Halle Berry, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton have all been seen wearing Candice Held’s exquisite, one-of-a-kind dresses crafted from vintage scarves. The Palm Springs resident debuted her line in 2006 at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles. This past March, her collection graced the runway during Fashion Week El Paseo in Palm Desert.
In 2014, she branched out to design the Palm Springs–inspired Candice Held Home Collection featuring pillows, wallpaper, and upholstery printed with windmills, concrete blocks, and palm leaves, and recently launched a jewelry line that was showcased in the April 2015 issue of British Vogue.
Held studied dance at the University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts but changed direction after graduation due to an injury. Since fashion had always been another of her passions, she enrolled in the New York Fashion Academy in Seattle. “I started designing dresses, swimsuits, lingerie, and even a little men’s clothing,” Held says. “Eventually, the scarf dress was born, and it became my focus.”
photo by elena ray
Candice Held relaxes in a corner of her studio, surrounded by her fashion library.
Los Angeles beckoned, and Held moved there in 1999. She worked as a stylist and started her eponymous vintage scarf dress line in 2003. Her company began as a wholesale business, selling to boutiques throughout the U.S.A. and in Europe.
After opening a flagship boutique in downtown L.A., she studied textile and surface design at Otis College of Art and Design, then designed prints for Equipment, Kenneth Jay Lane Scarves, and others.
Held unveils her newly redesigned boutique at The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District this month. Palm Springs Life caught up with her to find out who inspires her and what creative projects she’s launching next.
What brought you to Palm Springs?
My husband and I had been visiting his parents in the desert for years, and we would dream about living here. By 2013, we had been in Los Angeles for a long time, and we were ready for a change of lifestyle.
When did you begin sewing?
I started as a child. My mother and my Parisian grandmother used to make clothes for my sister and me. They taught me hand sewing, and my great-grandmother taught me how to embroider. In high school, I started buying clothes at thrift stores to modify them.
Tell us about the sewing machine in your studio.
My grandmother always sewed on a vintage black Singer sewing machine. It was beautiful, reliable, and so well-made. My mother has it now. I was able to find a vintage Singer at an L.A. thrift shop, and it has been the best machine I’ve owned. But it can only do a straight stitch, so I have a modern Singer for all the other stitches.
How did you get into the fashion business?
I always loved to sketch and come up with designs. When I was around 10, I designed and sewed two looks for Barbie dolls. I later designed my prom dress with my mom, and she sewed it. In college, I majored in dance. Part of my curriculum was choreography and costume design. I think it shows up in my designs now — that influence of showcasing the body in fluid motion.
What’s your design process?
I design my silk scarf dress collection based on engineered scarf designs, beginning with a theme and a color palette. I create the artwork first, then I prepare it for production on the computer. When I design the scarf dresses, I pull together groups of vintage scarves that complement each other and drape them on my dress forms. Each is a unique composition. It’s a very time-intensive process.
photos by gary bindman
Looks from Candice Held’s silk scarf dress collection brighten the runway at Fashion Week El Paseo 2015.
Who inspires you?
I love the Biba era of Barbara Hulanicki, Ossie Clark, and Bill Gibb. And I am very inspired by Diane von Furstenberg. I like to think that my scarf dress silhouette is my version of the wrap dress: a classic, timeless design that comes alive in an endless variety of prints and colors.
Why vintage scarves?
Again, my Parisian grandmother. Her signature look for years has been red lipstick, pearls, and a leopard print chiffon neck scarf. I received an Hermès scarf for Christmas one year. I was so intrigued by the intricacy of the print.
“Green Dream” is one of your classic prints. What’s its story?
“Green Dream” was first inspired by an art exhibit at the MoMA in New York City. There was a huge, wall-size image of lush greenery. I decided to create my own scarf design with a theme of green foliage with filtered sunlight. As I was drawing the scene, it brought back memories of growing up in the Pacific Northwest and exploring the woods. I named it “Green Dream” because it feels very dreamlike to me, to be surrounded by so many shades of green.
What was your inspiration for the Candice Held Home Collection?
Moving to Palm Springs inspired me to start designing fabrics for interiors. The architecture, the climate, the beauty of the mountains — everywhere I look, I see inspiration.
And for your jewelry line?
I love astrology and the signs of the zodiac. My husband invented a unique gear that allows a length of chain to be reeled in, creating an opportunity to design adjustable-length pendant necklaces. The Sunscope Pendant is the first piece in our Candice Held for Linkcinch jewelry collection. One side features all the signs of the zodiac, and the other side is stylized sun rays.
Visit www.candiceheld.com or check out Candice Held’s boutique at The Shops at Thirteen Forty Five in the Uptown Design District, 1345 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs.