BA Textile Design student Sam Harlow-Black has interviewed Designer/Maker Lorena Laing as part of our ongoing series of inspirational people.. we love all things knit in Textile Design.
LORENA LAING: INTERVIEW
Designer/Maker Lorena Laing graduated with a fashion degree from RMIT in her early 20s. Adopting Australia as home coming from Chile as a child and settling in Australia she has brought with her a burning passion and love for quality, handmade fashion and accessories. Lorena is uncompromising and committed to using the best of Australian materials in her work. This has made her the toast of Melbourne taking home the Gold award at the Melbourne Design Awards in 2015 after re-launching her own label ‘Amano’ in the same year. Her collections are an outstanding testament to a true textile design artist who pours her passion into beautiful, hand knitted one of a kind pieces. Lorena is one of the pioneers of slow fashion here in Melbourne and I was interested in getting a ‘behind the scenes’ view of how it all works.
Sam: Why did you want to become a designer?
Lorena: That was a decision I made a long time ago. I was a junior when I went to Uni. My personal intention to be a designer changed along the way. Essentially it was the creativity. The decision was based on being creative because that was what fulfilled me I needed to find an avenue to be creative and work at the same time.
Sam: How did you get into textiles and Knitting?
Lorena: I don’t see them as separate things. It’s all just one and the same. It’s a component that I had played around with when I had my own label years back. I pretty much offered across the board everything including wovens, suiting, shirts, cut & sew knits, and hand knits. Recently I made a decision that I wanted to go back to having my own thing again.
When I had my own brand, one of the elements was knitwear and that’s why I wanted to go back to that because I did enjoy it and felt like for me it was an element that I wanted to explore further and deeper. It had so much potential that it needed to be expressed.
Sam: Who taught you to knit?
Lorena: My mum. When I first picked up knitting needles I would’ve been maybe 6.
Currently Lorena is doing some weaving which she learned using YouTube. She wanted to offer that as part of her work. It was something she wanted to include. You gotta love Youtube!
Sam: What challenges did you face starting your own brand?
Lorena: This is the second time I’ve launched my own fashion label. Because it was the second time round that I’m doing this I’ve come back in all the wiser. I know where my strengths lie and where my weaknesses are and how to plan it out properly so that I’m not faced with so many challenges and I can get on with it. This knowledge has come through the experience of working for others and having launched my own label before.
Sam: What would you consider to be your most successful piece of work and is it your favourite?
Lorena: It’s usually quite separate but usually my best seller is not necessarily always my favourite.
It’s important for me to include some pieces in there that I like but I don’t necessarily love. Right now in the collection my favourite being the kimono is my favourite and it has actually been picked up by most retailers. It’s also my most expensive. It’s always a concern because your favourite always ends up having everything in it and that’s why it’s the most expensive. People have surprised me (retailers) and taken it on board.
For me, the way I design I have to diffuse the pieces so that they become more commercial and something that people can relate to and not be scared by because often when designs are too strong unfortunately at a commercial level they freak out and think ‘I can never wear that’ so you have to make it a product.
Sam: Do your customers want to know more about the supply chain and who makes their garments?
Lorena: There’s an international movement that is taking place at the moment but it’s early days. There’s a small percentage of people who are looking to make that shift but it’s definitely moving in the right direction. In countries like Belgium it’s really embedded in their culture now. They’re real leaders in that area. Hopefully we’re not far behind in adopting those changes and being responsible people. You’re seeing this trend in the way people are buying their food and it’s becoming a trend for sure in more consumable goods and I think that will eventually catch up into the rag trade. There’s a few people who do my knitting for me including myself. These are mostly retired women that have been out of work and I’m constantly looking for new people as well.
Sam: What materials do you prefer to work with primarily?
Lorena: I always stick to natural fibres. I don’t have a compromise there. That’s part of my ethos and it’s also the best you can work with in my opinion. Alpaca is for a few reasons. In exploring alpaca there’s many variations like the Suri alpaca and different greys etc. Definitely alpaca because it’s a luxury fibre and a local resource. I’m really focused on that and working with that.
Alpaca is very new in Australia as opposed to the rest of the world where it’s already an established luxury yarn. Australians, in general, prefer disposable fashion. Working with luxury fibres and natural fibres is something that we need to educate our consumers on about their value.
Sam: Does that become a part of your marketing and your business strategy?
Lorena: I think definitely it’s an underlying thing for me. Certainly I’m always promoting it and always talking about it. It’s just because that’s also what I believe. I’m not trying to sell that product because I want you to have that product, it’s because I genuinely believe in it. It’s my life philosophy to be honest. It’s the way we live, what we apply, I’ve always chosen the better rather than the volume. That applies to everything. The food you eat, the way you dress your children, the way I decorate my home. Across everything quality over quantity. I’d rather save for things like a decent design that will last a lifetime as opposed to something that you buy at Target or wherever. It’s a lifestyle.
Sam: Would you say then that your work was trend driven?
Lorena: I don’t even look at trends. I’m not in that cycle at all and I don’t want to be. I think it’s important to be aware and be educated but I’m certainly not going out of my way to create the new thing that’s on trend. I think you’re influenced by your environment and your surrounds.
Sam: Do you have any design heroes?
Lorena: I used to but not so much anymore. I find it’s really nice to not have my head buried in magazines all day long because you’re just much fresher. I feel a lot fresher when I’m designing or coming up with any idea it just comes out. You just go with it. It’s not overworked it’s not overthought. I have had design heroes in the past. There’s nobody I’m really following. There’s a lot of beautiful things out there. I used to love McQueen and I love Vivian Westwood. They used to be the trend setters.
Sam: What advice would you give to future designer makers entering the market?
Lorena: The advice I would give is learn lots from other businesses you work for. The student never stops being a student. Stay humble and be the best you can be at all levels.
Thank you Lorena for giving us an insight into your amazing slow fashion designed, beautifully handmade collections.
The information in this interview came from a conversation with Lorena Laing with light editing done in consultation with Lorena herself. Content and photographs are used with permission.
Amano by Lorena Laing webpage, http://www.lorenalaing.com/ , Viewed on 2 March, 2016
Australian Alpaca Association Ltd magazine, ‘Alpacas Australia,’, Issue 76, Winter, 2015, pp11-12, ‘Lorena Laing: Amano by Lorena Laing’, Mitcham, Victoria, 2015
New Zealand Alpaca Association magazine, ‘New Zealand Alpaca’, August 2015, pp 21-22 ‘Amano by Lorena Laing’, AANZ, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2015
Super Suri Yarns Webpage, ‘Designers Information’, http://www.supersuri.com.au/, Amano by Lorena Laing, Viewed on 20th March, 2016