From the cult of personality emerges 24-year-old Shoshanna Lonstein. Famous for having dated Jerry Seinfeld, she has followed her heart into the fashion industry.
She has a new line of dresses in stores like Bloomingdale's and Nordstorm, where she recently made an appearance to help sell the merch. The dresses are achingly sweet and girly and come in powder-blue Swiss-dot prints, tiny floral patterns and silhouettes such as slip dresses and bustier sheaths. The line, which has only been around for about a year, has been enthusiastically embraced by department stores who regularly fret that it's impossible to find casual, well-priced dresses.
Lonstein's dresses, with a matching sack and thong, sell for about $150, a price that she says is really too good because her profit margin is painfully low.
The collection stands out because the dresses come with plenty of built-in support so that a well-endowed woman can at long last wear a slip dress or a halter and not feel as though she is going to overflow her clothes. "It's not like a cure for cancer. It's on a very small level," Lonstein says of her accomplishment. The collection is not solely for such women, but "it just includes them."
Lonstein was inspired to create a collection of bustier dresses and such because she is a buxom size 4. As a teenager, she used to sketch her own lingerie and swimsuits, because of her hard-to-fit figure, and then she'd have them made.
"I never had a halter dress," she says, remembering her deprived adolescence.
At the start, the line was focused more on lingerie and so there were bras as well as thongs to match the dresses, carrying the old motherly advice about always wearing clean underwear -- in case you're in an accident -- to the extreme.
But the collection garnered much of its initial attention because Lonstein is Seinfeld's ex-girlfriend.
It should be noted that Lonstein, a 1997 graduate of UCLA who majored in Asian art and history, readily admits that "people were more curious" about her line because of the Seinfeld connection. She received a burst of publicity, the kind that most young designers try in vain to generate. The caveat, however, was that "I guarantee you most people didn't want to like it, just because."
Lonstein never actually utters the name Seinfeld, or Jerry, or even ex-boyfriend. She refers to the man and the relationship as "him," "it," "that experience," or "that time." But because the 45-year-old comedian has become such a pop culture icon, one can't help but observe that a conversation about ordering fabric becomes a very "Seinfeld" moment.
Lonstein likes working with fabric that's in stock, she says, because it's cheaper than special orders. And so she always checks to make sure it's "in stock" before finalizing a collection. But then, after manufacturers say it's in stock, they say they can't deliver it for several weeks because they have to make it, which really means it's not in stock at all. Which leaves her to wonder what "in stock" truly means.
In the midst of this monologue, her hands are chopping the air and she has a look of mock desperation on her face. Her comic timing is utterly precise. And she continues with her shtick:
Does "in stock" just mean there's an empty place on the shelf where the bolt goes once the stock comes in? And if "in stock" fabric is really "out of stock," then what does that make "out of stock" fabric? A myth?
Lonstein says she has always been interested in fashion. But after graduating from college, "I thought I'd go into banking. Then I went away to Europe and thought I just can't go back and do it.
"I knew what I wanted to do, sort of. But I had no idea how to do it. But I didn't want to do a 7:30 in the morning to 12 at night job I didn't love."
So she came home and told her parents she wanted to be a designer. She lived at home with her family in Manhattan and worked for free at a mass-market lingerie firm where she made suggestions about colors and fabrics. After proving her commitment to fashion, her parents invested in her company, and now she shares a New York showroom with several other lines, uses a mobile phone for business transactions and has taken on a business partner to help with marketing and sales. The two run an office with virtually no overhead since they do everything and the samples are handily stored in duffel bags.
For their appearance here, the two drove from Manhattan to Washington. Actually, her business partner drove. Lonstein rode. She's not old enough to drive a rental car.
CAPTION: Busy, busy, busy: Juggling design duties in New York.
CAPTION: Lonstein and her designs, making an appearance at Nordstrom in Tysons Corner.
CAPTION: Lonstein and "him," in the midst of "that experience": the Emmys in 1996.