By Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski
How does a renowned designer, with an Order of Ontario and three honourary PhDs under her belt, return to the fashion world after a three-year hiatus with L designed by Linda Lundstrom?
Canadian-born Linda Lundström tells me about finding inspiration in her daughters, her commitment to using sustainable materials and how she could have been a florist had she not fallen into fashion. Oh, did we mention she’s a professional public speaker and teaches at George Brown College in her spare time? Read on to learn more about the “Made in Canada” advocate.
DGS: You stopped designing for the Lundstrom brand three years ago. Why the return to luxury design?
LL: Sometimes life guides us to the very thing we try to avoid. In 2009, when I resigned from my position as designer of the LUNDSTROM brand, I had no desire to create clothing. I was still raw from the experience of losing my company and needed time to heal. I designed decorative pillows, Japanese paper walls and interior accessories and threw myself into advising clients with my knowledge of Lean Manufacturing and the Apparel Industry. People kept telling me that surely I would return to designing... how could I not? But I would have none of it – been there, done that!
August 14 is my daughter, Mosha’s, birthday. My husband, Joel, and I were taking her and our daughter Sophie, boyfriend Aidan and childhood friend Natalie, out for dinner in Toronto. Mosha loves when I make her something for her birthday, so I went to my studio and chose a beautiful, buttery soft, black kid leather hide that I had and cut and sewed it into a shawl collar/scarf, leaving the uneven raw edges on the outer edge.
It came together so effortlessly, simple yet luxurious and a piece that I suspected would appeal to my daughter’s increasingly discerning taste. After all, Mosha was the fashion news editor at Flare, Canada’s largest fashion magazine.
When Mosha opened her gift, she looked at me and gasped, “Mom, I love this!” Then, she asked “Mom how did you know that leather scarves are going to be trending?” She knew I had completely dropped out of the fashion scene, though she was still fully immersed in it. I had no idea what was happening; I only knew that I loved working with leather and had always supported the use of sustainable, natural fur.
So that’s how it started. Sophie wanted one, Natalie, too, and even Aidan liked the bad-ass look of the collar to add to the lapel of a black tux. “Mom, you have to make more of these, (they are) beautiful!”
I had to admit that the gift sparked something in me, something that was free of the responsibility of creating a large collection, employing over 100 people, satisfying sales agents and retailers all over North America. That was the past and this felt different, so I proceeded slowly to make a few more of the shawl collars, then a duster vest and coyote wrap for myself.
In September, I wore the pieces with a gold leather wrist cuff to deliver a speech to an audience of about 700 at the Inspiring Women conference in Kitchener, Ontario. One of the other presenters, a woman in her 30s, said “I want what you’re wearing... everything”. That was it – I knew that the gift to my daughter was actually her gift to me and the beginning of my gentle return to designing.
By Oct. 16, we had engaged a PR firm and built a website designed by my daughter Sophie (who models all the styles online), freshly graduated from visual communication at Emily Carr University. Several Trunk Shows were booked to allow people to touch and try on the items. These events were created to provide me with a direct connection to hear comments and inspire me to create more designs in the future.
DGS: What do you love about working with materials like fur and leather pelts and skins?
LL: I love that no two pelts or hides are alike. Each one has a unique shape with defects and character, which I am challenged to include in the styles. All of this adds to the desirability of the pieces because they each have to be cut individually. It’s like putting a puzzle together; every bit of the hide is used and I even make soft jewelry from the small pieces. I have always loved working with my hands, cutting, sewing and building garments. These fur and leather pieces call on all my skills, creative and technical. It is very satisfying.
I am also a big supporter of Native trappers and their role as caretakers of the land. Fur is a sustainable resource in Canada and in addition to being the most practical material for our climate, it is integral to our history and identity. Leather is a byproduct of the food industry and as long as meat is consumed, there will be leather.
DGS: You teach at George Brown College (GBC). What class do you teach? What career advice do you offer to students and young designers?
LL: I teach Draping in the Fashion program at GBC. I feel strongly that strong technical skills are essential to being viable in the apparel industry. Pattern-making, draping, sewing skills and knowledge of production methods are just as important as design creativity. I also tell my students to be physically fit – fashion isn’t always glamorous, it requires strength and stamina. Try lifting a 50-metre roll of fabric.
DGS: This is a limited edition collection. What new things can your fans expect from you beyond this line?
LL: This grouping of styles will evolve based on what people respond to. In the same way that my daughters’ reactions gave me the confidence to try more, the women and men that attend the Trunk Shows will spark ideas that will guide me forward. As we go into 2013, I can see offering lighter shades, maybe exploring unique accessories. Stay tuned!
DGS: If you weren’t in the fashion business, what would you be doing?
LL: I would be making something – building things, maybe in the construction business or as a florist. Good question! I am also a professional public speaker and look forward to sharing my story with more audiences. I’m a storyteller, so I can see that aspect becoming a bigger part of my work.
For many years I have been called to help create awareness and respect of First Nations culture. ‘The Sewing Workshop Project’ is my plan to supply remote First Nations Communities with everything needed to build a sewing centre with fabrics, machines, notions, etc., and to provide my services as a trainer and mentor. I would love this initiative to be established in Northwestern Ontario, where I grew up (in Cochenour, Ont.) and would happily travel to these communities to share my knowledge and learn from the people there with the overall goal of creating economic development and engaging youth.
More than 12 years ago, Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski launched rock-it promotions, a full-service public relations firm. She has had the opportunity to work with Helen Mirren, James Brown and more, while rock-it promotions clients include the Drake Hotel and Fashion Design Council of Canada, among others. Visit www.rockitpromo.com, www.onthefourthfloor.com or at @rockitpromo