Irit Ehrlich didn't always make clothes. She used to make sandwiches--on pita bread--in her parents' Israeli restaurant.
"My grandmother and I made the sandwiches, and I drove around in my Mercedes to deliver them," she recalls.
That was 15 years ago. But even then, Ehrlich had an eye for fashion.
"I wore peasant clothes when I delivered the sandwiches," she says. "I have a real thing about details."
Sandwiches weren't her only interest. When she wasn't in the kitchen or making deliveries, she was collecting vintage clothes for herself. Especially antique outfits from the '20s and early '30s.
"I'm not a jeans person," she says. "Jeans have to be skintight to look good. And I'm not comfortable wearing clothes like that."
About two years ago, her antiques inspired her to design her own clothes--ankle-length skirts with two tiers, lace-trimmed dresses that look like Ophelia might wear them, tops with deep armholes and bateau necklines.
She wore them day and night--with cowboy boots to manicure appointments, with pumps to cocktail parties.
"My husband is a conservative surgeon, but he was so supportive of my designs," she remembers. "He would say he loved the way I looked. And people would stop me in the street and ask where I bought my outfit."
With that encouragement, Ehrlich began making one-of-a-kind outfits to order. And in the past couple of months, she began making "two- or three-of-a-kind" outfits, enough to keep a full-time pattern maker and seamstress busy.
As much as she has her own fashion style, Ehrlich has her own ideas about how to dress.
"If it's in season and you haven't worn it in three months, get rid of it," she advises. "It's better to keep a minimal wardrobe and love everything in your closet."
She shows velvets, except in dark colors, to wear during the summer months. "In California it's absurd to think you can't wear pastel velvet in June or July," she says. She's showing summer outfits in rose, pale green and cream-color velvets.
Most of her designs are two-piece prints, often trimmed with vintage lace, to wear at all hours, all year. Prices range from $400 to $1,200.
Her designs were recently modeled by actresses Britt Ekland and Lisa Eilbacher at Regine on Melrose Avenue, where her fashions are exclusively available. Adding the Hollywood touch were makeup artist Marja of the Ole Henriksen skin-care salon and hair stylist Laurence of Josephmartin.
While the designs were presented as matching outfits, Ehrlich creates variations by blending her skirts with oversize sweaters or sleek tube tops. She suggests wearing her hip-grazing, print tops with solid-color skirts in casual, mid-calf or ankle-length styles.
Nothing she makes is tight fitting or figure revealing. Her advice on that matter: "Let them guess."