Laura Laurens is a progressive fashion designer based in Bogotá, Colombia. Her collections are both timeless and unique with an unexpected touch of roughness. She has always worked in the name of inclusiveness. For her collection named Wraparound she worked hand in hand with the transgender women of the indigenous Embera Chamí community, with their impressive beaded embroidery, going far beyond fashion and aesthetics and involving these minorities in her social project.
The artist, due to her background, has dedicated a large part of her career to telling uncomfortable issues in society through fashion, in a both subtle and irreverent way. For her collections, Laura recovers military clothing and transforms them into pieces of art to wear, creating an anthology between the Colombian civil war and its new life.
Laura Laurens founded her eponymous brand seven years ago, a family business that has reached global luxury stores, such as Openning Ceremony in New York and L’eclaireur in Paris, as well as retailers in Italy, China, Holland and Germany. We interviewed her:
Hi Laura, can you tell us something about your background?
Laura Laurens: «I’m a self-trained designer. Since I was a girl I learned from my grandmother and my mother watching them making the dresses for the ballet shows for me and my sisters. I get caught by the translate process of an emotion, the idea, the material, the costumers and the spaces of the process. I used to make my own clothes and people liked them and they started buying some stuff in university. In 2014 I launched my eponymous brand in Paris and step by step things have been growing organically».
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You are known for a uniquely raw approach to fashion design. Can you tell us a little about your creative process?
Laura Laurens: «I believe that creative processes come from empathy, the capacity to perceive the other, to perceive others’ desire and mirroring it in ourselves. I start organizing that chaos into something that then you can give to the world. I compare my process to a polyphony of voices. One day I see a black trash bag in the street and then I come up with that idea of receiving and giving something to someone I love and then everything starts to sew together. Then this energy becomes a collection or a creative project. It’s a dialogue between two supposed opposites. Textiles are my white canvas to start these conversations. I’m really into those in between spaces that are not black nor white, not feminine nor masculine, where high and low blend».
What is your process for designing more sustainably and how do you manage to keep costs down?
Laura Laurens: «I think sustainability is not a plus, the what is just as important as the how, this consciousness drives you to find the suppliers and people that are connected with the circularity and transparency in processes. We are a niche brand, we don’t produce industrial quantities, and we assure to have a fair payment to the whole chain so costs will be higher. It is all in the way we approach our customers, who are willing to pay a little more. Because yes, nowadays some people prefer a product made with love to tons of different products».
Tell us about your work with the Emberas indigenous trans communities of Colombia.
Laura Laurens: «My work with the transgender Emberá Chamí Indigenous Community started as a friendship. The more we got closer the more I realized how stigmatized and outsiders where in this system, and at the same time how talented they were with their ancestral crafts. So we started co-creating. They were so happy and empowered with this creative adventure that we ended up traveling to London to make an exhibition in the Somerset House.
Then the Major of Medellin Invited us to make a show during “La Fiesta de la Diversidad”. During the complete lockdown we made a project called No Corona about icons with queeny behaviour that never got their crown and so on! Now we are an artistic LabTeam with part of the team in London, the girls in the community and the rest of us in Bogotá. Soon we’ll launch a film».
Is Colombia open to accepting the LGBTQ communities?
Laura Laurens: «Yes, it’s open in the cities, but it’s been a long process. With indigenous communities is another story, because it’s a minority within a minority. From a general point of view, indigenous communities tend to be very macho oriented. So, things for the trans girls haven’t been easy. Thanks to the project they have now become leaders, this is what makes me happy the most».
What can you tell us about your new collection?
Laura Laurens: «The new collection is called: Heart of Gold (like Neil’s Young song), it is inspired by this alchemical idea of taking off layers and noise until you get to the essence, the gold, the heart of things. Love just happens, you don’t look for it. The song says: I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold… It is when you are humble and with no expectations, when you redeem the spirit from matter that magic happens. As in most of our collections, we used repurposed military fabrics, cotton and Eco-dyed linen and our golden brushes signature».
I’m curious what the Bogota music scene is like, and if you think it inspires your work in any way?
Laura Laurens: «I’m crazy about music and it is definitely a big source of inspiration. If I listen to a song that really tells me something I am able to completely change direction, I can also change an almost finished collection. Bogota music scene is super interesting, is a crazy syncretism from music overseas, local rhythms, soap opera influence, and rare flowers. There is an Emberá Indigenous group called “Tres Corazones”. One of the best moments I shared with them was in the middle of the tropics on the roof of a simple house listening to rap in Emberá Chamí dialect… just blew my mind»
What do you think is your signature piece?
Laura Laurens: «We have a piece called: The Circle Jumpsuit, it’s an iconic piece because it talks about how I conceived the volume and the order of things. A lot of our pieces can be worn upside-down because they came fom the de-construction of the circle».
If you could go anywhere now, where would you go and why?
Laura Laurens: «To the sea, long time without feeling it…»