Carole McClellan: Seattle's Original Rock and Roll Designer

| Updated: November 27, 2018

Leather is on-trend big time this fall and Bellevue Collection's Independent Designer Showcase and EMP's Worn to Be Wild have reminded us that one of our most prolific and talented Seattle designers, Carole McClellan, has been using leather (and fur) for years, designing stage clothing for many of our homegrown rockers (Heart, Chris Cornell, etc.) out of her Belltown atelier. Her conscientious use of new and restyled fur and fine leather is innovative and refreshing, and combines with her innate talent to create truly couture and clothing.

What follows is a peek at her designs through the years, with descriptions in her own words:

Believe it or not, this outfit. From the Bebe le Strange era, circa 1981, was inspired by a look I saw James Galanos do that I torqued into a rock look. It is a silk jacquard tunic and tailored silk striped blazer, with lycra bottoms, which were the classic rock fabric of choice at the time. This was my first attempt at silk-screening and hand painting silk, not bad for my first time. Malorie Lacitis, who was a nationally known silk hand painted designer at the time from Seattle—and married to Seattle journalist Eric Lacitis—graciously coached me through this. My hands were Technicolor afterwards. It features the multi-buttoned styling that has become Ann's signature and also mine in other designs through the years. I am planning on exploring the multi button concept in my Spring 2013 Collection I have just started working on. Photo by Neal Preston

This is a silk velvet tunic made for Ann Wilson during the Dog and Butterfly era circa 1978. It features padded embroidered beaded bands on silk charmeuse that include real garnet chips and gold plated Austrian Crystals. It was inspired by the costume Greta Garbo wore in the movie Mati Hari. Photo by Neal Preston

This shot is from my Garden Party Collection shown at Arena V in 1994. It is a fantasy collection made of leathers, laces, pleather and silk velvets that I hand painted. The stole is re-embroidered lace with red ribbon roses I picked up on a trip to Montreal when I was in Canada tanning fish skins. This photo was taken at Woodland Park Zoo Rose Garden by Craig Harrold, and the art director/stylist was Eric Robison. Jewelry was Robert Peterson for Carole McClellan from vintage jet beads and freshwater pearls.

This is an Orylag stole from my new collection. I buy from the breeders in La Rochelle in Western France, south of the Bordeaux region. It is a food by-product and was bred to simulate chinchilla. It is much more high quality than the basic Rex Rabbit and I have been working with it since 2001. I did samples for the breeders that Micheal Kors and Rick Owens saw and then they started using it. I have visited the breeder’s farms in person and they are topnotch facilities with very high standards.  

And finally, chic stretch leather, a look upcoming for spring.


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