Rosemary Brantley was recruited as chairwoman of Otis School of Art and Design's fashion design department when it was established 25 years ago as the West Coast outpost of the highly regarded Parsons School of Design in New York. The first year, she had a few empty classrooms, a phone and a vision to make Otis students compete on the same level as Parsons, where she had been trained. Since that time, she's molded the Otis department into one of the most influential in the country, churning out design talent for some of the country's largest apparel companies. A Texas native who started out as a model, Brantley also has been at the center of the local fashion industry. For many years, she was the creative force behind high-end women's clothing company Staples. Before that, she was behind notable looks for the junior apparel company Eclipse, which turned a Brantley-designed rainbow T-shirt into a mass phenomenon.


Question: In your years as chair of Otis' fashion design department, the Los Angeles fashion scene has matured a lot. Assess Los Angeles now.

Answer: So much talent has migrated to this city, it is staggering. I feel that L.A. is really considered in the United States of America, the home, the heart, the core of the contemporary market. That is where most fashion is made, and it filters down to juniors. L.A. is a place lacking in rules in a way that London has rules and New York has rules. If someone from New York comes here, and you take them out to dinner, they'll call you from their room, and they'll ask you what they should wear. That just doesn't happen here.


Q: Celebrities have become sought-after commodities for fashion companies. What do you think of that?

A: It bothers me tremendously because it doesn't have anything to do with personal style. What bothers me even more than that is they are going into making clothing, and because their name is on it, it will sell. But they don't have the capability of doing the work, so there is a whole bevy of designers behind them who are getting no credit.


Q: What are some other recent developments that have impacted the local fashion industry?

A: That whole Orange County garment industry thing is huge. It is the newest thing in America. It is one of the things that has made L.A. such an important marketplace. It has all grown into one mega-important (place). I think people all over the world are trying to do Orange County, but Orange County is authentic. Everyone else is trying to be authentic.

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