We’re really happy to welcome Sew Chic patterns to our list of Indie Pattern Month sponsors this year. Sew Chic design gorgeous vintage-inspired patterns in the USA. Kat caught up with Laura to find out more about her designs and her business.
Hi Laura! First up, tell us all a bit about your designs. How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
I love vintage! The truth is, I haven’t always been into it. In college I had no idea what kind of designer I would be, but as the curriculum sent me again and again to the old magazine archives and I soon found myself drawn to the detail, ingenuity, and styling of these first modern clothing designers. Though I take my inspiration from the first half of the 20th century, I generally don’t copy and am not a purist, meaning that an idea that begins in 1910 doesn’t stay in 1910. We live in a modern world and I want to incorporate that classic vintage style in a modern way. Accessories can build up or play down that vintage vibe.
Another thing I love about vintage is that there is a flattering silhouette for every figure type. Right now I am in love with the feminine look of the 1950’s with a trim unfussy fitted waist, full skirt and soft shoulders. Keeping the waistline simple with fullness in the skirt and at the shoulders gives the illusion of an hour glass figure. It’s a great look for so many people.
How did you come up with the name for your label?
I originally did a test start with the name “Nostalgic Patterns.” It didn’t take long to discover the name wasn’t a good fit, so I hired a graphic designer to help me with a new name. She sent me a brainstorm list with “Sew Chic” at the top. Merriam Webster defines Chic (pronounced “sheek”) to mean “smart elegance and sophistication, especially of dress or manner” and I knew it was the perfect name to describe my work.
We’d love to know the story behind your business. What inspired you to create and sell patterns? How did it all start?
Through college, the idea of producing sewing patterns was always in the back of my mind, but I initially went down the road of ready to wear. I showed my collection of designer evening wear at Portland Fashion Week in the fall of 2005 (with Leanne Marshall and her Leanimal label, now of Project Runway fame) with great media reviews and a local morning TV show interview. However, I discovered that I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. I had no trouble turning down the follow up calls and from that moment on, I began building the groundwork to start a pattern company and could move forward without regrets.
And looking forwards, where would you like your business to be in five years time?
I have been blessed with opportunities that I could never have planned for, so it seems presumptuous to jump ahead too much, but I recently signed a contract with Simplicity Patterns as a special collections designer. I will continue with my own line of course, but at the same time will offer exclusive designs through Simplicity, which is a fantastic opportunity for me. In 5 years, I would hope to still be working with them. Providing digital patterns is also on the horizon, but I have resisted this trend for several reasons, one reason being the job(s) that it provides. As the company has prospered, it’s been my pleasure to be able to offer steady work to people that need it, both locally and by telecommute. Teaching is also an area in which I can expand. It has been a great experience to work with Craftsy.com on my Flirty Day Dress class, and I think teaching is so important. In the end, I’m always looking for new ways and opportunities to collaborate, to design, to teach, and share with the sewing community as I can work into my schedule. I really love my work!
Where do you do all your work? Reckon you can share a photo or two with us, so we can have a sneak peek at your workspace? 😉
I’m so lucky to have a job where I can work from home. It’s very convenient, and I can work in my pajamas if I want to. Production that was once contained in one small bedroom made over into a sewing space has now grown to take up a good 40% the house. My formal living space, dining area, and half of another bedroom now have a business use. The garage is my general storage and fabric shop too. I hope to someday remodel, but don’t know when that can happen.
What’s your favourite part of releasing a new design?
It takes a good 6 months to take a design from start to finish and at every step, when I think I’m finished, I’m still not finished. It’s my job to make sure it is as close to perfection as it can be before it moves on to the next step, and when this process comes to the end, it’s such a relief! My favorite part of the whole process isn’t the release, but the initial design phase. I love experimenting with ideas and playing around with fabrics and trims and style lines. At this stage, I often send photos to my family to get their initial reaction. I find that I’m too close to the situation, and I need a fresh set of eyes to critique the concept. I will never forget my mother’s reaction when she first saw the Tia Dress. She just kept say “it’s so CUTE” and by the way she said it, I knew she wasn’t just being kind. The Tia Dress, it turns out, is my best seller but I could never have guessed it. I guess Mother know best!
Thinking of your gorgeous designs, what’s your favourite of all your designs so far, and why?
This is a really hard question! Every design has its own personality and fulfills a different roll within a girl’s life! For instance, the Starter Skirt and Spin Skirt are both my favorite all around go-to separate. Paired with the Victory Jacket, I manage to look put together and also stay warm. When I need to dress in an understated formal way, I love Beatrice. If it’s okay to make an entrance, Fifth Avenue will turn heads. If I want something frilly, I wear Southern Belle. If I mean business, I wear Fantasia, Constance, Pendleton, or Myrtlewood. If it’s a (physical) work day, but I need to look great, I wear Phantom. Tia is perfect for casual public events like a fair or a car show. My favorite for the moment is the moment that is in front of me!
Who or what inspires you, either with your designs or with your business? (Or both!)
As mentioned before, I LOVE the early fashion designers. I could ogle over fashions by Worth on down to Dior. My bookshelf is over flowing with every book related to fashion that I could reasonably afford from history to biographys to collection books published by Museums. On my bookshelf are old textile and Sears catalogs, historical coloring books and even paper dolls. I do pay attention to what is popular at the moment, but I’ve learned that the real trick to success in the fashion world is to be ahead of the curve, not behind it.
Do you have any new patterns coming out soon? Any hints you can give us? (We’re so impatient, haha!)
A new pattern for Spring/Summer was just released in April. I call it Ginseng, and it’s from my early GownsbyLaura collection. I am thinking about next year now, planning out the Fall-Summer cycle. One of the selections will be from my GownsbyLaura collection, but it’s too early to reveal anything exceptional right now. What I can tell you is that my first design for Simplicity, #1061, will be in the catalog June 12.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Laura! So many gorgeous designs. And such exciting news about your new pattern coming out with Simplicity! Congratulations!