Clothing for the Adventurous: Nancy Traugott and Homefrocks

Date February 28, 2008 at 11:00 PM

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They say of a great beauty that her face has "good bones,"€ and the same could be said about Santa Fe designer Nancy Traugott's clothing line, Homefrocks. The clean lines underscore the subtly stated structure to her designs. Her style combines common sense with a low-key, romantic sensibility, and the relaxed, easy-going fit compliments a deeply feminine look. Timeless in their appeal, her clothes attract independent-minded women willing to trust their own taste-someone like Traugott herself.

"What I make comes from me,"€ the tall, statuesque designer said. "I like to think about shapes that are interesting and flattering; about what I'd like to wear."€ She looks at a fashion magazine maybe twice a year, in the dentist's waiting room. Mostly she turns to nature for inspiration, drawing on the colors and textures of the season to bring her pieces to life. She points out that the changing light every day creates different palettes around us. Her just-debuted Spring 2008 collection appears in hues of the "palest, iciest colors, the ones that we see just at the moment when winter shifts into spring but nothing's started to grow yet."€ Colors in the new line, called "Spring Waters,"€ have names like pearl, foam and pewter. At some instinctual level Traugott seems to know how to tap into the exact shade of green, for instance, that everyone else is responding to at the moment.

It may be because she began attuning herself to colors when she was still very young. A native of Pittsburgh, Traugott has loved clothes for as long as she can remember. In a piece of serendipity, at the age of 14 she was offered an apprenticeship in the costume department at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She worked there while going to school for the next eight years, learning how to make everything from scratch and dyeing white fabric, which she still prefers doing today.

After attending the University of Pittsburgh, she studied fashion design at the American College for Applied Arts in Atlanta. Back home, she began working with a friend making paintings, painted furniture and some clothing to take to arts festivals. In 1990 she launched her own line of clothing, Cachaca Designs, eventually adding two other lines. All three later merged into Homefrocks.

Eight years ago Traugott moved to Santa Fe with her husband and business partner, Philip, a former architect, and their young son. "We came out with a few clothes to sell at the Tesuque flea market for the summer, to see what it would be like. At the end we realized we'd already moved,"€ she said wryly. Back then she was making mostly linens, embellished with vintage fabrics and embroideries. Relocating to Santa Fe saw the business prosper and evolve direction. She now creates six collections a year, of 20 to 24 pieces each. They're sold at the Homefrocks shop on the Old Santa Fe Trail, on their website and in specialty stores around the country. This year she is also starting to sell in Europe.

The success of Homefrocks has let Traugott add one more piece she had to have in her life, and that was the chance to travel. She searches for unique and beautiful fabrics like silk, cotton bobbinet or velvet that she can hand dye. For the Homefrocks Spring 2008 line, she sourced a washable silk made only in one village in Vietnam. One year she found a hand-loomed silk from Cambodia. These days she frequently flies to Thailand, where she works with a small group of women seamstresses who also do some of the hand dyeing, though Traugott emphasized "I make the first colors"€ to show them what she wants.

She recently introduced Goddress, a new line of yoga knitwear clothing co-created with Jodie Franco that they designed with "eco-friendly fibers and ego-friendly styling"€ in mind. Goddress is made from organic bamboo cotton blended with lycra and soy fibers, which are soft and warmer to wear in the winter. The Homefrocks shop also carries Skif, a line of free-form knits handmade by a St. Louis designer, and the work of three jewelry artists. In another month Traugott brings out a new Homefrocks collection made of linen woven with cotton organdy.

No doubt they will have good bones.

Homefrocks, 611 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM, 87505, 505-986-5800 homefrocks.com

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