Tag: entrepreneur

BOE Magazine: Architect and Fashion Designer Lara Presber

September 5, 2013 · by Rupa Ganatra · in 

We caught up with Calgary-based architect and fashion designer Lara Presber who designs her professional womenswear collections around the theme of ‘Building your Wardrobe one piece at a time.’  Inspired by the recent peaked interest in crowd-funding and pricing sites, savvy entrepreneur Lara has recently introduced crowd-pricing strategy with her women’s collection and on top of her regular collection, launches one limited edition piece from the collection online every month. Having trained as an architect first because Lara didn’t feel fashion design was a practical career path, she now shares her time across both her creative passions; architecture and fashion design. We asked Lara a few questions.

Tell us about your background? I was always interested in designing and making things when I was a child, which typically involved sewing or building things in the garage. When it came time to choose a career path architecture seemed like the more ‘practical’ option. Fashion came along later in life after 10 years of working on mostly large-scale institutional projects and yearning for a more intimate design experience.

Tell us about Studio Presber. What inspired you to launch it? Studio Presber evolved organically with wanting to collaborate on design projects with friends and colleagues who are immensely talented and experts in their own fields. It seemed to make a lot of sense after spending years in top-heavy organizations to strip away all of the bloat to provide clients with direct access to the designers who are also small business owners themselves. Design after all is an investment in your business and who better to advise than another business owner; it changes the perspective of the deliverable.


What inspired you to launch your fashion brand Lara Presber? The Lara Presber line was essentially born out of the frustration of the lack of options available for professional womenswear for myself and my colleagues. Our choices were limited to either very formal suits or pieces that were either too casual or were too revealing for the workplace. The line evolved over time to incorporate elements of architecture with a different building inspiring each collection. The result are pieces that can be worn to work, but also transition easily to evening or weekend. I’ve tried to create some options that are still feminine and could be considered as a suit alternative without the overly formal feeling that a suit sometimes gives.

What has been the most exciting part of launching your business so far? The most exciting part of launching both the fashion line and my architecture practice is seeing them come together in once project. We were recently awarded a commission for a cafe where we will be designing the interior, advising on furniture, collaborating with the branding and graphics component, providing the soundtrack and designing the uniforms for the staff. It’s really fulfilling to see so many facets of design coming together in one project and can’t wait to see the result.

What has been the most challenging part? And how did you overcome it? One of the greatest challenges is being based in a city that is just beginning to find their ‘design legs’. There is so much potential here, but it’s been somewhat of a slow start to convince people that, for example, clothing that is designed and made in Canada is worth the extra cost or that small independent designers who band together to form a larger design team are as reliable and stable as the larger, more traditional firms.

What advice would you give for someone starting out in the fashion industry today? The best piece of advice that I could give to someone starting out in fashion is to do as much interning with established companies as possible before striking out on your own. I had spent some time with an accessory designer in Milan before returning to Canada to launch my own line, but was not prepared for the challenges I encountered. It’s still a relatively new industry here so finding support and mentorship was almost impossible and I made a lot of very expensive mistakes before getting it right.


Who or what has been your biggest inspiration? My biggest inspiration has been my thesis mentor while completing my graduate studies in fashion in Milan. She had started her career in architecture and then transitioned into lighting design before becoming the art director for Christian Dior accessories. She gave so much of herself and really wanted to see me succeed without wanting anything in return. I liked that we had similar backgrounds and that she really understood where I was coming from as a fellow architect; she’s the only person that I’ve met in my adult life that I wanted to be like ‘when I grew up’!

What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future are to continue with Studio Presber and let it grow organically to see where it takes us. Some of the results of the turns we’ve taken have been so much better than anything we could have planned for so will continue along the lines of collaborating with people we enjoy and hopefully making some memorable projects and experiences along the way.

When you look back on life, what would you like to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for having a full and diverse life. We live in a time where everyone is constantly ‘busy’ and seem to compete with each other on how much we can put on our plates at one time. I am trying to find a balance between creating beautiful spaces and objects and then also having the time to enjoy them with the people in my life that are important to me.

If you could be stuck in an elevator with anybody, who would it be? I think I would choose Coco Chanel. She was such a pioneer in the fashion world, but also culturally with redefining how women saw themselves in society.

Sixty7 Architecture Road: Firm Profile


Studio Presber Architecture + Design is a Calgary-based architecture and interior design firm that offers a selection of services that go beyond merely creating space.

This versatility comes from the fact that the principal, Lara Presber, is both an architect and a fashion designer. Such a duality of expertise helps give the firm an understanding of style and design right down to the smallest of details – from a concrete panel to a buttonhole, and everything in between.  The design of corporate attire gives clients the ability to have custom robes for their spa or uniforms for their restaurant staff, which can provide another element of a client’s identity that can seamlessly fit into the look of a project. Services related to fashion design are available along with Studio Presber’s other services such as strategic branding and positioning;  graphic design, signage and wayfinding;  space planning and lease assistance;  project management; and furniture, fixtures and equipment planning. These additional services present numerous ways in which clients can receive a holistic composition that blends right in with their brand.

One of the firm’s most well known projects to date is a specialty jewelry store in a high-profile downtown Calgary mall, which occupies a compact leasable space of only 80 square feet. The landlord removed two ATMs, recuperated the remaining space, putting the gross floor area barely 1% larger than the minimum required by code for more than 1 person at a time. The firm was tasked with consolidating the merchandising capability from the retailer’s previous 400 square foot location into the smaller space, while allowing the store to sell the same amount of product and with increased sales volumes. The solution was to create a usable storefront window that functions as a store during the day and continues to display merchandise after hours.


The firm is also very involved in local charities in the Calgary area, and were recently invited to design a mirror in support of a charity auction. They were inspired by the idea of adaptive reuse of a beautiful antique door salvaged from the Biscuit Block in the warehouse district of Calgary. The door, originally intended for another purpose, was enhanced with a new component to give it a new life as a mirror. Not only did this project provide an opportunity to bring awareness to and raise money for one of the firm’s favorite local charities, it also demonstrated how sustainable design can be simple and accessible to all.


Studio Presber views architecture as a platform that supports their diverse creative team to make space a unique experience for as many senses as possible. When clients choose to undertake a project with the firm, they have the comfort of knowing that the principal is directly involved in their project. This not only allows for a higher quality of service, but also design decisions that are considered from the perspective of another business owner for maximum return on design investment.

National Post “Deal With It”


The recent rash of group buying sites has inspired Calgary fashion designer Lara Presber to try the same crowd-pricing strategy with her collection. In addition to her storefront atelier, Presber now offers a limited-edition garment online every month. For March, it’s this colourful halter dress regularly priced at $380, but with her crowd-pricing strategy, if more than 20 are sold the price drops to $225. But hurry, the clock is ticking…

National Post Digital - National Post - (Latest Edition) - 23 Mar 2013 - Page #65 low

Open File: Indie fashion designers reject recession

Ian Doig, December 19, 2011

2011 12 19 Openfile

Making it as an independent clothing designer has always been tough says architect and fashion designer Lara Presber, whose namesake professional women’s wear boutique is located in downtown Calgary’s Fashion Central.

Though soggy economic times have taken the pinking shears to the city’s small fashion community, she’s elegantly defiant. “This is my passion,” she says.

Presber, who has studied in Boston and Milan, launched her first clothing collection in 2007 just prior to the global economic downturn. She says her clientele were initially insulated against the recession by Calgary’s relatively good economic situation. She only began to feel the pinch over the last year, as did the boutiques that sell her clothing.

“You’re competing with big, big stores that can discount so much more than something that’s designed and produced in Canada,” she says. On the flip side, she says independent designers can be more nimble and adaptable than big retailers.

Presber says she and fellow designers have been forced to reevaluate their business strategies and become more efficient. “It has pushed everyone to be a whole lot more clever about how you’re approaching your clients and your market, what kind of messaging you’re using.”

For example, she offers designer-direct service, tailoring clients’ off-the-rack purchases in-store. “That’s what’s set me apart from my competition,” she says. Having clients walk out of the store Vogue-ready is great advertising.

The recession, she says, has also made fashion buyers more conscientious, another plus for independent designers. Not only are they looking for a high level of service, they want sustainably produced garments that are built to last.

There are very few established designers in the city, and most are emerging talents. “They’re struggling, but that’s not really indicative of the economy,” says Presber. “It’s always a struggle in the beginning.”

“We just went in head first, and that’s the only thing you can do,” says Jacile Hébert, co-owner of Jalu, a small independent fashion house that produces contemporary casual men’s and women’s clothing.

With business partner Luanne Ronquillo, the two launched their first fashion collection this fall, trusting their instincts and ignoring the odds against making it. If there’s glamour in hard work, the duo is très chic.

Hébert concentrates on marketing and sales and Ronquillo is the principal designer, while both maintain day jobs. While holding trunk sales and selling clothes online, they’re working to get their togs in stores.

The work can drain the gig’s inherent glamour, but Hébert claims the thrill of the challenge motivates like Tim Gunn. “The challenge makes the product more rewarding. It’s just keeping an eye on the prize and the small victories knowing they’ll amount to big victories in the end. That keeps it glamorous.”

Hébert says beating the recession is all about being staying relevant and being intimately acquainted with the fashion desires of her clients. “We need to stay true to our identity and to create a brand and a culture more than anything,” she says.

“It’s a really competitive industry regardless of what the economic times are looking like. But people will always buy based on feeling more than anything.”