The Power of Prints

L.A. Designer Eva Franco opens her first Virginia boutique.

Eva

It’s almost a classic Hollywood story: Some eight years ago, a native Hungarian gamine named Eva Franco left the New York fashion world to pursue her dream of becoming an actress in L.A. While waiting to be discovered, she whipped up a line of halter dresses from some groovy vintage textiles she adored—bits of old bedspreads and whimsical trimmings—to sell at the local flea market. Her eponymous clothing line was born.

Seven years later, the company Franco started in her apartment sells nationwide, and this May she opened her first Virginia boutique, in Irvington. She designs her own prints and embroidered fabrics in Italy and India but refuses to move her manufacturing overseas or even outside of L.A., a surprising fact given the prices for her clothes (shirts are $78 to $150, and dresses range from $98 to $300).

      Though born in Hungary, Franco spent most of her youth in Romania. “It was a repressed, communist, fear-based country where self-expression was feared,” she says. Desperation bred creativity in both her parents: “There were no department stores. My mother didn’t sew, but she had the tailor—and she got really creative using rickrack and such.” Her father, a blacksmith’s son, was a tool designer who worked in wrought iron. Their renegade creativity flows through their daughter.

      The Virginia shop, a joint venture with Khakis of Irvington owner Andy Smith, is a jolt of pure L.A. in the heart of the Northern Neck. Franco, who describes her clothes as “whimsical and feminine,” flew in to get ready for the opening just as the art and furniture arrived in a van from L.A. “The first piece sold to a 17-year-old girl,” says Smith, “and the next one to a 65-year-old grandmother.” That’s broad appeal. And the first window display? Nothing too flashy in a sailing town: It’s a nautical print.

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