by Lisa Stasiulewicz
Unlike many designers, Lauren Felton likes people to impose their creative visions on her work.
In what she calls a "populist theory of self-invention," Lauren encourages the wearers of her clothes to reinvent each style by turning a cutout into an armhole or wrapping it around to form an asymmetrical neckline. "[The changeability] is not meant to be a gimmick," 27-year-old Felton says, "but comes more from my personality. I always tend to put my own twist on things."
Starting with an integral shape and then building on it, Lauren designs from an emotional place—too personal to even talk about—but dismisses inspiration as just part of the process. "It doesn't matter what my inspiration is, because it's only relevant to me," she says. The resulting intricate draping and sculptural shapes are meant to draw people in and create a sense of surprise. "The clothes really need to be seen up close," she says. "You can't see the details or the shapes, really, from far away."
A Florida native who originally studied painting, Lauren got her start in fashion working for Maria Cornejo of Zero fame, buying time while she fleshed out ideas for her own collection. She first showed her line in the Spring 2004 GenArt Fresh Faces show and has since produced five collections as well as uniforms for the staff at the SoHo Grand Hotel and the Tribeca Grand Hotel, a collaboration that seems unlikely on the surface given her emphasis on individuality. But the designer gets the attraction. "I really like the idea of a uniform [that has the] ability to be personalized by wearing it different ways," she said. "It can adapt to how youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re feeling."
For designer Lauren Felton, the questions of gimmicks and inspiration aren't nearly as interesting as the idea of self-invention.