We're asking top designers to pick one look from their Spring/Summer 2011 collections and to explain the inspiration behind the item, how it was fabricated, and—of course—how to wear it. This week, Richard Chai tells the story behind two items: a horizontal striped shirt and a pair of beach shorts.
The collection was all about mash-ups. It was surfer, it was backpackers, it was punk rock, it was military. And I wanted something that felt classic and preppy and exaggerated in a way. I just remember when I was younger I had polo shirts and rugby knit shirts with these even stripes, and so I wanted to do something like that, only we would make it blurred and graphic. So the color of the shirt is a degradé that goes from white to a shade of blue and then white again. I just love this shirt because it's so versatile—it can be preppy or conservative, dressed-up or undone, all depending on how you wear it. In the show we put it under a jacket and over a shirt, but you can layer it in so many different ways ,or just wear it on its own.
There's been a lot of construction in my neighborhood, and the sites are covered with this tarp that's got holes cut into it. I took a photo of that tarp, and the holes looked like hearts—this masculine construction space covered by these feminine hearts. And so I brought that idea to these board shorts, which have a stripe that looks fatigued and overdyed. They've also got these hearts that are bleach-stained, which mimic how your board shorts fade when you leave them out in the sun. It's such a great, fun piece to wear with a beat-up T-shirt. —By Richard Chai