At a wine tasting last year, I had the serendipitous fortune of meeting Anitra Michelle. Writer Julia Chance, the convivial host, said “you two should know each other, meet Anitra, she’s a fashion designer.” With a smile as big and bright as the gleaming Fulani earrings she rocked, Anitra greeted me warmly, Libra charm on display. At the time, I was in the process of securing garments from African-American designers for use in a photo shoot with the magnificent dancers of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. We chatted about my needs for the shoot: fluidity of movement, color palette and so on. Following up the next day, she emailed photos of pieces in her collection that might be appropriate. Not only did she send an image of a skirt in the perfect shade of purple, but offered to also create something for us with the full knowledge that submission was no guarantee of use. Ultimately, the ever astounding Linda Celeste Sims loved and wore the purple skirt.
AAADT’s Linda Celeste Sims in PLUTOCRACY. Photo by Andrew Eccles.
Born in Detroit and raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Anitra Michelle Haithcock was influenced early on by the stylishness of her parents and older sister.
I think looking at the beauty of my mother and knowing how cool my father was really pushed me to carry the legacy forward. My sister was always fashionable, had her clothes made and really just exuded style as a teenager. I really looked up to her style-wise.
With the launch of MTV and its marriage of music and fashion, Anitra immersed herself:
I also watched lots of videos as a child. My parents would go to bed and I would stay up all night watching MTV. It’s funny, but the rebellious nature of the 80’s and hairbands also contributed to my view of style versus fashion.
New York City soon beckoned, she began her studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology and subsequently did showroom internships for Karl Lagerfeld and Lanvin during their US launch. She apprenticed in Vera Wang’s pattern department, an invaluable experience and worked as an assistant stylist before launching her own line, PLUTOCRACY in November 2008. The inspiration behind the name?
I really thought about how wealth really inspires people and influences people. That’s wealth of any kind, e.g. Wealth of Knowledge (Physicians); Wealth of Style (Designers/Stylists); Wealth of Health (Athletes) and the list goes on. PLUTOCRACY means ruled by the wealthy. This really struck a cord with me and we wanted to ensure that we’re always putting out best foot forward. Naming the brand PLUTOCRACY forces you to really keep it high on Fashion’s totem pole. We really want to put out the most expressive and individual ideas to inspire women.
When asked about her process she explains that she tries to remain receptive to the myriad influences which ultimately inform her work. She usually begins with an idea of fabric and palette then does extensive research. “Usually, a bottle of red wine and some broken beat really inspire my creativity. Music is necessary.”
Anitra Michelle and the first garment she created as a student at F.I.T.
PLUTOCRACY Fall/Winter 2010 Collection, “Rising Revolt”
As the New York fashion industry winds down the collections for Fall 2010, celebrating its last tented hurrah in Bryant Park, PLUTOCRACY gives us the fashion film, “Rising Revolt,” a glimpse of Fall in a well, rather democratic way, online and accessible for all, “not just the ones sitting front row at Fashion Week,” says Anitra.
Inspired by the woman’s empowerment movement during the 1940’s when war forced housewives to hang up their aprons and enter the male-dominated workforce, Rising Revolt represents the modern Corporate Rebel. The woman who knows she can look sexy and professional at the same time. The woman who refuses to blend in with the suits she is surrounded by. The woman who won’t take no for an answer and wears the clothes that show she means it. The Corporate Rebel uses her sense of style to show her state of mind and is stirring up the masses in a Rising Revolt.
PLUTOCRACY 2010, all rights reserved.
What makes the must-have list of this girl-on-the-go?
1. iPhone. “It’s the best phone ever…”
3. Notebooks. “I carry one everywhere I go for random ideas and I usually just pick them up from Barnes and Noble without much thought.”
Five-by-seven inch recycled monogram journals by Pistachio for Indigo at BN.com.
4. My brown fedora. “I love it. It’s a way to be incognito…with style.”
With its classic shape and stingy brim, this Borsalino is similar to Anitra’s fave chapeau.
5. C.O. Bigelow Mentha Lip Tint. The venerable West Village apothecary produces a a glossy balm with a hint of color and cooling peppermint. “It’s nice and thick…so great at keeping your lips moisturized.”
6. My Michael Kors boots. With a 3 1/2 inch stacked heel and slouchy red suede, this 80’s vibe boot from MK’s Michael line can be worn tall or scrunched. “They are stylish yet comfortable. And the red exudes SEXY!”
7. A huge work bag. Though she is not wed to a particular “It” bag, she is seldom without a large, functional workhorse to keep her things close at hand. “My security blanket,” she says. “I love that I can throw my life in it.”
The leather-trimmed, rubberized canvas Montauk tote from J.Crew offers a durable, water-resistant, city-friendly update to the classic canvas variety.