meet: laurs kemp

happy new year's eve, guys! laurs kemp is here today! i'm so excited to share an interview with a fellow portlander who is in the make scene and making it happen. laurs has a collection of women's apparel which is made from repurposed items - i love it already, and i'm sure you will too!

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what is your background?
my mom was a home ec teacher, so she taught me to sew. she also introduced me to vintage clothing and old movies. as a kid, i would sketch dresses while watching old movies on tcm. I received a fashion degree from the university of arkansas and worked in corporate design, but I learned the most when i just started making my own patterns and sewing original pieces - and making a ton of mistakes!  i highly suggest trial and error if you want to get better at anything.

how did you get started designing & selling?
before i moved to portland, i lived in little rock, arkansas. i created a few small collections for runway shows and photo shoots, and i began to sell in some local shops and on etsy, as well. i used to repurpose vintage clothing primarily, but i began eventually to use vintage fabrics for my own patterns. i moved to portland in the hopes of finding a larger audience for my designs. i've lived here 3 years, but i only began designing and selling full-time about 6 months ago. 

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what influences your style and designs?
i began my love of fashion through films and that symbiotic relationship has only strengthened over the years. some of my pieces in previous collections have even been named after my favorite directors - like my Varda dress and Fassbinder bustier top. films are my biggest inspiration... but not my only one. my last collection was inspired by obscure French and Eastern European art and horror films, the 1996 film "The Craft," occult imagery, the early albums of Roxy Music, and the photography of Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton.  and i'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Elsa Schiaparelli's brand of Surrealism, 1930s showgirl costumes, and The Lost Generation.  i like to keep my eyes open for inspiration - whether I'm walking around portland, traveling abroad, or online looking at pinterest or mubi.  another important part of my aesthetic is using found materials. there are so many beautiful fabrics and findings that already exist, that i feel more true to my character at this moment in time if i attempt to use as much of these found materials in my pieces as i can. new fabrics are a last resort for me and i use them rarely. i realize that this may hinder my business from growing quickly, but i'd rather make exactly what i'd like to make.

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what is your favorite item in your shop?
lately, I've really been into making kimono-style jackets in a variety of interesting fabrics. they have less of a true Asian influence and more of a 1930s lounge wear meets 1970s boho with a subtle modern minimalist vibe - which is a good way of describing my aesthetic as a whole!

what do you love most about your job?
everything! i love that it was always my dream job and that i finally made the leap and quit my job so i could pursue it full-time. i constantly have new projects to work on and i get to work with my hands all day. finding inspiration and making mood boards is actually part of my job!  it gives me an excuse to meet new people and visit new places.  i love that when i am introducing myself to someone i no longer have to differentiate between my day job and my passion; i get to hold my head high and unequivocally state that i'm a designer!

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what advice would you give to makers who are just getting started?
i feel that i'm still in the beginning stage and probably could do with some advice myself! i will say that quitting my "day job" felt like such a huge leap, but within weeks I wish I had done it sooner! i know quotes are sentimental, but i love this one from the lovely Anais Nin, "the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." that helped me summon my courage. the only way you can start doing something is by damn well DOING IT!  not to be all quote city, but this one by Thomas Jefferson is so true as well, "i find the harder i work, the more luck i seem to have.

from one portlander to another, what is your favorite thing about portland?
i love that there are always opportunities for artists, designers and makers to get inspired, hone their craft, collaborate with like-minded people, and find an audience for their work. it's a city full of that old-fashioned entrepreneurial spirit and the creative chops to back it up! but on a personal note, i love all vegan restaurants (especially Portobello) and the cinemas (especially Church of Film)!  what a town!

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these are my favorite kind of stories, the ones that are just getting started and full of passion. thanks for sharing, laurs! so excited to keep up with you. be sure to follow her on instagram here and to check out her shop to get some gifts for yourself + friends.