Category: 2010 January

Retail Therapy Guest Blogger: Designer Lara Presber says fashion is ‘making it your own’

The National Post, Posted: January 28, 2010, 9:30 AM by Karen Hawthorne

Lara Presber, Calgary architect and fashion designer, begins a two-week guest spot, blogging about her “sustainable” approach to her women’s wear line: designing for a sustained period of use, not a throwaway one-season garment. Her collection is available in stores across Canada and next month at her Flagship Store and Studio space in downtown Calgary.

Lara Presber for National Post

When I first started working in the fashion industry, one of the most exciting parts was participating in fashion shows each season. That was actually how I got started was by participating in regional and national competitions that culminated in final runway shows. It was always incredibly stressful as they were always in other cities which meant organizing from afar and dragging 30-35 pieces across country, but the exposure and exhilaration of having 4-5 minutes that were devoted to seeing my collection come to life is indescribable.

Runway shows are still very exciting, but once I started to realize that this is actually a ‘business’ it really changed my perspective on how and where to allocate funds. A friend of mine who at one time had her own line told me that her partner always said to her after a show “yes, it was a great show, but where’s the financial return on your investment of both time and capital?”. This brings us to a very common point in the fashion industry these days, to show or not to show?

I’ve taken the route of participating in more intimate events where I can show my pieces to a smaller group of people who are my exact target market. This season I’ve done a smaller fashion show at a local wine store, which is nice because I get a chance to talk to everyone and have complete control over what the show looks like (and of course the ability to have a glass of wine!) and then just last week I showed my current collection at a Women’s Networking Spa event for a local law firm.

Typically at a show, there’s a bit of fanfare and they turn the music up loud and the models all file out one by one, but I decided to try something different this time based on one of the most important feedbacks I’ve had from my clients;  many of them are unsure of how to break up their suits and maximizing the versatility of their current wardrobe so I ended choosing pieces from my current collection and showing how to wear the same thing 3 different ways; office, evening and weekend.

Making it your own whether that means deviating from the norm for the designer when it comes to presenting a collection or if you’re an individual taking ownership of the way that we express ourselves though clothes.

Retail Therapy Guest Blogger: Lara Presber’s spring collection inspired by wavy, be-finned Aqua Tower

The National Post, Posted: January 26, 2010, 9:30 AM by Karen Hawthorne

Lara Presber, Calgary architect and fashion designer, begins a two-week guest spot, blogging about her “sustainable” approach to her women’s wear line: designing for a sustained period of use, not a throwaway one-season garment. Her collection is available in stores across Canada and next month at her Flagship Store and Studio space in downtown Calgary.

Lara Presber for National Post

The inspiration for my Spring 2010 collection started with a trip to Chicago a couple of years ago. I was staying at the Fairmont and had a room with an amazing view of the lake and also this incredible skyscraper that was under construction. I had no idea at the time what it was, but couldn’t get the image of the horizontal concrete waves cantilevered out from a glass tower out of my head.

It wasn’t until almost a year later that I discovered the identity of this mystery building to be the Aqua Tower by Chicago based Studio Gang Architects. It wasn’t just the physical expression of the tower that intrigued me, but also that it was the first high-rise tower in North America to be built by a woman led firm (this is according to numerous articles I found online, but hasn’t been confirmed by the architect). It was at this point that I was overwhelmingly convinced that this needed to be the basis for my next collection.

The main tower portion of the building is glass with individual concrete fins projecting out perpendicular to the face. I was really interested in the notion that 2 very hard building materials could produce such a feminine and soft looking structure.  I liked the idea of the waves both from the perspective of the proximity to the lake as well as the reflectivity of the glass and of course undulating shapes of the fins.

I started with some very basic tailored shapes made from linen to which I added some soft, flowing tiers of silk for contrast and movement. I found a silk print that mimicked an image I had seen of the building at sunset inspiring me to add gold into my neutral colour palette of white, blue and grey. After some further investigation, I discovered that the original occupant of the site was the Illinois Central Railroad and found a whimsical ad campaign dating back to the 1920’s. It was from these ads that I added the softer silhouettes and chevron patterned silk.

Retail Therapy Guest Blogger: Designer Lara Presber on dog-walking, life with clothing racks

The National Post, Posted: January 21, 2010, 9:30 AM by Karen Hawthorne

Lara Presber, Calgary architect and fashion designer, begins a two-week guest spot, blogging about her “sustainable” approach to her women’s wear line: designing for a sustained period of use, not a throwaway one-season garment. Her collection is available in stores across Canada and next month at her Flagship Store and Studio space in downtown Calgary.

Lara Presber for National Post

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like you’re walking numerous dogs at the same time and everything seems to be running smoothly and under control until that one tiny squirrel decides to zip across your path and all hell breaks loose? 

Dog No. 1: I am having the realization this morning that my retail space is opening in two  weeks. One might think that I’ve had ample time to prepare, which is accurate, but the truth is that the opening date has been pushed back so many times due to overall construction delays that I’ve let a lot of that prep work slide and now am starting to panic. I’ve been living with multiple racks of clothing crammed into my condo’s living/dining room, my bedroom and any corridor space I can find for the past year or so. It wasn’t such a big deal in the beginning but, as one rack grew, to four the last thing I wanted was to store equipment for the retail space in here as well, which now brings me to the current panic of potentially having to open with just rolling racks; at least I know I’ll have enough! 

Dog No. 2: This week I’m continuing to tie up all of the loose ends for my Spring 2010 production. Almost everything is on its way to my manufacturer in Vancouver if not there already, but there are always a few minor hiccups that seem to snowball into larger issues. This season I am using a variety of natural materials, including bamboo, silk and a cotton-linen blend. I like to give my clients options as far as price point and care, so some are lined and dry clean only while others can be thrown into the washing machine. Inevitably, there is always a textile that I’ve used for the sample set that isn’t available when it comes to production, and choosing an alternate is often daunting. A lot of the design and execution is hinged on a particular fabric so if it’s substituted at the last minute, then sometimes the patterns need to be adjusted as well. Another consideration is the eco component. Some of the stores that sell my line picked up particular pieces due to the environmentally friendly fibres. Having to switch to something that may not be organically certified can compromise what they are providing to their customers. One in particular this season was a really great white, bamboo twill suiting that had a nice crispness and sheen to it; the replacement one is quite similar in appearance, but is made from a  linen/rayon blend. While both are made from natural fibres, only the original was certified. I hold my breath every time I have to contact a retailer to confirm that the replacement will still meet their needs and expectations; so far so good.

Dog No. 3: The Shoe Store is an additional architectural contract and fellow retailer in Fashion Central in downtown Calgary. This has been an ongoing little project for a couple of months now, but of course the go, go, go part if it has synchronized with the other “dogs” so I am racing to keep on top of it (sleep is so overrated!). I haven’t been involved much in the design process, but am acting as the local liaison for an overseas designer to get the space built for a March opening date. It’s been an interesting experience to see how many rules we have here for what’s acceptable to give a contractor vs. what’s acceptable there. I can appreciate all of the safety codes that need to be met, but it seems like they hand off the general design intent there instead of defining every single little screw like we do. The contractor typically builds things as he sees most appropriate anyway, so maybe there’s something to be learned from easing up on the formality of it all?

Off to Dog No. 4 of the day, the temporary, pop-up retail location to hopefully sell a few pieces, finalize details for Dog No. 5, a professional women’s event that I am participating in later this week, and hopefully tend to Dog No. 6 which is sourcing buttons for Fall 2010 samples.

Retail Therapy Guest Blogger: Architect turned fashion designer, Lara Presber

The National Post, Posted: January 19, 2010, 9:30 AM by Karen Hawthorne

Lara Presber, Calgary architect and fashion designer, begins a two-week guest spot, blogging about her “sustainable” approach to her women’s wear line: designing for a sustained period of use, not a throwaway one-season garment. Her collection is available in stores across Canada and next month at her Flagship Store and Studio space in downtown Calgary.

Lara Presber for National Post

“Architecture and fashion?” a lot of people ask. For me, they coexist in the languages of design, but I think it can be a stretch from the outside looking in. I used to be very open with all of my clients about the two professions, but I frequently got looks of hesitancy that made me rethink sharing my alter ego —  if I’m taking on other creative endeavours, how could I possibly be giving them 100% of my effort and enthusiasm? So it remained a secret until just recently.

I didn’t always live a double life; in fact I spent 10 years solely practicing architecture before segueing into fashion. I still clearly remember the moment when I knew that it was time for a change. There had been several arduous meetings to review how many hundreds of thousands of pounds of ductwork we needed for a building’s mechanical system and I suddenly realized that I didn’t care about ductwork. In fact, I wanted to be as far away from those types of conversations as I could possibly get. That week, I applied to fashion schools and a couple of months later was on my way to Italy to start my new, duct-free adventure.

I had had the idea of “inhabitable inspiring wearable” in my head for more than 10 years, but never really understood what it meant to me until the past year. I finally realized that I could be excited about buildings again by taking one that inspired me and translating it into a collection of garments. All of the foundation I had in dealing with building materials gave me a unique perspective on what could be done with wearable fabrics and the idea for the application of truly structured garments took hold. As an added bonus, I’ve been able to find enjoyment in architectural practice again through the clothing, but in a much different capacity. My focus is now on interior renovations where the scale is much smaller, projects move quickly, and I get to play with materials and colour completing the circle between the two worlds.

For my current season, my building of inspiration is Jean Nouvel’s Arab World Institute in Paris. I love all of the tectonics in the moving apertures of the front facade. I used the idea of these blades (shown above in the photo detail) to accentuate different parts of the garments, and, as shown in this grey knit dress (in the photo above left), use them to not only reinforce the softness of the knit, but to add some tone-on-tone vertical lines to elongate the silhouette.

For my upcoming spring collection, I again used a building for inspiration, but also exploited the structure inspired by the specific textile as well. This spring dress (at right, in the photo above) uses a lightweight, but fairly stiff bamboo voile cut into contours on the bias and stitched down. Normally a bias-cut garment is really difficult to wear as it is merciless for figure flaws. But because of the stiffness of the textile, it actually has its own internal structure and maintains its shape while merely skimming the surface of the body, hiding all of those things you’d rather not have anyone know about.

I know that I sound very nerdy with all of the excitement about this but, at the end of the day, I’m still a woman who worries about this or that imperfection — so this is a great discovery for me, personally, as well.

Calgary Herald: Timeless Chic Inspires Designer

Lincoln Phillip, Calgary Herald

Published: Tuesday, January 05, 2010 designer and architect Lara Presber is starting off her new year with a stronger presence in our city. On Jan. 21, Presber will be one of the first local designers to set up shop in Fashion Central (No. 205, 805 1st St. S.W.).

“Opening the boutique makes me a lot more accessible and I get to learn women’s clothing concerns, which allows me to experiment and test out how my garments will look and work for various body types,” Presber says.

Presber studied fashion design in Italy and architecture in Boston, and practises both professions. While the mix was previously 70 per cent architecture and 30 per cent clothing, the new boutique reverses the numbers.

Presber launched her womenswear line in fall 2007, merging both architecture and fashion by using ‘inhabitable’ spaces to inspire ‘wearable’ pieces. Her new boutique will also reflect this approach, including the building’s historic interiors of exposed brick and hardwood flooring. The 350-square-foot space will have modular units that can be changed each season to adapt to the collections. A white backdrop will let the historical context and the clothing shine.

In the meantime, you can shop Lara Presber at her pop-up location in Art Central (where on Thursday she will be having a one-night sale from 5 to 9 p.m.) or Crabapple Clothing and online at

Look For Spring 2010

Presber is influenced by the feminine and masculine structure of the Aqua Tower in Chicago. Presber’s signature tailored pants and jackets as well as flirty dresses are produced in the same colours as the building: white and charcoal as the base, with accents of blue-green silk print and a highlight of golden yellow to represent the sun’s reflection off the glass.

She Would Best Describe Her Style As . . .

Timeless chic. “I’ve owned some of my favourite pieces for over 10 years — paired with the right accessories, (they still) look current.”

Style Sparks

In her previous working life, Presber noticed that women have few options for dressing appropriately beyond the standard suit. “I wanted to provide an alternative that can still be professional, yet flexible enough that you can easily go from office to dinner to weekend and that women can feel individual, confident and really great about their look.”

Best Bargain

NARS Schiap nail polish: hot pink nails can completely change the look of an outfit for very little cost.

Desired Item

A vintage Dior cocktail dress. “The silhouettes are amazing, very structured, yet still incredibly feminine.”

Guilty Pleasure

Presber says she does not wear a lot of makeup, but her trips to Shoppers Drug Mart turn into a two-hour adventure in the cosmetic aisle.

Signature Accessory: Balenciaga’s First bag in black.

Signature Fragrance: Sephora coconut body butter.

Style Influences: A well-put-together everyday woman who can captivate an entire audience of passersby. “It makes me think, wow, she looks great and what is it about her that makes everyone stop and stare?”

Style Icon: Jackie Kennedy Onassis. “You could pull anything from her closet and it would always be beautiful and current.”

Favourite Places To Shop: Independent boutiques such as Naked on 17th, as well as the boutiques of Rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris.

Make It Go Away: Vanity sizing. “The key to a great garment is structure, fit and quality; if you have all of these you can look fantastic at any size.”

Bring It Back: Ladylike vintage style hats.

Favourite Labels: “Lara Presber — I shop my own closet.”

Best Fashion Statement: A few well-tailored coats or jackets can pull together an outfit and make a big impact for Presber, who always includes at least one style in every collection.

Style Cop: “Overexposure of skin does not mean desirable. Too many women equate scantily clad with empowering and sexy when it really does the opposite.”