With so many new labels popping up each season, especially in New York, it can be difficult to distinguish the one-hit wonders from the viable businesses. With C.F. Goldman, the proof is in the list of buyers: The first collection, for spring 2015, was picked up by some of New York's most influential boutiques, including Opening Ceremony, Assembly and In Support Of. But this is not designer Chelsea Goldman's first go-around. In 2013, she started Skotison with a partner, which ended after two seasons. She says that line "didn't really fit where I saw myself going," so she set off on her own.
The Central Saint Martins grad, who learned the ropes at Céline under Phoebe Philo, said that launching her first line in New York helped her learn how to design for a customer. "I think it gave me a chance to see more practical design, rather than designing in design school, where you’re really just designing for the art of it." It was important to her that C.F. Goldman be a contemporary — not a high-end luxury — brand, with most items priced under $1,000, while also having a European feel with "higher design aspects and finishings."
"In the contemporary marketplace, there are a lot of things happening right now that are very streetwear-based and it was kind of my response to that," she said. "I wanted and was craving something a little more mature and quiet." Her clothes have a minimalist sensibility, but every piece has something off-kilter, whether it's a bunch of hole punch-like circular cutouts, a surprisingly long hemline or an exaggerated, large knot at the bust. You can see where her time at Céline may have rubbed off. "Phoebe had this ability to pull the best out of everyone and push it further," she said of her former boss. "Even if it was something everyone thought was great, it kept getting pushed, and things would get a little stranger — and sometimes strange can be beautiful. I think that’s something that gets lost sometimes in New York. There’s a lot of very pretty things, but I like things to be a little strange."
A New York native, Goldman is funding the line herself, with help from her father, who has a jewelry line and has been advising her on the business side of things. She also handed over sales duties to a showroom, instead of handling them herself as she did with Skotison. The decision seems to have paid off. "Greg [Armas] at Assembly has really been supportive of the line, which is really nice. It’s been nice to find people who believe in the line from the start and really want to nurture it."