Elyse Rainbolt’s name conjures up images of a mystical woman dressed in flowing silks, dancing and twirling to the beat of a drummer that only she can hear. Best of all is that this ethereal woman is indeed Elyse’s real life persona, spot on. Elyse is a free spirit in the truest sense of the word. I can’t quite place exactly when or where she and I first met a couple years back, but suffice it to say I’ve been intrigued by her pixie-like beauty ever since. Elyse also happens to be a highly skilled artist and designer, hand painting silks and masterfully sewing her own leather and fur creations. She and I initially connected over a shared love of both fashion and music, which has been a central wellspring for her work. The more I get to know this otherworldly woman, the more I want to know. Read on in our interview below and I think you’ll feel the same.
Elyse wears her own hand painted silk top and scarf, along with a diamond and antler necklace and enamel evil eye bangle by The Woods.
Elyse welcomes us to her new home and studio. Photography by Sara Ford.
Goldyn: You work with some very interesting mediums for design that require a high level of skill to make… how did you know that was your calling?
Elyse: I’ve always loved fur coats; most in my collection are vintage and I’ve always dreamed of making my own fur designs. In old sketch books I’ve recently found notes of making fur and leather garments from over five years ago. Furrier trade is a very small, dying industry. In 1880 there were 2,500 furriers in America, today there are 45 people with that profession and I am proud to be one of them. It’s a very laborious trade and I’m thrilled to have been learning it from a master furrier for the past three years. I’ve also been sewing since I was 10 and always making or modifying my own clothes. With the technical know-how I now have, I’m looking forward to designing for musicians and creating capsule collections for boutiques. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my time.
Snippet from Elyse’s sketchbook
Goldyn: What influences your work?
Elyse: I’m influenced constantly by music. I can listen to one album, or one song for weeks on end. Music creates a dreamscape for me that inspires me to create and make. If I’m low on energy the right song will give me the boost to stay up all night and make something awesome. A song, a band, a musician, provides me with so much joy and love that the only way I can express and interpret that sound is by hand painting silk, or making an outfit that creates the vibe//era I’m hearing. I don’t think I’d have the garments I made now if it wasn’t for music.
Look at Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, or Pink Floyd in the sixties or the Rolling Stones. They had a look that went with their sound. I want to create that for my contemporaries. I love seeing live music and love when the band puts on a good show -and are dressed to the nines. I don’t think enough bands are bringing it to the stage today, and I want to create looks for them that compliment their sound and their own style, just next level.
I am also influenced by 1930s films and love the looks of Jean Harlow and Busby Dames.
I’d say I am driven to create looks that aren’t available everywhere. A good swim suit. A perfect leather jacket. And fun one-of-a-kind pieces.
Detail of Elyse’s hand painted scarf, made for an LCD Soundsystem show
Goldyn: How does what you do for a living influence your own style?
Elyse: I have unlimited access to fur and leather sewing machines and a great work space. That’s allowed me to create new looks for myself as inspiration arises. This past year my goal has been to make everything I wear, and to step away from my massive vintage collection and think about core looks I want and can’t find anywhere. I’m usually in a hand painted silk top, striped leggings, my silver motorcycle jacket with hand painted lining, carrying my leather bag and wearing my kiln fired glass jewelry. This coming year I hope to create more fur and leather goods, swim suits and hand painted textiles for myself and fashionable audiophiles.
Goldyn: How would you define your style in a nutshell?
Elyse: I would define my style as debonaire super sophisticate, Art Deco rocker from the sixties with a modern timeless edge.
Goldyn: What’s your favorite decade and why?
Elyse: My favorite decade is the 1960s for sure. The music, fashion, film and creativity that burgeoned from that decade is still relevant today and has shaped my whole design aesthetic.
Two coats made by Elyse
Goldyn: What’s your favorite piece that you’ve designed?
Elyse: My favorite piece that I have designed is my tabbard dress I hand painted especially for Psych Fest this past week. Next would be my silver motorcycle jacket I made last October – that was a dream in the works that took four years to come to fruition. After that it would be my handpainted silk jacket styled after Chris Jagger’s jackets he hand made for Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and his brother Mick Jagger. But honestly, each new piece I make I think is my best work, and I’m really looking forward to creating a small line this year and custom pieces for musicians.
Goldyn: If you could be anyone at any time, who would your fantasy self be (famous or just made up!) and what would she be doing?
Elyse: If I could be anyone in history at any time, I would be myself, but born in 1948 London so I could catch the whole swinging sixties and dance with David Bowie, and go to every concert of every band from that decade. Woodstock. I was there. 😉
Goldyn: I know you’ve worked with musicians in the past doing custom clothing…Any wild stories?
Elyse: I’ve been very blessed to create custom pieces for musicians I admire and am influenced by. This year has a few exciting projects for me (but it’s too soon to talk about).
Some of my most memorable experiences have begun at an early age. At 17 I met Robert Plant. At 18 I met Paul McCartney’s whole band and stayed a week at his guitarist’s house in LA. At 22 I was fortunate enough to meet one of my favorite songwriters of all time, Donovan. At 26 I created some silk art pieces for Kraftjerkz, and stayed with Tom Tom Club in their lovely home where my art is on display. Most recently I designed a custom scarf for Charlotte Kemp-Muhl in January, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself on GOASTT’s tour van on the way to Austin Psych Fest just a week ago, thanks to my friend & musician Jared Samuel of Invisible Familiars. It’s been very surreal to interact with those creatives that sonically inspire me, and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.
Chatting out front
Goldyn: Your hand tattoo is beautiful, and appears to have some significant meaning…. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
Elyse: One if my favorite movies of all time is Logan’s Run. It’s a 1970s SciFi flick starting Michael York, Jenny Agutter, and Farrah Fawcett. It takes place in in a dystopian society of the distant future where no one marries, no one works, and every pleasure is there to be had, but no one lives past the age of 30. Logan (Michael York) is a Sandman. His job is to make sure no one escapes the city when it’s time to carrousel, and renew. Everyone has a life clock in the palm of their hand and when it starts flashing, it’s their time to go. Except some people don’t want to renew, and want to leave the city and find sanctuary. Those people are called Runners.
After Logan kills a Runner he turns their belongings in to the computer. An ankh is one of the items – a symbol of sanctuary. Logan is told to identify himself by placing his life clock on the scanner. The computer then turns 26 year-old Logan into a 30 year-old with a flashing red palm. He is then instructed to find sanctuary and destroy it. Logan is now forced to become a Runner, hence, Logan’s Run.
Anyway, I’ve always loved the film, and last summer I realized that I’d been thinking about getting a palm tattoo for over 14 years and that if I got it for my 30th birthday it would be too late, so last summer I called up my friend and got an appointment for my Logan’s Run 30th birthday palm tat. It’s my first and only tattoo (so far) and symbolic of many things to me, plus my favorite movie.
Logan’s Run tattoo
Goldyn: Any words for girls growing up today about style?
Elyse: Be yourself. Don’t be afraid of standing out from the crowd or looking different from your friends. If you want to dress like it’s 1991, go for it. My style in high school was Twiggy on the way to a Beatles concert. EVERY DAY. My clothes expressed my interests and what I wished more people would wear. Growing up in a small town didn’t make it easy to be accepted fashion-wise, but once you start dressing how you feel and figure out what you’re into, you will be light years ahead of your peers that wait until they’re older to try a new look or really know what they love. Plus you will get to look back on your youth as a time when you could really be free to express yourself through fashion and can get away with a lot more avant garde looks. If you can’t find what you want to wear, make it. Learn to sew, buy vintage, and have fun.