Lisa Perry is the first to admit the miniskirted ’60s were her inspiration—everything from Gilligan’s Island and André Courrèges to The Jetsons and Andy Warhol. And while mod is great, she says, “modern is even better.” Welcome to the mad, mod modern world of Lisa Perry, a living, breathing, totally contemporary designer without pretense or affectation, who seems to know what women want, which is clothes that fit, flatter and entertain. Her most popular size? A six. “But we do size 14, too!” For five years, Perry has had a pocket-sized boutique on Madison Avenue, located on the street level in the old Sotheby Parke-Bernet auction house and in the same building as white-hot contemporary art dealer Larry Gagosian. She’s always riffed on art and fashion. (Take her collaboration with Robert Indiana last fall.) This summer she hits the beach with a 1,860-square-foot boîte in East Hampton, New York, that’s exploding with brightly colored swimsuits, plastic Manolos, beach bags, towels, et al. Modern, affordable and wearable, her look is one “that makes women happy and comfortable,” she told us recently over lunch at The Mark hotel, just around the corner from her Upper East Side shop.
Q: Wow, Lisa, that’s not a typical fashionista lunch!
A: I know, can you believe it? Waiter, could we have another order of French fries? And you can put that in the article, because I am obsessed with fries.
Q: I will, thank you, but let me ask you: How much do you exercise to be able to look like you do and eat…like this?
A: Exercise? Never. I play Ping-Pong.
Q: So just how excited are you about the East Hampton store?
A: Sooo excited. I wanted somewhere that the girls could wake up on a Saturday morning, drop by the store and pick up something casual and fun—like this cute little tracksuit I’m in.
Q: And the cool jacket you’re wearing?
A: Sacai by Chitose Abe—a Japanese designer who worked for Comme des Garçons. She and Thom Browne are my favorites. I like to mix it all up.
Q: You’re so, so…well, mod, Lisa.
A: People always say that, and it’s great to be associated with something, but while I love Courrèges, for example, I would never walk into the store and go head to toe, right down to the go-go boots. That’s a costume.
Q: Okay, so where did it all begin?
A: In the bedroom where I grew up in Chicago. My dad, whose real business was furniture fabrics, was also a painter, and he did this incredible mural on my walls. I had yellow shag carpeting, Marimekko sheets, an Eames lounge chair and an Arne Jacobsen swan sofa. That was my world.
Q: Was there always a Lisa Perry style?
A: Yes, it was called “different.” As far back as high school, the thing I remember most is not wanting to look like everybody else. I had my own style, my own personality. It’s still true but now a big dilemma for me.
Q: How so?
A: Now that I design my own brand—everybody else is wearing it, and I’m like, Oh, my gosh! I CAN’T WEAR THAT. It’s a nice dilemma to be in!
Q: What is the one must-buy item in the store?
A: I love the “Hello” logos on everything, and the swimsuits are gorgeous—they’re from a really cool company called Solid & Striped, and I did them in my favorite colors. But my one must-buy? Weird but true, it’s probably the Circle Dress, which was the first dress I ever made: a sleeveless A-line in double-knit wool. Black with cream is the best seller, but I’ve made it in every combo: navy with green, purple with pink....
Q: What’s your favorite color this summer?
A: Yellow, no question.
Q: You’re a big vintage fan, right?
A: For sure. The photographer Lisa Eisner got me started buying Courrèges.
Q: Do you want respect or a billion-dollar business?
A: Well, I feel I already have respect, but I would love financial success, too. My goal was always to have women feel comfortable in what they’re wearing—I want them to be able to breathe. I want them to be able to eat!
Q: What’s next?
A: I want to identify the places where we can start opening more stores. The ladies in Dallas love us; they love us in Atlanta. Anywhere that’s bright and cheery.
Q: The new store is so sensational looking. who did it?
A: Moi! With all vintage furniture. There’s an incredible 1970s Steelcase sofa by Warren Platner in a classic Knoll fabric. It’s white acrylic floating on a Lucite base and IT JUST SCREAMS ME! It’s so Jetsons!
Q: Any stories from the retail front?
A: A few weeks ago a woman and her granddaughter came in. The girl loved the stamp dress from my Robert Indiana collection and said, “Oh, we have one of his sculptures in our yard!” She looked great in it but hesitated. So I chimed in, “Wait a minute! Even if you wear this dress once, it’s worth it. After that, you frame it! It’ll be the most reasonable piece of Pop Art you’ll ever buy.”
Lisa Perry is located at 988 Madison Ave. and at 67 Main St. in East Hampton, New York.