psychoPEDIA: Daily News

Bruce Is Back
The Shy Duo on Their Long-Awaited Runway Return

In 2001 Nicole Noselli and Daphne Gutierrez, the design duo behind Bruce, were on top of their game. Not only had they received CFDA's prestigious Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent in womenswear, their masterfully draped dresses had procured a downtown cult following to boot.

Then, in 2004 the designers, both 36, risked putting their line on hold in order to travel, focus on their personal lives, and re-assess the grueling demands of the fashion industry. Considering the duo is notoriously press shy, their departure left countless fans and critics in the dark. Now, fortunately, Bruce is back up-and-running, and, as the NY Times’ Cathy Horyn put it, "[right] where they left off with a design aesthetic that stems from the integrity of making garments that have a personal touch, detail, or shape which sometimes calls for a closer look.” We sat down with the duo just before their Spring 08 presentation (which took place yesterday), to discuss the year’s most exciting fashion comeback.

What did you do during your time off from Bruce, and how does it feel to be back?
Nicole: Both of us worked at different places. I worked for a big company, which was not satisfying. I took a month off and traveled to India. We did a small collection for Aveda. We did what we would do if we didn’t have the business. We tried to get our heads together - you kind of get a little burnt. I’m relieved to be doing this again; you start realizing that things haven't changed. The workload is really hard, but it's gotten easier with sales.
Daphne: I took vacations - got married. I had more time to have a personal life. I worked freelance. It was nice to step back. I'm a workaholic, but I don't like being one. We work this hard because we have to. It's nice to be making clothes again. It's very close to us. Honestly you have to be crazy to want to work this hard. Some people thrive on it. Not me. You want to be fresh and not depleted. That was one of the reasons we needed a break.

What was the transition like with regard to starting up where you left off?
Daphne: At first your concern is, ‘what would it be like coming back?’ In hindsight, right now, it was a really good thing… to re-think things. You’re style changes and you’re dressing for someone different [but] your aesthetic stays the same. We didn't make drastic changes. Visually it seems like the next step.

How have things been different this time around?
Nicole: The business has changed drastically. It's better for new companies. In the past we got a lot of support. We were lucky. [But] the types of garments we were doing were really hard to sell. More people are interested in fashion right now. So, there is much more potential for us. Right now everything is very similar. And the interest is there. People want to see different things. Not that we need other people's validation, but, we work in a bubble, and it's good for us.
Daphne: You’re always going to hope it's well-received when you’re brand new. But, we started 11 years ago. There wasn't that much pressure; we said, ‘let’s see if we can pick up where we left off.’ It's about pleasing ourselves, rather than other people. The rest will follow. In terms of the industry, things have changed a lot, and we haven't been gone that long. Retailers are more apt to buy something new. People's sentiments about shopping have changed. People are a bit happier to see designers and fashion. It goes hand-in-hand with social change. Just the fact that the dollar is so weak… all these things affect business. Retailers are more apt to buy something new. Jumping into business is actually quite easy. Staying in business is the hard thing.

What are your expectations for the line?
Nicole: There were several stores where I was surprised by the customer… it's just more people and women in their thirties. I like that. I guess the collection grows with us. Now they’re older, more mature and fashionable, but not trendy. We want a well-rounded collection. Now it's dressy, because it's what we do best. My expectation is to have a larger line. We've been struggling for a long time. There is so much potential for the future. We want to have the opportunity to do bigger and better. There's so much money in the fashion business.
Daphne: We want our line to grow. We want it to be a bigger line, but to make sense with the type of clothes we design.

What were some of your inspirations for this season?
Nicole: For designers there are so many varied inspirations. For me to lift inspirations sounds silly. Our last season was built on what we've done in the past. And past seasons inspired that collection. Last season had a long look - we were thinking about lean silhouettes - and was more about the fabrics. This season is more simplified. We worked with some beading, embroidery, stripes, jacquard prints.
Daphne: We've introduced prints. The inspirations vary; it touches on North American Indian. There aren't themes; things sort float in and out. The details aren’t quite so literal.

~Sara Costello

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