A West African beaded hat, tribal tassels from Rajasthan, a ram skull from Santa Fe and Haitian voodoo dolls (said to bring good luck)—Stephanie von Watzdorf’s Manhattan studio, an artful mélange of her travels and inspirations, is as eclectic as the clothes she designs. It’s the kind of glamorous mix easily envied but impossible to teach—though, as the daughter of an art dealer-cum-private-banker and ballerina (her grandfather was the legendary Ballet Russes choreographer, Léonide Massine), it all came rather naturally.
“You had Stravinsky, Miró, Picasso, Bakst, Matisse…” she rattles off the names of great 20-century artists (most of whom were family friends) as casually as if they were a list of groceries. Cultural sophistication is in her DNA and, paired with a longstanding love for travel, it marks the blueprint for her artsy-bohemian ready-to-wear label, Figue.
“Each piece takes you somewhere new,” von Watzdorf says of her wanderlust-inducing brand. Her latest venture, a super-luxe limited edition capsule of signature silhouettes made exclusively for Moda, puts an increased focus on helping women find something fabulous (yet also effortless) for holidays spent in warm weather.
“I wanted to bring together different cultures, artists and do something Ballet Russes-inspired,” she explains, referencing a caftan with Indian beadwork (each completed by no less than five men) in a folk pattern that feels distinctly Russian. Its appeal is as timeless as it is broad, the kind of piece that remains desirable for decades. Clearly, von Watzdorf does not concern herself with trends. “I’d rather create something really beautiful and capture that moment for the woman who feels good in it.” A glance at the new lineup of adorned caftans and separates proves there is plenty to choose from. But what about those times when one is not on vacation? Can caftans go beyond the beach?
“There’s always an elegant way to reinterpret something,” she says, offering up a list of her tried and tested winter layering tips. “I love it when I see a cool, hip girl wearing a caftan on the street—She gets it.”