Fashion designer Gregory Poe, 27, is not one to overemphasize his ties to the master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. After all, the 19th-century poet and author is only his great-great-great-great-great-uncle. Yet Gregory does trace his color sense back to his ancestor. “I adore blood red and raven black,” he says with Gothic glee.
A native of Westwood, Calif., Poe grew up surfing and says his credo is still “Malibu or bust.” Yet his designs, priced from $80 to $600 an item, sell not on Rodeo Drive but in Japan’s major department stores, earning him a six-figure income. Poe designs for what he calls the “deliberately alluring” woman, and his label will be widely available to stateside shoppers next spring. His current features include skintight wool stretch pants with stirrups as well as a welded brass ascot from his jewelry line.
Performance artist Laurie Anderson discovered Poe, the son of a paper company owner and former model, 10 years ago. Anderson, who was teaching at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, has since been his most prominent booster. Impressed by Poe’s designs, which included a series of see-through, confetti-stuffed bags and ties, Anderson petitioned for his early graduation. Five years ago Macy’s showcased Poe’s plastic accessories in the store’s New York windows. Visiting Japanese clothing manufacturers “flipped,” according to Poe, who was signed immediately by one of the leading Japanese textile firms.
Ushering the house of Poe onto American terrain means the surfer boy will have to leave his Hollywood home and move to New York. “I’m totally proud of L.A.,” he says, with a touch of Valspeak, “but it’s not a town where you can base a heavy fashion career.” The move might well disrupt Poe’s schedule since, he says, “If I get up early enough and I’m at work by 7 a.m., I reward myself by going surfing.” Surfing in the Big Apple? Nevermore!