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Putting Novel Ideas Into Her Ready-to-Wear Line

October 07, 1988|MARY ROURKE | Times Staff Writer

Her premiere fashion collection covers four office walls. But Pamela Edwards keeps an eye on the computer in the next room. That's where she plans to write her second novel, now that she's published her first.

Last summer, for the first time in public, she wore two hats--one for designer and one for romance novelist. Her published book is a saga 10 years in the making, called "Inherit the Storm," crammed with blue-blooded patriarchs and fashion-plate matriarchs, difficult sons and determined grandsons, all as envisioned by the author from La Crescenta.

Her book went into stores just a few weeks before her first fashion line, which she says was not designed with any of her characters in mind--except for the backless evening gowns with the long trains.

Edwards would like to style the clothes for the miniseries that she'd like to see her novel become. And her boyfriend, Mark McClafferty, might be able to help. He's president of Eddie Murphy TV Enterprises, and "he's very supportive," she says.

McClafferty tossed a bash to launch the new book, with a fashion show for entertainment, at the Bel Age Hotel in late August. The guest list was heavy with TV costumers as well as store buyers.

But costume designing and other such ideas are still castles in the air. Down-to-earth Edwards explains that right now she's giving her all to ready-to-wear. She financed her business herself, she says, by selling her house and pooling what money she made from her fiction writing.

She apologizes for not having fashion lingo at her fingertips, and she's never been to fashion school. But she says she knows what she's doing: "I'm designing a mood. I want women to feel different in my clothes. Not like they're buying the same thing again and again."

She used to wear labels--Ralph Lauren, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass. "But I really like unknown designers," she says. "They have a quirkiness. I don't know why people want to dress to look like everybody else. Once you start that, you stop taking risks."

Her fashions have the flair of costumes made for movies (or for miniseries). Some are futuristic--a black-and-white pants outfit has padded rings around the ankles and cuffs. Some are 1950s working-girl suits with cardigan coats and matching picture-frame hats. But Edwards personally likes the Edwardian and ancient-Chinese-inspired outfits best.

For a hint of the Far East at the office, she'll wear a tunic jacket with a Mandarin collar over narrow satin pants, all in white, and sandals with platform heels. Her cascading, curling hair extends well past her shoulders. And, occasionally, she lights a long, slim cigarette. She looks as if she has been typecast for a fashion-designing romance novelist.

Before she went into business, she created evening gowns for herself and wore them to black-tie functions she attended with her then-husband, who worked in the entertainment industry. She traveled with him too, and took her typewriter along.

"It doesn't seem strange to me at all to do both at once," she says of her double career. "Fashion is a quick return, writing is a long and slow return. The two flow well together."

Last December, after two months of exploring and experimenting, she finished 90 design ideas and hired four seamstresses to sew them. Now she has a mini-factory with 12 seamstresses and a new production manager.

"I wish I could help," she sighs, when asked to describe her style. Then comes the writer's inspiration. "They're romantic," she says. "I guess that's what I do."

Edwards fashions are available at Betty's Den and Marge Mohr (Melrose Avenue) in Los Angeles, Hermine's in Canoga Park and Bloomingdale's in New York.

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