When we heard that Kaelen designer Kaelen Farncombe’s spring collection was inspired by chasing tornadoes, we had to find out more. Tornado chasing isn’t exactly your standard designer “inspiration trip” fare. But the twisters served as muse to a collection that turned out muted, clean and serene. Was she channeling the calm before the storm?
Fashionista: What possessed you to go tornado chasing!?
Kaelen: My brother, Travis, is obsessed with tornadoes. He made my other brother Matt, my boyfriend Simon and I go as a Christmas gift to “us.” We’ve all seen Twister about 60 times. It has to be said–I chased a UPS truck down the street somewhere in Wyoming because I’d had enough. Travis is finishing his architecture program soon, and his gift to himself is a 10 day “chase” without the burden of the rest of us.
What were the scariest moments?
I thought the hail was terrifying. It sounded like boulders raining down on the car. I was the only one who followed the protocol of hitting the deck with your jacket over your head. And before it started, you could hear the “hail roar” which is basically the hail clanging against itself in the clouds. It was very ominous.
How did tornado chasing inspire your collection?
When we really started to see some big storms, it was so interesting–the way the sky looks and the clouds turn into something so menacing so quickly. I came away with the most beautiful photographs–the colors were stunning. I was inspired by the weather–the colors, the momentous shift from calm to chaos that happens in a split second. I wanted to translate that into my collection, keeping the pieces clean and modern with an element of something gritty and surprising. I used a much lighter and more tonal color palette, which I find more interesting because it allows for a lot of mixing of textures, fabrics and prints without getting too distracting.
How did close friends and family react to your tornado adventure?
Everyone was remarkably cavalier, I think. No one really thought it was that surprising, nor were they concerned for our safety. To be fair though, we really were safe the whole time. It was scary at times, but I didn’t really worry too much about the outcome.
How do you usually get inspired to design? Was this instance different?
Yes, I would say this instance was different! I don’t normally tornado chase. Usually I just find myself gravitating toward a feeling or mood and exploring it once it starts to take shape. I try to be as aware as I can, so that I can try to marry what I want to do with the way things are going right now in the realm of fashion, art, music etc. Music is really important to me and it plays a big role in my inspirations, not in a very literal way, but it is definitely the constant.
How did you partner with dying expert Audrey Louise Reynolds and why were natural dyes important to you?
I met Audrey through a friend of mine, and I had no idea what the process of hand dying something would be like or what it entailed, so it was a really cool experience. Audrey is very talented; it is so much more than applying a dye to fabric. It’s an art. She dyes each piece by hand using actual fruits and spices–blueberries, raspberries, cumin–to add these amazing color combinations. Each piece is unique and she does everything right from her own apartment in her backyard. I knew I wanted to work with dyed pieces, and I wanted to go the natural route because it looks amazing, but also because while my business is still growing and I’m producing smaller quantities, it’s possible to do something on a smaller, more personal scale and be conscious of the impact.
What do you have planned for your next inspiration trip?
I’m hoping to take a road trip and tour of America’s ghost towns. I’m thinking witchy women, Stevie Nicks, something romantic and a little haunted for next spring. So maybe my next trip will be to a Stevie Nicks concert. Not a bad second.
And a look through Kaelen’s spring tornado-inspired collection here: