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En Route: Lauren Winter

Lauren Winter 

VISIT: 2505 SE 11th Ave, Suite 105 

STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – SHOP Lauren Winter – PHOTOS BY NICHOLAS PETER WILSON FOR THE STYLE LINE

“All of our products tell a story, and I want it to be a

positive one,” says Lauren Winter, Portland-based womenswear designer, and our featured interviewee. “While we make everything in our Portland studio, the story doesn’t start there. It begins with the plants that are harvested and woven into textiles in countries thousands of miles away.”

Rooted in relationship-building, sustainable design, and wearability, Lauren Winter is creating a modern brand that aims to cultivate comfort and timelessness for her customers on a global scale. Tucked away in the quiet of her airy Portland studio, Lauren works hard to design with intention, as each piece is thoughtfully made with streamlined simplicity at the forefront of the design process (a signature trait being the removal of all zippers, buttons, or snaps). Aesthetics and sartorial comfort aside, the emerging designer also attributes much of her inspiration to bettering those around her. “I want to be a steward of my blessings, and that includes the earth and taking good care of it,” Lauren explained in our interview below, “I get excited when I make the best possible decisions for not only our brand but our planet and the people living on it.”

Speaking more to the above, you could say that featuring Lauren was one of our best decisions here at The Style Line – as we got a chance to step into Lauren’s world and learn more about what’s driving this creative to give back to the city that’s fostered her both personally and professionally. So, without giving too much away, discover our visit with Lauren who chats more about life in Portland, what she’s learned on the entrepreneurial journey and her advice for those looking to follow a similar path. Also, enjoy exclusive photos from our time together captured by Nicholas Wilson for The Style Line.

My name is Lauren, and aside from being a womenswear designer,

I’m a board game, film, and beer enthusiast. I live in SE Portland with my husband Neil (we celebrate our nine year anniversary this November!) and our Jack Russell Terrier mix, Bloom. Growing up in the Midwest, I was the youngest of three girls – I was the tomboy of the family, so I grew up on a steady diet of video games and science fiction. Faith and community are a big part of my life, and Neil and I love having friends over for dinner, book clubs, and game nights.
My love of clothing design grew from my work as an online vintage clothing seller. I taught myself how to sew by altering clothing from thrift stores, which turned out to be much cheaper than buying new fabric. From learning how to sew, it was a natural progression into making original designs and eventually, starting my own brand.

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We love that as a brand you believe “Comfort can be interesting.” Can you elaborate more on this? How has your idea of comfort changed since first launching the brand?

A part of our brand’s ethos is no zippers, snaps, or buttons; we work on a strictly pullover, ties, and elastic-only model. This rule keeps design work both challenging and interesting. For me, design is all about problem-solving. At this stage, throwing a zipper in feels almost like cheating. Wraps, ties, and elastic adapt in-studio to the wearer – they breathe and move with the body. To me, this is comfort.
Nowadays, my notion of comfort is growing to include wearability and versatility. I want the pieces we sew to suit many styles and uses, to translate from day to night effortlessly, to work on days when you’re constantly on the go without restricting movement. Ease of wash is nearly as important as ease of wear. Most of our styles are machine washable, and this directly influences comfort – moms with kids, travelers on vacation, messy humans like myself – we feel more ourselves when we know what we’re wearing is durable, long-lasting, and washable.

With the above question in mind, what role would you say comfort plays in the collective personal style of Portland dwellers?

City life has taught me how important comfort is on a day-to-day basis! I’m always hopping on the bus or walking a mile to lunch, and I want my clothing to support this lifestyle. Portland is constantly on the move. People bike or walk to work, grab the bus, hike on weekends. Also, with our temperamental weather, form has to follow function. Comfort is not just important but essential for Portland living. It’s a fun challenge for me as a designer to create something not only beautiful but practical!

As a small business owner in Portland, what do you hope the city provides more of for the creative community in the near future? 

Portland is home to many small businesses; we have many locally owned shops here and their presence is a defining characteristic of the city. Our customer base here goes out of their way to support them. But the cost of living is definitely on the rise, so it will be interesting to see how Portland responds to this growth as it affects the small business community. Several businesses have had to move further outside of the city because of rising rent costs, or have been forced to leave because the building they rent from was recently purchased by a developer.
If the city can help small business owners purchase the buildings they operate from, that would give businesses more staying power in the city as costs rise. More small business incubators within the city (like Portland Mercado, which is a nonprofit Latin American food truck park and business incubator) would also be helpful.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

What is your Enneagram type? I’ve loved personality tests ever since I was a kid, maybe because they provide a shorthand for understanding one another. The Enneagram test is the newest one I’ve discovered, and I’m into it. I’m a type 7 – the Enthusiast.

“Art and the act of creating is a way of understanding one another, of establishing a relationship, of telling a story, of reminding one another that we are not alone.”

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How would you advise the next generation of business owners, creatives and makers to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love?

Two bits of advice!
1. The work you do in the beginning will suck (mine most certainly did). That’s ok. Keep working. The only way to get better is to hone your skills, and the only way to do that is to work, work, work. Gather opinions from those you admire, be open to their advice, and then work some more. Hard work (and persistence) is the key to making good stuff.
2. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to start a small business. But because of this ease, it means the small business world can feel pretty oversaturated. My advice to those looking to start out is be your own toughest critic when evaluating your place in the maker world. Listen to your own voice – are you adding something unique and, most importantly, true to yourself to the mix? Figure out your fit in the industry and what your unique contribution will be. It may be your own brand or business, or it may be working with an already established or up-and-coming brand or business you’re passionate about.

Talk to us about the role of sustainability has played in your life. While sustainability in fashion is often associated with accountability, what excites you about being involved this space and why do you think others should be excited about it? 

I want to be a steward of my blessings, and that includes the earth and taking good care of it. I get excited when I make the best possible decisions for not only our brand but our planet and the people living on it.
All of our products tell a story, and I want it to be a positive one. While we make everything in our Portland studio, the story doesn’t start there. It begins with the plants that are harvested and woven into textiles in countries thousands of miles away. Our pure virgin wool comes from sheep raised here in the Pacific Northwest, our denim comes from organic cotton that is grown and woven in Japan, our hemp textiles from China. It’s a long chain of relationships, accountability, and trust, from the farms to the textile mills, to the suppliers, to our studio here in Portland. I want our customers to be excited about not only supporting our small brand, but the entire chain involved.

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How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is LW playing in this movement?

Creativity is, at heart, our way of expressing ourselves. As I’ve gotten older, I strongly believe that we are on this planet primarily to be in a relationship with one another. Art and the act of creating is one of the most authentic forms of communication, a way of understanding one another, of establishing a relationship, of telling a story, of reminding one another that we are not alone. I think that’s powerful. I’m still figuring out our brand’s role in this movement, it’s always evolving.
We are looking for local organizations to support in Portland this fall and winter via sales and in-studio events, as a way of giving back to our city. Currently, my team is working on building a small focus group and community within our brand – we are actively engaging in conversation with our customers and getting to know them better, via email and locally within our studio. We’d love to build relationships with our customers.