Extended Play: Annie Rupp of Shady Lady

As promised, here’s the second of a series of longer Q&As with the designers featured in this week’s fashion issue. More to come!

by Annie Rupp, 31
You, your card says, focus on lingerie, swimwear and parasols. Can you talk about that a little bit?
I started making organic underwear when my daughter potty-trained really young. So I just started making really cute little kids’ underwear and that quickly expanded into adult underwear, and a lot of organic, bamboo cotton. Then I started getting involved with some stretch lace, and then I bought some gold lamé, and everyone just went crazy when I started making swimsuits. I’ve been having a really hard time like getting an inventory, which has been awesome. I just started this spring, in April. I did the fashion show this — er, I wasn’t in the fashion show, but I vended some stuff and it was super fun.

So how do you describe your style?
The swimsuits are kind of a little pinup girl, a little maybe shiny Lycra edgy but kind of something that you can wear and be active in but still look super cute. I do a lot of custom stuff, and custom costumes for Burning Man.

And then the parasols — that was my original idea, like I’m gonna customize parasols, and then I started doing the underwear too. So the parasols, right now, I’m just doing monogram stuff, or if people want — like, I’m doing a bunch of Shady Lady parasols for the fashion show.

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Do you have a day job, or is this your job now?
This is mostly my job now. I live on a farm, so I do … I don’t really make any money doing that, but it feels like a lot of work sometimes! And then I’m at home with my daughter all the time. So this is something — I really wanted something I could make money doing with her. … It’s been awesome.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I like the old style of pinup girls a little bit. I don’t know. Sometimes I’ll just start with a vision and then the actual suit I finish with is so different that I’m not even sure if there was a vision. Sometimes it just — they just come out. It just manifests itself, almost.

How many suits have you made?
A couple hundred, probably.

How long do they take?
I can make a suit in less than an hour.

I guess it’s not much material.
No, it’s not. It’s not much material at all! Most of them. So, yeah, they’re for people who aren’t shy, mostly!

That’s a good tagline. So are you part of a community of designers in town? Do you think that there is a community?
I think that there’s an amazing community and I would love to, you know, feel that I can include myself in that, because the girls down at the Redoux Parlour are so awesome and Laura Lee [Laroux] is the one that referred you guys to me and that was so sweet. And Mitra [Chester] at Deluxe and stuff — I’m just so inspired by those girls, and I think what they’re doing is so cool, and they’ve sold my stuff on consignment in the shop. So I’m just super honored and grateful and I just think Eugene is so cool that it can support local handmade stuff. There really is a market for it here.

Are those they only places where your stuff is available?
Currently, but I have an Etsy site, and a Weebly site and then I think Sweet Potato Pie will be carrying stuff too soon. And then I’m hoping to get some stuff in some boutiques, like down in Malibu. … trying to get it, you know, in areas where there’s a longer swinsuit season!

Are you working on anything new or upcoming, or sticking with swimsuits for a while?
I’d like to do more costumes. I’d like to — I’m involved with the aerial circus community a little bit, so I’m doing lots of like workout gear like leotards and yoga gear and stuff like that. Thre’s a bunch of people who wear that stuff every day year round, so, I want to market to them.

Is there anything in particular that you’ve made that you’re the most fond of or proud of?
Um… my daughter! Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, everything I make is like, I feel like I’m still learning so much so each piece is a little bit better than the one before. I’m learning to use my machine more, how to get the materials I want cheaper, or more local or recycled. I feel like it’s a total evolution and it keeps getting better.

So do you use recycled fabrics and such?
I try to. I’m always looking for cool fabric at thrift stores, and cool trims and stuff like that. … I spent a lot of time at the Springfield thrift stores because I feel like they’re less picked over.

So is there anything that we haven’t talked about, about your stuff, that you want to put out there?
I love custom orders!

You seem really enthusiastic about it.
Yeah. It’s been really fun. I feel like I’m playing Barbie.

Shady Lady is available at Deluxe, the Redoux Parlour and hopefully soon, Rupp says, at Sweet Potato Pie.