my favorite piece from their spring collection (three cheers for Twitter!), you can guess how quickly I said yes. inhabit cashmere

styling stripes, striped sweater styling, inhabit spring 2014, how to style striped sweater, jaci carley 

Becki’s Take: Sweater, Inhabit | Jeans, MiH | Scarf, Leigh & Luca | Bag, Coach | Flats, Chinese Laundry
Jaci’s Take: Sweater, Inhabit | Jeans, Sass & Bide | Brogues, Dieppa Restrepo | Slides, Isabel Marant

There are few things I love more than seeing how a designer would style her own piece, and Jaci doesn’t disappoint. I love the downtown edge she’s added to what could easily be a preppy piece – as you can see, she sent two shoe choices, and they were so good, I had to include them both. As for me, I went for a bit of polish – always fun to see if you can find a way to dress up those easy, slouchy pieces usually relegated to weekends. (Plus, I’ll admit, I’m a little obsessed with that Coach bag…)

Even better, Jaci was sweet enough to indulge the huge stack of nagging questions I had for her about how she makes every piece at Inhabit so luxe, so unique and so incredibly covetable. And of course, a little peek inside her closet…

SMC: What’s your design philosophy at Inhabit?

Jaci: For me Inhabit has always been synonymous with effortless cool – I think these pieces should be every girl’s ‘go-to’. When I was introduced to the brand years ago (as a customer), I felt there was a true sensibility to the designs that made them so easy to wear. I’ve so much respect for what the founders created. I hope that our customer still has that same connection to the collection.

SMC: How do you begin a new collection?

Jaci: I think it’s about cleaning the slate. Not to say we scrap the prior season’s concept entirely because we’ll often build off previous silhouettes. But it usually starts with color. You’ll probably notice that our transitional seasons have softer palettes. I think it’s because our design team is detoxing…

SMC: Designing for Inhabit must be so much about fabrics. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of creating fabrics for a new collection?

Jaci: I think if you ask any knitwear designer, they’ll tell you how rewarding it can be to pick a yarn and see it through to a garment. The sky’s the limit when you pick a yarn, because the application can have such varied results. We’ll review many qualities, then play around with stitch, tension, yarn mixing, texture and color.  We’re not limited to working with piece goods or yardage, so generally our stitch development dictates the end result.

SMC: Do you have a favorite piece you’ve designed? Something you always go back to, either in your own closet or as a reference for new collections?

Jaci: The beauty of having a strong brand identity is that you accumulate a large archive for referencing. That definitely aids in the process. In terms of a personal favorite, it’s hard to say. It may sound cliché, but I’m extremely critical of my work, so I often have a hard time going back to a style if there’s a strong connotation associated with it.

SMC: What’s your take on trends?

Jaci: I think they are very much a common language amongst creatives. There’s so much that affects design – music, politics, the weather – whatever it is, design channels our response. I don’t think it’s accidental that most designers are tapped into similar ideas. Clothing should adapt with lifestyle or environment, and I believe that truly motivates our direction.

SMC: Inhabit has such a unique mix of styles – some pieces are so classic, and others can be really avant garde. Do you think the two styles appeal to the same customer, or are you designing for two different types of women?

Jaci: I think they do apply to the same girl. It really comes down to styling…if you pair a classic cardi with ripped jeans and heels, it totally takes the look from conservative to edgy. I think Inhabit integrates easily into many people’s wardrobes so they can make it their own. We always try to push the limit with new shapes, but at the end of the day if you need an instruction manual to put it on, it takes the fun out of getting dressed.

SMC: Besides Inhabit, what do you wear most often?

Jaci: Mostly anything black. (Although it makes me nuts if the blacks don’t match after washing!) I wear a lot of T by Alexander Wang – his cuts are sexy and androgynous. He’s mastered the art of capsule dressing which makes it perfect for travel. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Tokyo and Hong Kong and really admire their local designers. They have a great talent for playing with proportion. That’s probably what’s inspiring me the most right now.

SMC: Are you a heels girl or a flats girl? Tell us about your current favorite pair.

Jaci: I’d say flats…or boots.  I’m running around most of the day. My Rag & Bone Astor moto boots have gotten me through many New York winters!

SMC: What’s your biggest fashion pet peeve?

Jaci: It’s silly, but it makes me crazy when I see that someone has left the tacking done on the back vent of their jacket.

SMC: What’s your surefire styling secret to amp up “I have nothing to wear” days?

Jaci: My black leather Margiela wedges. And a scarf…I wear one year round.

SMC: What do you wish more women knew about style?

Jaci: That you should wear the clothes, they shouldn’t wear you. You’ll appear far more confident if you look comfortable in what you’re wearing. Also, buy for longevity. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive piece in the store, but an invested wardrobe is like a good 401(k).

SMC: What are you most excited about for spring?

Jaci: Citibike! Right now, shopping really is my cardio!

Huge, huge thanks to Jaci for hanging with us today – if it was possible, I think I’m even more in love than I was before.

Share 'style files: jaci carley of inhabit' on Facebook Share 'style files: jaci carley of inhabit' on Google+ Share 'style files: jaci carley of inhabit' on Pinterest Share 'style files: jaci carley of inhabit' on Twitter Share 'style files: jaci carley of inhabit' on Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *