Laurs Kemp: Making it as a designer without conforming (+ 10 Portland Travel Tips)

Laurs Kemp is a clothing designer, business owner, writer, and podcaster. She has a unique vision for her brand: she eschews seasonal designs and focuses on signature pieces + a kaleidoscope of one-offs and re-worked vintage.

So how does a designer remain true to her creative impulse, break every style rule, and still run a successful business? I wanted to find out. And I figured you would, too. So I paid the designer a visit in her Portland shop, Shampoo.

If you’re looking for style inspiration beyond social media, if you’ve ever let fear stop you from a creative venture, or if you want to hear how one small business owner gets by while breaking the rules and sticking to her creative vision, this post is for you.

Today we’re going to cover:

  • How Laurs started a clothing line and brick-and-morter shop
  • How to start a creative venture– even with few or no resources
  • How films can help you find style inspiration that has personal meaning
  • Laurs’ 10 Portland Travel Tips

Ready? Let’s dive in.


THE COLLECTED WORKS OF LAURS KEMP: AN INTRODUCTION


“I started my clothing label – under my name, Laurs Kemp – about four years ago. It’s always been a mixture of small-batch original designs, one-offs, and re-worked vintage.”

“Shampoo started about a year ago. It’s in a building [811 East Burnside, Portland] containing exclusively women-run businesses. It’s like a feminist mini-mall!”


THE BEGINNING


“My mother taught me to sew as a kid, and I got an Apparel Studies degree, but I’ve learned most of what I know from trial and error.”

“The best way to learn is to jump in and let yourself make a million mistakes and improve over time.”

“The best way to learn about pattern-making and construction is to jump in and let yourself make a million mistakes and improve over time. Deconstructing vintage to make pattern templates was a big help for me. You can find cheap fabric to practice on at thrift stores and in sale sections. If you need help figuring out a fit/construction problem, there are so many video/photo tutorials online to help you!”


ADVICE FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS


“There’s not really one particular piece of advice, except ‘just go for it.'”

“Some things I jumped into without planning just to get it started and some things I planned for ages before I finally took the plunge. I make tons of lists about every aspect that I need to work on – long-term and short-term – and put them on post-its on my studio wall. Make lists of the things you want to achieve and then figure out the baby steps it will take to get you there – that will make it way less daunting.”

“Make lists of the things you want to achieve and then figure out the baby steps it will take to get you there.”

“Even if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do or make (I’m still trying to figure that out myself!), just make a moodboard of the things you like and go from there!”

“If your resources are limited, get creative! If you can’t afford a nice website, start a depop account. If your photos look like shit, work out a trade with a photographer or get a photo editing app (I like Afterlight and Over). If you can’t afford nice new fabric, get some weird fabric/bedding at Goodwill and rework it! Being resourceful is the best way to think of new ideas and find your niche!”


FINDING STYLE INSPIRATION FROM FILM


“I had a love of films and vintage when I was growing up. I would sketch dresses while I watched 1930s films on TCM. Then in college, I discovered the Criterion Collection and foreign films and then everything clicked.”

“Films are still my main source of inspiration”

“Films are still my main source of inspiration, especially obscure 1970s European horror/erotica and any film by French writer/director Eric Rohmer.”


FAST FUN FACTS


What is the best purchase you made in the last 3 months under $100– one that made your life better?

“I recently figured out that day spas are not some absurdly-priced luxury and that you can visit a nice sauna for like $20-$30 or get a life-changing massage for like $60! They really improve your mental and physical health. I can’t recommend them enough!”

What is your favorite beverage for day and for night?

“Daytime: sparkling water (preferably apricot- or mango-flavored). Nightime: orange wine with lots of skin contact.”

What is your favorite place or country you’ve been to?

“Slovenia.”

Where would you most like to go?

“Senegal.”

What is your favorite decade or era of style?

“There’s this sweet spot for me in the late 1970s to early 1980s. I draw most of my inspiration for clothes, decor, and film from that era!”


10 PORTLAND TRAVEL TIPS


  • “I absolutely love wine bars, so I recommend checking out OK Omens, Dame, and Enoteca.”
  • “My favorite (vegan/vegetarian) places are Lovely’s, A.N.D. Cafe [now Off the Griddle], and Navarre.”
  • “My favorite shops – besides the stellar line-up at the 811 Shops – are Johan, Backtalk and Association Shop.”
  • “One of my favorite things to do in Portland for free is to visit PICA (Portland Institute of Contemporary Art) downtown and peruse through their collection of art books and eat lunch on their rooftop balcony. “

FIND LAURS


  • You can find Laurs Kemp clothing and wearable keepsakes on her website, Garmentory, and on Depop.
  • Follow Laurs and her shop, Shampoo on Instagram here and here.
  • Follow her hilarious and brilliant podcast on forgotten films, Storybored,on Instagram and ITunes.
  • See Laurs’ list of films with great clothes on her Mubi account.

FIN


Endless thanks to Laurs for taking the time to share her work and her story. Since the interview, Shampoo has moved to a new space near the one pictured here.


Now for Your Story


Have you ever thought about starting your own clothing line? What are your favorite spots to visit in Portland? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

If you love learning learning about independent designers, see my posts on Barcelona-based shoe-maker, Sevilla Smith and on Minneapolis-based brand, Hackwith Design House.

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