Spanish-born, New York-based fashion designer Eli Caner is the creative mind behind the sophisticated label, Lady and Butler. The company has carved out a niche producing style-driven, workplace-complimenting uniforms that are both chic and comfortable for employees. Recently, she designed a bespoke clothing line full of vibrant colors and exotic prints for the staff of The Hollywood Roosevelt’s Tropicana Pool Cafe–she even branched out into film to showcase the collection.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Eli to discuss growing up in Barcelona, her inspirations and style, and what’s next for Lady and Butler during her latest trip to Los Angeles.
Let’s dive right in! What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Positive. Adventurous. Creative.
Tell me about your career so far, when did you get into fashion design?
When I arrived in California from Spain, the only way for me to stay in the country was to go to school. So, I decided to study fashion in San Francisco and I eventually moved to New York for an internship with various designers. I then worked with emerging designers in design and development but after a few years, I decided to go own my own and start Lady and Butler.
Lady and Butler design and produce chic uniforms for restaurants and hotels. How did you come to be creating for that specific clothing niche?
When I arrived in New York, I was a cocktail waitress. I didn’t like my uniform so I started doing research about uniforms that would be a better fit. I found out that there’s a need for creating bespoke uniforms that are on-brand with a hotel or restaurants’ look and feel. But at the same time, they should make workers feel good.
In what ways does designing uniforms differ from designing other types of clothing? Are there unique considerations and factors for each client and collection?
There are many, but fit is the most important for uniforms. The fabrics must also be selected carefully so it’s comfortable, washable, durable, breathable and designed to last.
What was your inspiration for the collection you developed for The Hollywood Roosevelt?
The Tropicana pool was my inspiration. It was such a fun theme to base a collection on. And a fun place that people can hang around in poolside, because it’s a sunny outdoor space with a sexy vibe all year around.
- Photos by Alexander Valerio
You also created an evocative film titled Dancing Commas, shot at the historic David Hockney pool at The Hollywood Roosevelt. This was your first foray into film, me about it…
As a creative person, I wanted to express my vision in a film. And given its history, The Hollywood Roosevelt was the perfect location for me to tell my story in. It was a collaboration between friends as well as the hotel. Lola VI, the producer, introduced me to the talented Charlotte Rabatte who directed the film. My friend Louis Epstein made a catchy, seductive song for it and Digital Evolution helped us with post production to give the film a vintage effect. The idea of the film was to a human-like character to the historic pool because it has hosted incredible parties and people throughout the years. The staff in the film, which are supporting characters, are all wearing sexy Lady and Butler uniforms, which reinforces the seductive energy of pool.
Do you follow a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg-esque approach to your own personal style, with uniformed dressing for everyday life?
I guess, because wearing black is my main uniform. But I like to change my look for different occasions.
What did growing up in Barcelona bestow on you?
I think Barcelona gave me my a devil-may-care personality, because growing up in a city with a beach gave me a relaxed approach to life. My dad used to bring me to Park Guell for and the Miro museum next to my house for our play dates which gave me the appreciation for art and arquitectura. But the Olympics in ’92 held in the city gave me the yearning to explore the world.
Where was the first place you adventured to overseas? And what was that experience like?
My first adventure overseas was in 1994 when I was a professional swimmer for Spain, and my team and I competed in Genova, Italy. After that, I went to New York City and it captured my soul instantly–its magnetic energy stuck with me. It’s no small wonder that I live here now, but I still am on a continuous journey to explore the rest of the world.
What does a normal day in your life look like?
When I’m in New York, my days are full on from morning to the evening. I have a home office space so at 10am, after a couple cups of coffee, I start working with my staff. In the evening, there are always plenty of things to do, but I also love to stay in and enjoy my home as I travel a lot.
What do you think about when you’re alone?
I’m a daydreamer. I’m always thinking what’s my next adventure and destination!
What sights, sounds, places or spaces inspire you most?
The sound of waves, the smell of nature after a rain, and I love being in the middle of big architectural structures and design spaces. I like people-watching in big cities and taking in small towns with lots of history.
What activities or daily rituals do you employ to get you through the working week?
I try to work out and cook at home at least twice a week. I always love seeing friends and family, which helps
me get through the week.
What’s next for your brand Lady and Butler?
I’d like to do more films soon, creating collaborations with other artists and friends, and a summer capsule collection for retail.
- Story by Ariel Katz
- Photos by Che Stipanovich and Alexander Valerio