For the Target collection, she and Mr. Ferjani collaborated on another short, Dollhouse, in which two girls on bicycles discover a doll house in the woods and shrink to its proportions; dress-up again ensues, this time more campy and set to music reminiscent of The Nutcracker. There’s also a tea party.
Ms. Fetherston’s first Bryant Park show, for spring 2007, was accompanied by another collaboration with Ms. von Unwerth—a series of photos themed “Urban Flowers.”
“I was walking in New York, feeling really deprived of nature,” the designer said. “I’m from California, and even in Paris we have a lot of parks, and I was feeling like I had not seen a living green thing. And literally on Canal Street, it was so dirty, and I saw this little daisy growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, and I was like, ‘You’re so lovely and wonderful!’ I just saw it as being a great metaphor for who I kind of think the Erin Fetherston girl is. Because she really takes you by surprise, and might not necessarily belong, but is really beautiful and uncontrived, sort of thriving in a tough environment. I got together a whole band of girls who I thought embodied that idea.”
The photos, shot by Ms. von Unwerth in Williamsburg, feature the actress Zooey Deschanel, artist Sarah Sophie Flicker, model Karen Elson, designer Catherine Holstein, the Traina sisters (Danielle Steel’s daughters) and Ms. Fetherston herself, smiling against backdrops of weedy, graffitied decay.
Next came a collaboration with Ms. Deschanel, who opened Ms. Fetherston’s fall 2007 Bryant Park show with a solo performance of “Dream a Little Dream.” “She has this great jazz voice,” Ms. Fetherston said.
Despite her glamorous chums, Ms. Fetherston has mixed feelings about using famous people to promote her clothes. “The values of my collection—a sense of whimsy, a sense of romance, girly-cute style—there are a handful of celebrities who to me totally embody that, and I adore them,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see the dress go on the right kind of personality.” But “it’s almost like celebrity is currency. It’s kind of a rough business.”
Ms. Fetherston’s most recent Bryant Park show, her third, attracted an impressive numbers of socialites, editors and celebrities, including Lauren Davis, actress Brittany Snow, It models Irina Lazareanu and Agyness Deyn, Ms. Deschanel and Anna Wintour, who arrived early and was photographed alone in the front row, waiting patiently.
The collection was an assortment of white and gray dresses and trousers, soft and monochromatic and worn by models with bleached eyelashes and softly feathered hair. Many wore white turbans (“I can’t imagine not finishing an outfit with a headpiece,” said Ms. Fetherston). She even sent her first pantsuit down the runway—soft, flowing and white, but a pantsuit nonetheless. “I’d never really thought of her as someone who does trousers,” remarked Ms. Singer.
Back in her studio, Ms. Fetherston played the Target commercial, which debuted Monday during MTV’s The Hills—a three-minute short film that features a girl getting dumped by her boyfriend and then attending a big soiree. “Whether you’re planning the party or having your own pity party,” Ms. Fetherston says in a voice-over. “What you’re wearing is important.”
It’s a distinctly un-Fetherston statement—a jolt of modern marketing reality into her dreamy aesthetic. “I think that there is a great element of escapism to my whole universe,” Ms. Fetherston admitted. “I was a little unsure about the commercial concept at first. It was a little too real for me, the girl getting broken up with; I was like, ‘Yuck, yuck, yuck!’ But I came around, because I think the message was, these things do happen. They happen to me all the time. But the clothes can help to transport you to that state of mind.”
She had donned a white turban from her spring 2008 collection—“very Grey Gardens”—with a subtle bird head protruding from its front, like some sort of antique feminine spelunking light.
“People say, ‘Are you ready to be a household name?’” Ms. Fetherston said. “And I guess we’ll have to see if that’s going to be the case.”