All On The Line S1E7: Leila Shams

Posted on May 12, 2011


Meet Leila Shams. She’s been designing for ten years, but she’s hit a rough patch, even though she’s had some of her pieces worn by celebrities. She’s full of personality and has great personal style, but she comes off a bit flighty and VERY disorganized.

To be honest, we thought we were in for another “Why is Joe spending time on her?” episode. She seems very nice, but…how to put this?

There’s a taste issue.

But to be fair, there’s a big market out there for party girl clothes, which is what she does: short dresses with maximum head-turn appeal. There’s a fine line separating fun party clothes and just plain tacky clothes, however, and it’s not always easy to tell if you’ve stepped over it as a designer. She seemed a bit confused about what it was she was doing and who it is she’s designing for. “”I think my clothes are a little too specific to a certain occasion that might not even exist.” If that one line doesn’t sum up the dilemma of a creative person who’s too close to her work to look at it objectively (a pitfall for creative people), then we don’t know what is.

To keep her business running, she’s got a cute brother with apparently deep pockets…

… and a mom who sews but isn’t a seamstress. Joe brought a friend in to help Mom with the sewing of the mini-collection, but what’s she going to do when she doesn’t have Joe’s friends stopping by to help out?

We’re detecting a theme with this show. Who knew there were so many “struggling” designers living and working in fabulous quarters paid for by family members? It’s not the image that springs to mind when one is a “struggling” anything. It also doesn’t make much sense if she can’t hire a decent seamstress and has to rely on her mother’s limited sewing skills.

So Dr. Joe took her to Coney Island and originally we laughed, because we thought it was a subtle way of telling her “Honey, your clothes belong on a boardwalk somewhere,” but we should have known better. He was tapping into something he saw in her clothes; a use of color and print that was potentially exciting, and some indications that she had an eye for seaming and structure. By taking her here, he was essentially giving her a smorgasbord of texture, color, and pattern and she responded to it very well.

As one of Joe’s subjects, she was mostly amenable to his suggestions. Flighty and whiney, but not really a drama queen.  There was some complaining about not wanting to do pants and at the time, we thought she was being a bit ridiculous. What kind of designer refuses to make a pair of pants for a collection?

Answer: the kind of designer who makes pants like this. Well, you can’t fault her for not knowing her own weaknesses.

Still, it sometimes shocks us how lightly the designers take these buyer appointments. She was actually going to send that green dress out to a couple buyers with the back pinned. Kittens, we were nonplussed. It’s like an actor getting a big audition with a world-famous director and deciding he doesn’t need to memorize the lines before going in.

But to be fair, she had tamped down her baseline flightiness and came out of the gate all cool and professional for the buyers from Intermix.

Hit it, girls:

Gorgeous, chic, and sleek. We really love her use of photographic prints. We didn’t realize until we took the screencaps that the print here is a very stylized pair of horse’s heads. You can see it more clearly in the sketch and in some of the pieces that follow.

The horses’ heads are a little easier to pick out in the embroidery, but to be perfectly frank, this dress is kind of ugly. She looks like she’s wearing a latch hook rug.

The buyers really liked the tank and skirt – and so do we – but we thought the latter piece has an odd fit to it. More like a very short bath towel than a skirt. Pretty design, though.

Love the dress, but we agreed with the buyers that a bomber jacket over a gown is a very done look.

Really loved this dress. We’re not crazy about the color and the fit isn’t exactly great on the model (this dress stayed pinned, but Joe had them pin it inside-out). But the construction and seaming are great. Doesn’t really fit with the rest of the collection, though.

That top is our favorite piece in the whole collection. A truly unique look that would have people asking the wearer “Where did you get that?” Which makes it EXACTLY the kind of piece that perks a buyer right up.

In the end, the buyers were intrigued and asked her to rework a few pieces based on their critiques. That’s not a sale, but it’s a very good step in the right direction.

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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