It's not easy to stand out in the contemporary market, but with her fashion-forward, easy-to-wear pieces, Miami-based designer Lorie Lester is succeeding in doing just that. We spoke with the up-and-comer about what it takes to start your own brand and what keeps her going when tough times hit.
theFashionSpot: Have you always had an interest in fashion?
Lorie Lester: Yes, I've always loved fashion. I remember being obsessed with the movie Grease when I was in elementary school. I got a group of girls and made a "Pink Ladies" club just so I could design jackets for us.
tFS: What gave you the push to start your own line?
LL: Definitely the support and backing of my parents. Also, the fact that I worked with a few local designers and I saw a lot of space for growth here in Miami for a clothing line. I knew I could make more of a mark here as opposed to a saturated market such as New York.
tFS: What do you think are the qualities necessary to be a successful fashion designer?
LL: To be a successful designer, you have to be ready to do it all. It's far from glamorous most of the time. I design, cut, source fabrics, steam, tag, ship and even clean my studio. I'm not only a designer, but a janitor at times. You also have to be willing to put in the time. This is a very time consuming industry. From cutting to sewing, it all takes time. You need to be willing to put in the hours and have patience.
tFS: What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to producing on a small scale?
LL: Designing on a small scale has many challenges. The biggest is competing with huge markets. These days big retailers are popping up everywhere. From H&M to Forever 21, you can't compete with mass produced pieces that retail for $17.99. But that is why it's important to make things so special that consumers appreciate its value.
tFS: You are sold predominantly in Miami. How did that come about? Do you find your aesthetic aligns particularly well with Miami?
LL: I'm based in Miami and I definitely feel my aesthetics reflect that. I'm very influenced by the city's laid-back beach vibe and active nightlife. There is also a strong Latin influence here that inspires me. Latin women love to dress up for occasions. We'll find any excuse to throw on a dress and heels. My designs reflect that. I like sexy pieces that show off a women's body and turn heads. Every woman has a great body part, whether it is her legs, shoulders, waist. It's all about bringing that out with the rich piece.
tFS: Can you tell us about your design process?
LL: My design process begins primarily with the fabric. Textures and prints can really move me and take me in the direction of what I'm designing. Once I have sketches ready, my pattern maker begins to make patterns, and from there we make our first samples. It's really exciting to see my vision come to life.
tFS: Was there ever a moment you thought about giving up and if so, what made you stick with it?
LL: Honestly, I think about giving up all the time. It's so hard at times and such a struggle. A lot of times I just want to walk away from it. But that's where my mother comes in. She is seriously my backbone and always says the right things to get me back on track.
tFS: Is there something you know now that you wish you had known when you started your business?
LL: Just about everything has been a learning process. I've made countless mistakes and have learned from them, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I did recently attend a seminar in New York given by Mercedes Gonzalez, a director at Global Purchasing Companies, and she said something that was very true: In the beginning, all you want to do is get your name out there. You basically give your pieces away just to get noticed. Which can be good, but it can also hurt you when you realize that this is a business and you need to make money. Don't ever give yourself away. Set yourself high and don't forget what you are worth.