“Right now, I am obsessed with the color yellow,” says Rachel Craven. “Crazy, bright, bold yellow — like the color of pollen and Indian turmeric. I just can’t get enough of it.”
The 40-something beauty, textile designer, and Echo Park Craft Fair co-creator lives with her family in the hills of Echo Park, a historic, hidden-gem neighborhood on the east side of Los Angeles. She created her eponymous line of linen tops, pants, and dresses for women of all ages. “I make these dresses because that is what I want to do, and what I want to wear!”
Craven says she is “obsessed with the idea that you could wake up and put something on and stay in it the entire day and switch out the shoes for a meeting, walk around the neighborhood, and go have a drink with friends, all in the same pair of pants. And somehow, if you don’t spill all over yourself, you still can look chic.”
Designing for a diverse group of women is something that Craven attributes to growing older herself.
Craven says she often has her mother, who is 75, in mind when she’s making clothes, and she credits her artist parents and grandparents as inspiration for many of her textile designs.
“I’m attracted to and inspired by fine artists who also make functional art,” she says. She sites Donald Judd, Georgia O’Keefe, and George Nakashima, father of the American Crafts Movement, as prime examples. “My mother is a potter who abandoned fine art to make functional pieces. The importance of functionality was hammered into my brain.”
That’s what is empowering about getting older — a clarity about what I am doing.
Together with a neighbor, Rachel launched the Echo Park Craft Fair six years ago. Born out of her desire for a creative outlet and need to create a sense of community, the fair allows her to be hands on while still remaining available to her young children. “It felt like an opportunity to create our own economy,” Craven says. “The first few years, we sold out of the backyard. Then there was an explosion of the makers’ movement.”
Riding that creative wave helped the event grow into a thriving business that now has two shows per year, hosting 150 vendors and more than 7,000 visitors.
“Of course,” Craven says, “I wanted something to sell at the fair. That’s where the textiles came in; I was motivated and inspired by what others were making. I began painting on textiles, making napkins and tablecloths. Next I made scarves, which led me back to my love of fashion.”
Growing older sits well with the artist. “I feel more thoughtful and aware, and have a lot less competitive feelings than I used to. Now there are so many craft fairs popping up, and I am excited about that. I feel the same way about comfortable, wearable clothing; it is for the benefit of us all.
“Would I have made these design choices 20 years ago? No. And that’s what is empowering about getting older — a clarity about what I am doing. I don’t question myself that much. I just do what I want to do.”
Shop Rachel Craven online at rachelcraven.com.