November 20, 2015
Jamie Lau Designs
In the Studio
This Friday we thought we’d share this lovely studio visit we had with Jamie Lau Designs last year in Brooklyn. Jamie recently relocated back to San Francisco and we cannot wait to see her this weekend for our Holiday Fair!
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft?
I learned to sew as an adult and took my first sewing class eight years ago as a creative outlet shortly after relocating from New York to my hometown of San Francisco for a new job. (Yes, I am no stranger to the SF–>NY–>SF–>NY–>SF move!) The following year, I got involved in the local craft fair scene and starting selling handmade reversible tote bags made primarily with Japanese prints and textiles.
I had always loved fashion and decided to work my way toward the goal of womenswear design. Dresses were my true passion. While still working full-time, I enrolled in a mix of construction, patternmaking, draping, and textiles classes at a variety of schools, curating my own curriculum. I even signed up for classes when I traveled! I eventually left my day job and “started all over again,” moving back to New York in 2010 to change careers and work as an unpaid creative intern for some hands-on experience. Simultaneously, I continued to develop new designs and silhouettes and vend at Renegade Craft Fair. In 2013, I went full-time with Jamie Lau Designs.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
Sleep has probably been the number one sacrifice. Being a one-person operation, it’s hard not to feel as though you’re one and the same with your business. Each garment is still handmade by me, one stitch at a time. This season, I am trying to be more mindful about giving myself breaks, exercising, eating better, and getting eight hours of sleep per night.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
It is difficult to isolate one particular moment. Rather, I would say that I am proud of the cumulative experience and how much I’ve learned, broken through, and shared as a self-taught designer. It is such a joy to have a wide age range of diverse customers who are drawn to my work. I take pride in the fact that I do not design within the traditional fashion calendar nor follow industry trends. I believe in the longevity of a well-made garment and quality craftsmanship. My silhouettes are designed to be worn year-round and styled, layered, and individualized throughout the seasons by each customer.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
With a background in research and policy analysis, I am naturally a very detail-oriented person and good with numbers. This comes in handy for patternmaking, which breaks down to a sixteenth of an inch at times. Achieving good fit in a garment is just as important to me as ensuring quality garment construction with sewing precision. Both patternmaking and sewing require a certain level of patience and I am a stickler for details and perfection.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I am influenced by naturally occurring textures and gradations found in my surroundings, as well as Japanese decorated ceramics. My all-time styling muse for photo shoots is chanteuse Françoise Hardy and I have always been inspired by easy-to-wear 1960s silhouettes, particularly the geometry and bold use of color in the works of André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin. I also love the work of photographer William Eggleston, finding inspiration in his use of rich and saturated colors.
If you could learn any other craft, what would it be?
I’d love to learn shoe making, but before I get ahead of myself, I should probably devote more time to ikat weaving. Two summers ago, I studied traditional Japanese dyeing and weaving techniques in the mountains of Kyoto. It was a wonderful two-month experience to go (almost) offline, immerse myself in the world of textiles, and learn a new skill in a dedicated workspace, virtually free from distraction. As a maker, I believe that it is important to continue to grow and challenge yourself.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Having grown up in San Francisco, I am not afraid to mix prints, love bold pops of color, and design seasonless clothing. I recently relocated back here from New York earlier this summer and am happy to call San Francisco home again.
What is your favorite part of your studio/workspace?
My fabric collection is definitely my favorite part of the design studio. I primarily work with traditional Japanese prints, handwoven ikats, luxurious brocades, and also create my own textile designs. Since I am a designer that starts fabric first, I often look at my fabric collection for inspiration to see what I should cut into next, or what would go best with a new silhouette I am drafting.
What do you enjoy most about your craft and entrepreneurship?
I love doing craft and design shows and meeting new customers, greeting returning shoppers, and forming friendships with other designers and makers. Some of my best friends now were met through those early craft fairs when Jamie Lau Designs was just starting out with reversible tote bags.