Priestess NYC

Designer Cody Ross, perennially shaded and very blond, could easily be the lovechild of Max Headroom and Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio. But his Priestess NYC label isn’t (only) about the trashtastic 80s. Here, the former financier talks chaos theories, capsule collections and mud-wrestling pits.

Sarah Fones: First things first—if the eyes are the windows onto the soul, why the sunglasses?
Cody Ross: I don’t sleep so well. I wear shades to camouflage the circles under my eyes.

You’ve described Priestess NYC as “kitschy.” How does the aesthetic inform your designs?
It refers to pluralism, irony, allegory, parody—basically stuff that‘s tongue-in-cheek or outlandish. In photography, David LaChapelle comes to mind. In fashion, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac or Jeremy Scott.

You were born in Texas and later moved to England to study at the London School of Economics. Then you began taking evening courses at Central Saint Martins. A whim, or destiny?
Not a whim. I’ve always gravitated toward the art and fashion scene. I checked out the part-time curriculum at Saint Martins and got enrolled. It was the perfect counterbalance to economics courses, and only a few blocks away. 

How much of a leap was it to go from business to fashion design?
I think all the same methodologies apply: research, lots of conviction and setting realistic goals. In business and finance, unlike fashion and art, the precise mechanism that links trends to price, or cause to effect, is mysterious and inconsistent. Randomness plays a bigger role, and that’s why it can be a virtue.

Explain the virtues of randomness.
Well, a better characterization is chaos, in the mathematical sense. Designing a collection is inherently subjective and open-ended. Due to commercial pressures and limited resources, it requires a vision of the future but also a finite outlook. The simple logic of cause and effect breaks down. The result: anything that can happen, can happen next. 

Whoa, Cody, that’s a lot to digest. Let’s talk spring ’10.Spring subsumes a lot of disparate references. There are kitschy, colorful prints, like over-scaled sperm and blowfish imagery on jackets, dresses and linings. I also got obsessed with statistical graphs and the work of meteorologist Ed Lorenz, who uncovered order in chaos and published some really beautiful mathematical images of the strange attractor.

The strange attractor?
It’s an infinitely layered structure underpinning the chaos. I’ve incorporated the geometry into many of the silhouettes and prints for spring.

Mathematics aside, did you say sperm and blowfish? I take it you’ve got sex on the brain?
Well, I’ve been reading a lot of Nietzsche and Freud, so I guess it’s my pulsating libido cascading onto the fabrics.

Very subtle. Moving on, who would you rather have dinner with, Ayn Rand or Martin Margiela?Ayn Rand. She’s a philosophical genius. It’s all about upholding the supreme value of the individual’s life. The Romantic Manifesto still gets me worked up. Don’t get me wrong, I love Martin Margiela, too, but Rand is a quintessential bad-ass who revolutionized everything she touched!

Like some of your other icons—Grace Kelly, Amanda Lepore, Rainbow Brite—you’re a blond. And it’s natural. Has it proven an asset or a liability? In other words, do you have more fun or more work?
Dunno. I guess it’s been an asset. Being blond is pretty damn fun.

Speaking of hot blonds, tell us a bit about your recent collaboration with Norwegian artist Marianne Aulie.
Marianne and I are developing a capsule collection. She’s a really cool painter who produces a lot of abstract and surrealist works. She also does drip paintings of fractal dimensions on huge canvases. We’re developing the styles now. We’ll ultimately apply her prints to the clothes. Stay tuned.

Anyone you’d like to share clothes with?
Hot lesbians in my new mud-wrestling pit.

Seriously, you have a mud-wrestling pit?
Yeah, I just set one up next to my backyard jacuzzi.