High Times With Lizzie Owens and Cramer Tolboe of Highland
The recent polar vortex made it pretty damned hard to look chic, as bundling and layers can do much to ruin a silhouette. With fashion week upon us and another cold wave moving in, what’s a frigid fashionisto to do? Cloak yourself in Highland, a four-year-old sportswear company that wants to dress you for both the Snowpocalypse and those endless open bar fashion parties.
Label founders Lizzie Owens and Cramer Tolboe grew up in the wilds of Utah, and are no strangers to the raw end of Mother Nature’s mood swings. Dealing with the elements is in their DNA. After stints working for fancy labels, they decided to branch out and start their own company in 2010, with the concept of high-end yet practical sportswear for the urban sophisticate—or as Cramer says, “for the evolved street wear kid.” The product is modern, quirky and very wearable. Think Prada meets Patagonia, hippie meets hip-hop. I caught up with Lizzie and Cramer at their Bushwick studio as they prep for their upcoming show at Milk.
Milk Made: Your latest tweet says “Keep Highland Weird.” What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever designed?
CT: The swat pullover this season is weird. It’s a metaphor for the whole collection.
LO: It’s not so much about climate change or doomsday as about being prepared for extremes. It’s a mosquito net mesh shirt, with a zip-off face mask and sleeves, and front and back utility pockets.
MM: Sounds like the perfect ensemble for a serial killer.
LO: It is the darkest thing we’ve ever designed, because we are usually pretty colorful and light hearted.
MM: What’s your least favorite trend in menswear? Mine has to be the resurgence of acid wash. I hated it the first time, and it’s even grosser now.
LO: I’m a little bit tired of the whole heritage look—the vest, the old time-y mustache. And really skinny jeans, like jeggings. I’m so ready to see those go. I want some ease in the pant silhouette, please!
MM: What do you like best and least about being in the fashion business?
LO: Values that I have a hard time with, like being extremely materialistic; living beyond your means. You look so rich and fabulous, but you’re struggling like everyone else.
MM: What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought yourself?
LO: I bought a pair of $1,000 Marc Jacobs boots at Barneys. But I wore them every day for like two years.
CT: Mine was probably this $1,400 Junya Watanabe jacket, when I first got into the whole Commes des Garçons thing.
MM: Who are your design heroes?
LO: I’ve always looked up to Phoebe Philo before Chloe, and Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, Yohji, Rei Kawakubo.
CT: Dries Van Noten always nails the silhouette for menswear. Pretty consistent.
MM: Highland is rather good at making very chic sweaters. What did you think of Ralph Lauren’s tacky Olympic sweater design?
CT: It’s going to be weird to see an entire team walking out in this thing; so over the top.
MM: It’s an Etsy nightmare. They needed Project Runway’s Tim Gunn to tell Ralph. “You need to edit, I’m worried!”
LO: It’s rough. It’s a bit of an ugly Christmas sweater. They didn’t need to go so far with all those appliques. They could’ve done it in a simpler, more modern way.
MM: What person in history, alive or dead, would you like to be the Highland poster boy?
CT: River Phoenix!
LO: Kurt Cobain. Alive, I would say Kendrick Lamar. James Franco. He’s good and weird.
MM: You both seem remarkably calm considering it’s a week before your show. How do you unwind?
MM: Ha, that’s funny. What drugs would be best to take to watch a Highland show? Acid?
LO: No, acid would be too intense. I would say a nice vaporized weed session so it’s not too stoned. We have always been a weed-embracing brand, and there is a way to keep a healthy relationship with it.
CT: Or a mellow edible. That’s always a very visual high.
Now their name starts to make sense.
The Highland show is at Milk Studios on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.
Photography by Mario Torres
Photographic direction by Erick Ruales
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