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UO Inside: Rachel Antonoff

How did the collaboration with Bass come about?
I've always been a big fan and two seasons ago, I really wanted to use their saddles in my show, so I got in touch. Before I knew it, a meeting was set up. And I've been to those meetings where it's just a bunch of fluff, but this one was so legit. There are certainly bigger name designers they could have worked with, but they work with people they like—which is totally refreshing and a huge compliment.

Did you work around a theme?
Not really! When we first got together I was so nervous that I showed up with a list of ideas, but the designing happens more like: "Wouldn't it be cool if there were a shoe like this" or "I'd love this shoe, but in this color," so it feels natural. Collaborating with Bass never feels like work—I have a magic wand and I can say, "Let's do it in red," and it just appears.

Which design is your favorite?
I've always been partial to a shoe that you could affix a tap to the bottom of, and it'd become something Fred Astaire would have loved. I'm so entranced with the jazzier ones with the plaids and hearts, I forget how much I love the saddle shoes and the leather and felt combos we've done.

You're known for your fun fashion week presentations, like having a highschool dance. How do you come up with the ideas?
I feel like if you aren't going to have a fashion show, and you're working in a stationary setting, why not create a whole world you can invite people into? I like saying, "These are my clothes, and this is the world I imagine them in." Fashion can be very serious at times, but what I love about fashion is that it's dress up. It's playing pretend, and that's what the business should be like. I make things because I want to, not because it's a trend that's happening. I'm not immersed in the fashion world, but I feel good about that.

What worlds do you want to explore next?
I can't say! I will say that people throw the words "vintage-inspired" around too much, and I don't think my clothes fit that term. For me, it's all about nostalgia. Pretty much all of us had it good as kids, and kids are open to this magic that adults aren't. Kids want to be 10 different things when they grow up, but then you do grow up and you have to be serious.

You've used a lot of your friends in your lookbooks— why use them instead of professional models?
I liked the idea of showing the clothes on girls of different shapes and sizes, girls you could look up to who do all types of different things, like Scarlett Johansson, Leslie Arfin, Sarah Wright, Alia Shawkat. Now I do use models—ones that look healthy—because they look really good in clothes! I guess that's something everyone else knew already, but I just came around to it. Plus I feel kind of bad always asking my friends to help out!

What's your go-to outfit when you don't know what to wear in the morning?
I actually wear the same thing everyday. I wear the shorts I do every season with tights and my Steel Train t-shirt. I live to dress down, and I feel like it's a good excuse to say you're a designer, and then look like shit. It's like, ‘I'm so committed to my craft that I'm not even a part of it,' when really, it's just how I like to dress.

You use so many retro references in your work, so what were some of your favorite shows or films back in the day?
Teen Witch! My brother and Alia and I recreated the "Top That" scene. Have you seen our video? We thought it was the most embarrassing scene in a movie ever. It's an exact recreation of what's in the movie, we even rerecorded the song! This girl used her magic for the dumbest stuff! Now I'm heavily into Greek on ABC Family—I know, so bad. After the longest, hardest days, you want something relatively simple to watch and now I'm hooked.

So you're close with your brother?
Yes, I want him to work with me full time, but he's in the band Steel Train. I try to tour with them whenever I can. My small screen debut was in the music video they just released! My family is like my informal staff, they are always here.

What's the worst thing you guys ever did to each other?
If you go into someone's phone and take yourself out of it, you can put your number under someone else's name, so when you text, it comes up as that person. My brother changed his name to this cute boy's and texted me saying he was in town. I was in bed, but I gave myself this pep talk saying, "I'm young, I should totally get up and meet this guy." So I took a shower and everything, and then I found out it was my brother. It was the worst kind of confusion. I cried but then I laughed because, come on, it was brilliant. So for revenge I put up a bunch of ads for all kinds of things on the Internet with his number on it, so he was getting calls from total perverts—and people genuinely in the market for a shiny red bike.

So you come from a competitive family?
Totally. One time, when I interviewed Joanna Newsom, I was waiting for her to call me, and my brother and my dad kept calling from blocked numbers pretending to be her. They'd be like, "Hi! It's Joanna" in these girlie voices and I knew it was them, but I had to be careful just in case! So I'd thank her for calling and they'd say something totally inappropriate then hang up. They did it so many times, but I knew the one time I said "Hey Joanna, go fuck yourself," it really would be her. It's sink or swim in my family.

Finish this sentence: The worst thing I've ever done was _____________.
I once stole underwear from American Apparel. There, I said it, I have no filter. But I deeply regret it!

I got this furniture at a shop on Long Beach Island where they do not understand what furniture should cost. It was all in my apartment and now it's here. Some came from Mexico originally and made it to New Jersey, and when I had the rest delivered the shop owner threw in a black cabinet for $100. Crazy!

This is the Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, which I bought planning to wallpaper a wall with, but never did. Wallpapering a rental with an expensive book is a terrible idea.

This is a painting by Danny Roberts, he did this from my last show—it's one of our original prints.

My childhood best friend and I have been doing all my original prints together. We've done two seasons now—she drew these trombones and we did a Valentine print dress.

These are my horses. I brought them from home. My boyfriend says I like to cover every surface with things, so I guess he's right.

I found these legs outside my old apartment in the West Village, probably 15 years ago. It's totally disgusting— God knows where they've been, or what's been in and on them— but I love them, and they are good luck. Good things have happened, so possibly it's because of some trash I brought in many years ago.

We shot the lookbook at this mini horse farm in New Jersey. It got really cold, so we ended up finishing inside because one girl couldn't feel her feet. That's Harley, the boy horse that impregnated all the girl horses. Our photographer accidently let him out of his pen. We have this video of the farm going into lockdown and Harley galloping in a circle, and every few minutes someone would scream, "He's coming!" as he shot by the camera.

I should really get a number on my door. My brother is supposed to share this space with me and we want to write "The First Wives Club" on the door, like it's the office of Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.

I found these hats while doing prep for a show. They're from Paramount Party Supplies, the high-class party store.

The ballerina paintings have also come everywhere with me. I found them in a vintage store in Phoenix, where my boyfriend is from. He bought them for me for Christmas that year. There was some debate of the annoyance of taking them on the plane. I do a weekly ballet workout class— our teacher actually trained Natalie Portman for Black Swan. So basically, it's a workout class, but she's the only ballerina.

When we got to the horse farm, we stopped for coffee at this cute place called Jane's Farm Stand or something. Next door there was an antique store and I loved these pins, but I didn't get them. So my brother and the photographer surprised me with a hobo turtle and a horse pin, and I loved them so we used them in the show.