Several years ago, when friends Crickett Lapeyre and Leigh Reveley began tossing around the idea of designing clothes, vintage-inspired bathing suits were the garment of choice. Lapeyre, a gymnastics coach and collector of antique lawn dresses, has years of experience designing leotards for gymnastics competitions, while Reveley, a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, works as a conservator of fine fabrics and clothing and has an extensive collection of vintage clothing patterns.
"We work really well together," Lapeyre says. "She thinks I'm calm and I love how focused she is."
The two named their fledgling design business Libellule (French for "dragonfly") and began poring over books and old magazines for inspiration. This spring, the partners showed their first collection, a sophisticated line of 13 pret-a-porter pieces with decorative motifs inspired by oak trees, at NOLA Fashion Week and Fashion Week New Orleans.
Lapeyre's fondness for clothing from the Edwardian era up to the 1920s and '30s is evident in Libellule's premier collection, as is Reveley's preference for 1940s and '50s silhouettes and details. Their ethereal Morning Dew flapper dress pays homage to the exquisite clothing of PBS series Downton Abbey, and their flowy, full-length goddess dress, a moss-green design cinched with a belt of bronze leaves, brings to mind the easy, unrestrictive work of 20th-century American designer Claire McCardell.
"The response has been very positive and supportive," Lapeyre says. "We've gotten emails from random people who saw us and want to know where they can buy the clothes."
Having presented their line, the partners now face the job of selling it to retailers. The Libellule customer, they say, appreciates natural, season-appropriate fabrics, reliable quality, flattering fits, unique touches and vintage-meets-modern appeal. "We want the line to have a look that people recognize," Revely says. "And we want consistent buyers who like the way the clothes look on them."
The two are full of ideas for future Libellule collections and additional lines — bathing suits and summer dresses for little girls among them. "Our clothes are timeless, like this old city of New Orleans," Reveley says. "But at the same time, we are happy to be a part of this city's rebirth through our creations." — LEE CUTRONE