Mark your calendars! Portland Sewing's much-anticipated Fashion Forward show takes place Sunday, April 29th at the Slate (2001 NW 19th; Doors 6pm & Show 7pm; $25). Vanessa Lambert of La Vie Celebre is one of the talented up-and-coming local designers who will show a collection at Fashion Forward. She generously took a moment to answer our burning questions, as well as share a few sneak peeks from her collection!
Squirrel & Starling: How/Why did you get interested in fashion design and sewing?
Vanessa Lambert: I have always loved making things and being crafty, ever since I was a kid. My aunt taught me how to cross stitch when I was eight, and since then I was in love with needlecrafting. It took me a while to go from embroidery and appliqué to my own garment construction, but I was very motivated to start making the clothes I wanted to wear because I wasn’t seeing them available anywhere else. I spent a good part of my life plus-sized and was always discouraged by how unfashionable bigger women are expected to be—I had dreams of a cute, stylish, expressive wardrobe, and I realized I just had to make my own dreams come true! It was a long period of trial and error, since I had no formal instruction on machine sewing or even reading a pattern, but once I developed an understanding of how pattern pieces fit together, my imagination took off and I was able to start bringing my ideas to life. Luckily, once I reached the point where my designs were more ambitious than my self-taught sewing skills, I found Portland Sewing, a private finishing school that teaches advanced, professional sewing techniques to home sewers. That’s how I ended up in the Fashion Forward program, after taking construction and patterning classes at the school for over a year.
S&S. Who are your fashion design idols?
V. L. I always look to classic mid-20th century designers for inspiration. Christian Dior is my top favorite, followed by Coco Chanel and Yves St. Laurent. But I also love designers who bring a sense of humor and curiosity into their work, like Elsa Schiaparelli, Betsey Johnson and Alexander McQueen.
S&S. How would you describe your fashion aesthetic/taste?
V. L. Fun and whimsicality that inspires down to earth girls to be more playful. La Vie Celebre’s mission is to inspire each woman to become a character in her own story, with silhouettes that not only flatter every figure, but transform wearers to a different time and place, and allow them to feel like their reality is a little more magical than it was before.
S&S. How would you describe the collection you're showing at the Fashion Forward show on 4/29?
V. L. The Archivist is a collection for collectors, so to speak. It’s inspired old reading rooms and card catalogs, shadow boxes full of precious old stuff, and delightful finds from the swap meet. These pieces reflect an era of traditional collegiate life that is worlds away from how students study and work these days, but that’s the idea of La Vie Celebre— these looks bring you back to a place you may have never even seen before, but you feel right at home.
S&S. What are your plans for after you complete the Fashion Forward program?
I’m hard at work developing laviecelebre.com
and hope to have it up and running with all the garments from this collection available for sale late summer, 2012. The idea behind the Fashion Forward show on April 29th is to bring this group of new designers to the attention of the local fashion industry, so if I gain some fans among Portland boutique owners and buyers, that would be fantastic. But I suspect the La Vie Celebre customer is very web-savvy, and probably more than a little nerdy, and does the majority of her shopping online. I would love to see one of my garments selling on modcloth.com
S&S. Where can we find out about your work online?
Right now, my web site is still under development, but laviecelebre.com
hosts my lifestyle blog, where soon you’ll be able to see updates on my concept and development for this collection, as well as production updates and behind the scenes photos! But first I’ve got to finish all these clothes :)
S&S. What are a few of your favorite Portland shops for fabric and sewing supplies?
I am an old school Joann’s
customer, and always head there if I need basic supplies and notions—and have fairly good luck on garment material and inspiration as well! However, Mill End Fabrics
is probably the best for quality garment selection, and really friendly, helpful staff as well.
S&S. Who are your favorite local Portland designers & what are your favorite local shops to buy clothing at?
It’s funny, before I started this program 6 months ago, I was really ignorant of the Portland fashion scene, and the culture of fashion design in general. But I’d say I started to get an idea of what opportunities exist here when I saw Leanne Marshall
on Project Runway in season 5, who was followed quickly by Gretchen Jones
, Becky Ross
and Bryce Black
, who have all represented our city and our industry in just the last few years. Because of this program, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Bryce, who has been a great mentor and a real inspiration to me. I’m also looking forward to seeing bigger things from some of my Portland Sewing classmates like Ashley Riewer, who runs the 52 Dresses Project at 52dressesproject.com
, and Karen Davis, owner of Moulagerie, one of my colleagues in the Fashion Forward program. When I’m looking for something special in a local boutique, I love to check out Mabel and Zora
in the Pearl, and Sloan
on NW 23rd….although just as often, I’ll see something I like in a store and think “ I should just make that myself!”
Photography by Onscreen Imaging.