“After I had my daughter [in 2003], I wanted something sexy and comfortable, and I wanted to feel pretty,” says Dash, who also has a 17-year-old son and has been married to actor and Seventh Day Surf Company designer Emmanuel Xuereb for a year. (Dash, a gorgeous 42, made for a minor Clueless controversy when she was cast to play a teenager at age 28.) “That [jacket] was the only thing I could put on to achieve that. But it’s quite old, and I can’t wash it very often. I went looking and couldn’t find anything like that. I was so frustrated, I thought, You know what? I’m going to do it myself. And that one piece inspired 26.”
There’s a girlish, coquettish quality to Letters of Marque, fragile cotton and silk numbers trimmed with ruffled Chantilly and Leavers lace, in an evocative turn-of-the-century style. And there are buttons: a number of tiny ones at necklines, on bloomers, tracing the side seam of a chemise. “I still have to fight this with my people,” Dash says of her button usage. “Everyone said, ‘People want to get in and out of [lingerie] easily.’ I said, ‘No, if your man wants it, he has to work for it.’ You need to leave some mystery.” At least most of the time—Dash bared all for the August 2006 issue of Playboy.
The designer is hoping that Letters of Marque will develop into something more than a collection of charming intimates. Her vision? “La Perla meets Martha Stewart.” She wants to do bedding and “towels, home, fabrics. We’re going to do a candle.” Dash has even mapped out the interior decor for possible future boutiques: “Whites, creams and crystal quartz chandeliers,” she says. “Louis XVI chairs all around.” None of which means she’s given up on the celluloid life. Since Clueless, and the subsequent two-year stint starring in the television spin-off, she has worked steadily, albeit in low-profile roles, in such films as Gang of Roses (2003) and I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007). Now she just finished shooting Phantom Punch, in which she portrays Geraldine, the wife of heavyweight-champion boxer Sonny Liston, played by Ving Rhames. Also in the pipeline for 2008: the drama American Primitive and the romantic comedy Close Quarters.
If all of this sounds like an über eager game plan, there is precedent elsewhere in her family for working the celebrity-fashion union. Damon Dash, of music-vodka-fashion renown, is her first cousin. But don’t think the hip-hop mogul and husband of designer Rachel Roy has lent any guidance on how to navigate the fashion world. “I didn’t even tell him about it. He only just now found out,” Dash says. “We’re so close, like brother and sister. He would have wanted to tell me every single thing to do.”