The Wolk Morais Designers Get Their Newest Inspiration from California


Claude Morais and Brian Wolk

It was five years ago that Brian Wolk and Claude Morais made the move from New York to Los Angeles to find more creative freedom.

Their collections have a distinctive California-artist influence that relies on mid-century art and color. They are definitely in the vanguard, with actress Jessica Chastain sporting their latest designs. Recently, they had a shop-in-shop open at Fred Segal Sunset.

The design duo talked with the California Apparel News about their careers and creative work.

When did you decide you wanted to be a fashion designer and why?

Wolk: I decided after I saw Stephen Frears’s “Dangerous Liaisons” and fell in love with the transformative fashion of the 18th century.

Morais: I decided when I saw my first Paris haute-couture show by Chanel.

How did you make that happen?

Wolk: I took weekend classes at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] in high school, and my dad bought my first Singer sewing machine and lessons.

Morais: I modeled, then apprenticed in Paris fashion studios, became a stylist and ultimately a designer.

Who was the person who helped you the most in becoming a fashion designer?

Wolk: My parents.

Morais: Brian.

Looking back on your first collection, what was it like and how would you change it now?

Wok and Morais: The world was smaller. There was no Instagram, and people looked at the show with their own eyes, not through the screen of their phone. We wouldn’t change anything about our first or any of our shows except weather conditions the day of a show. Our first show in New York in September there were monsoon-like conditions and nonstop sideways rain that delayed the show by an hour. This scenario recurred many times in our career, including a nor’easter where we had to transport our collection the night before the show to the Lincoln Center tents and a hailstorm that forced us to organize last-minute buses to transport editors and buyers to our show location in midtown New York. For a time, we thought about a second career as rainmakers. When we presented our first collection in L.A. at the Gavlak Gallery on Highland Avenue, we thought we were safe as California was experiencing a statewide drought. But as life would have it, a water main exploded in front of the gallery an hour before our show, which turned Highland into a nonnavigable river. Nonetheless, the show started on time and that was the last of our water-related calamities (fingers crossed!).

What are the biggest challenges you find in creating a collection and how do you overcome them?

Wolk and Morais: Each show presents it own unique set of challenges—fabric, location, mood, models. We are like fashion firemen, constantly putting out fires and navigating through unknown fantasy landscapes.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Wolk and Morais: Travel, art, film, our library and archives, the city of Los Angeles, and our daily meditative hikes and walks.

What is your favorite part of being a fashion designer?

Wolk and Morais: Getting to show the world what we are thinking twice a year.

What skills are necessary to be a good fashion designer?

Wolk and Morais: Keeping your eyes open at all times, and resilience.

How would you describe your personal style?

Wolk and Morais: Modern bohème.

What is the best and worst feedback or critique you have received and from whom?

Wolk and Morais: Generally, our reviews have a cornucopia of feedback, some of which is informed and constructive, some of which has no foundation, but generally we trust our creative team including our ever-present friend, collaborator, mentor and stylist Elizabeth Stewart.

How has the Los Angeles fashion industry changed since you started?

Wolk and Morais: We were the first and still are the only designers who belong to the Council of Fashion Designers who show seasonally in Los Angeles. We hope more of our peers will embrace the city they gain inspiration from and show here as well.

What advice would you give to emerging designers?

Wolk and Morais: In the words of Bette Davis, “Take Fountain.”