In The Throwback Market, Priestess Is Right On Time

As the ’80s revival of the moment presses on, the comeback cacophony of acid-bright colors, high-tops, shutter sunglasses, disco-punk, electro-funk and aerobic chic can easily encourage overstatement. We stumbled upon edgy Priestess NYC, a fledgling label that’s earned cult status by transforming the raucous look into unique, playful sophistication.

Priestess aptly captures city-girl whimsy with a modern take on what founder and head designer Cody Ross calls “vintage-punk.” Peppered with futuristic and hip-hop accents, the garments maintain a pick-your-cool versatility—every piece can as easily be dressed up with platform heels as it can be dressed down with a pair of Chucks. The designs also recall many references to late-’80s Vivienne Westwood and even Halston, as designers Ross, Brittany Kubat and Melissa Brasier stitch up a perfect union of edge and elegance. Ross himself has named Marc Jacobs, Gareth Pugh and Jeremy Scott as aesthetic influences.

While Ross takes his cues from street kitsch, his polished silhouettes strike a fun, but wearable balance for the woman who wants to be offbeat without falling off (read: structured, linear limbs with a whole lot of shape in between). The designs skip confidently from onesie jumpsuits fit for Dynasty to pencil-skirt overalls, quirky tutu dresses and silk caftanettes—always fresh with metallic finishes, surprise linings and streamlined prints—which evoke equal parts ’80s fashion, nightclub vibrancy, Japanese pop and total free-spiritedness. Priestess is stocked at more than 50 global retailers, including New York’s progressive boutiques Sucre and TG-170, while celebrities such as Björk, Renée Zellweger, Tyra Banks and the Danity Kane girls have all donned the label.

The 30-year-old Ross founded the house only in March 2007, after working as a financial analyst in China and then in the UK for a few years. Even as the luxury market turns volatile Ross says he has no reason to worry—in its off-season, some 25% of Priestess’ revenue comes from Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong alone, where Ross says the avant-garde London and Tokyo fashion scenes influence his clientele.

Construction, he will tell you, is key, and he aims to keep his nuances subtle. In the ever-competitive throwback market, Ross’s grand design works well—he seems to consider the extreme eccentricities of his influences, then pare them down for wearability. As blending high-end, low-end, thrift and found fashion becomes the style du jour, bold designers such as Cody Ross satisfy the nascent grey area that will spawn the next movement. Priestess, pull up a chair.

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—Camille Drummond

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