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.

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