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Designer Friends Stumble Onto Success

October 09, 1987|ROSE-MARIE TURK | Times Staff Writer

What do two petite young Los Angeles women want to wear? In the case of Andrea Jacobs, it's something fun and furry. For Pamela Skaist, there has to be a hat on her head.

Last summer, when 23-year-old Jacobs (5 feet, 3 inches tall, 100 pounds) discovered she "had nothing to wear to a party," she impulsively bought acrylic monkey-fur fabric and turned designer/seamstress. Never mind that she couldn't even thread a sewing machine; she got a friend to do that.

The results were far from perfect. "The fur was supposed to go down, but it was going all different ways," Jacobs recalls. And when the jacket, which she had lined with an old T-shirt, didn't fit properly, "I safety-pinned it."

Stared at Outfit

At the party, Jacobs wasn't sure whether people loved or hated her outfit, "but they really stared." With encouragement from her date (the inventor of a better ice pack), she started Aquired Clothing. The $80-to-$200 line of sportswear is available at boutiques, such as Atmosphere in the Beverly Center, and at selected Jay Jacobs stores. ("No, we're not related," Andrea Jacobs says.)

For 24-year-old Skaist (5 feet, 3 inches tall, 95 pounds), millinery became a necessity when she developed an ailment that caused temporary baldness. Because she was working her way through the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, she couldn't afford expensive hats, so she bought cheap ones, added trimmings and was encouraged by an FIDM instructor to make millinery her career.

Helmet, her recently established line, is based on the philosophy that "expensive is obscene." Her hats are handmade and are decorated with one-of-a-kind remnants, "but they are never more than $100."

From the moment she started showing her wares (currently carried at Fred Segal, Diane Merrick and L.A. Eyeworks), Skaist said, she was shocked. "The first store I went into ordered two dozen. That's a lot of hats for a specialty store." Though she had expected only five hats per order, she is now averaging 15.

Jacobs and Skaist, friends since they met in San Diego and discovered their "mutual understanding of clothing," do much of their own legwork. Jacobs, for example, makes frequent trips to a downtown Los Angeles pattern maker "who has to vacuum after I leave; there's always some of the stuffed animal material on the floor."

In addition to acrylic monkey fur, Jacobs has started to use fake French lamb for the jackets and coats she coordinates with cotton-jersey blouses, pants and skirts.

"I try to incorporate a vintage look with fabrics from the past," she explained. "You can't take the fur seriously. It's meant to be fun, not elegant. I did the coats because there are a lot of funky clothes around but not any funky coats to wear with them."

Love the Fur

Stores "love the fur and order it right away or they say it's too hot for California. It looks hotter than it is," Jacobs said. "It looks as if a person would be boiling in it, but it's actually very lightweight."

Skaist, who uses wool and wool velours for her fall hat collection, believes she was destined to be a designer. When growing up in San Diego, she would change pants into bloomers or cut her clothes up in a style that was later made famous in "Flashdance."

The name of her company came "while I was dreaming about hats," Skaist said. Next on her list of projects is a line of clothing called "Uniforms."

As for Jacobs, her company name was easy. What she does, she says, "takes an acquired taste."

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