April 10, 2015
Abby Kessler and Katie Loftus embody the classic tale of gal pals turned business partners. They first met when they were 15, lingering by the bathroom mirror at North Penn High School, applying eyeliner together. They looked over at each other, laughed at their similar makeup-application skills and bonded.
"When we met, we instantly found we had the same interests and similar aesthetics, so we started making clothes right after we met," Kessler told PhillyVoice.com. "We went to fabric stores, cut things up, sewed things, went to college together at Drexel and finally realized we wanted to do everything we could to open a store and design together."
In 2005, they opened Smak Parlour, a "dollhouse-like" boutique at 219 Market St. that sells women's apparel and accessories of the pin-up variety. This weekend, their most recently designed six-piece collection (which they're currently fundraising for) will be displayed alongside 18 other Smak Parlour looks at the Harajuku Fashion Show, part of the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival's Sakura Sunday.
Here, the duo -- who operate like two counter-balancing parts of a whole -- talk designing, where in Philly the sun shines brightest, and who most influences them.
How does your design aesthetic fall in line with that of the Cherry Blossom Festival's Harajuku Fashion Show?
One step into our boutique and you feel the Harajuku vibe. We love kitties, polka dots, bunny ears, cherry prints, gingham and, most importantly, we are not afraid to mix and match fun prints!
Outside of the Cherry Blossom Festival, how has Japanese style and culture influenced the work you do at the boutique?
We were inspired by the streets of Japan for more than a decade. My (Abby's) brother studied architecture in Japan and brought back the most exciting fashion magazines for me. It blew my mind!
Where in Philadelphia do you like to lounge in your free time?
The benches at the dog park on 2nd and Market next to our shop. Old City just feels sunnier to us than any other place in the city.
The micro polyester Fan Dancers Darted Dress, part of Smak Parlour's collection being shown at the Harajuku Fashion Show, features print designs from Philadelphia-based street artist Joe Boruchow. Standard Production Co. / For PhillyVoice
What do you think is special about Philadelphia's fashion scene?
Philadelphia has a grittiness to its beauty. It's edgy and pretty, and that combo has always appealed to us. That's actually why we worked with street artists to design our prints for the new collection.
Who in your life has had the most influence on your work?
Sakura Sunday's Harajuku Fashion Show will take place Sunday, April 12 at 11:15 a.m. at the Horticulture Center, located at Fairmount Park.