Designer Sharon Wauchob, in New York for a brief two-day stay, is thinking about home right now. No, not Paris, where she has been living for more than a decade, working out of an old, 2,700-square-foot garage-turned-studio in the Marais. And not her native stomping ground of Newtownstewart in Northern Ireland, where her parents still live. She’s talking about home as in the home market—specifically, tabletop items of the crystal sort. After nine years in the fashion business, Wauchob is finally negotiating to do a lifestyle collection. Also in the pipeline: her own fragrance.
Brand extension may be par for the course in fashion today, but it’s still a surprising move for Wauchob, who remains an under-the-radar designer, albeit one with a considerable cult following. But now may be the time to expand, since the designer’s ready-to-wear has gained momentum of late. Sales at her company, S. Wauchob, have grown 50 percent each season for the past three—an impressive feat given that she has financed the firm herself and doesn’t advertise. “When I was thinking about doing it on my own,” Wauchob recalls, “someone said to me, ‘If it feels like you have something to say, say it.’ And I think that’s quite good advice, because you’re going to have to keep saying it over and over again for a long time. You have to believe it.”
Though the designer no longer indulges in the overt experimentation she once did—her early pieces included backward garments and skirts with moldable wires inserted into hems—one thing has always remained consistent: her love of contrasts, apparent in the feminine-yet-edgy vibe that underlies much of her work. “I do dresses from the perspective of someone who isn’t a dress girl,” she explains. And there’s sure to be a twist, an extra something, to her clothes. “When something’s slightly out of context, that’s when it feels right,” she says. “It’s kind of a formula that isn’t a formula.” Thus a simple cotton tank top becomes anything but—languid, with flowing drapes and gathers and delicately curled edges. Often the warped elements come courtesy of asymmetry, a frequent theme in Wauchob’s line.
Black is another. Wauchob’s last three collections were all-ebony affairs, tempered by the occasional flash of white. And on this particular summer Saturday afternoon, the designer is seated at the Bowery Hotel’s new restaurant, Gemma, dressed entirely in that dark tone—sandals, pants and a gauzy top—save for a printed white scarf wrapped artily around her neck. The sole concession to color today: a barely noticeable violet elastic band tying her hair back in a loose ponytail.