Byron Lars started his career in fashion organically. “I like fashion a lot, but I love building clothes,” said Byron after reflecting on his fascination with the structure behind clothing, which started with his grandmother’s closet.
“I remember seeing this one bustier in her closet. I had a light bulb moment; I’m like ‘wow, that’s how those dresses stay up on TV. They have this plastic stuff in them.’ I fished around in there and got a little piece of boning out. She never knew I was in there destroying her clothes (laughes). But I was interested in how things went together even before I was even aware that I was interested in fashion.”
The pieces that Bryon Lars creates are a mixture of classically fitting pieces with a modern pattern mixing flair that makes them unique. He has created pieces for Anthropologie, and has had his work in the prestigious New York City luxury store Bergdorf Goodman, as well as having created designer fashionista Barbie Dolls.
zoomdune.com spoke with fashion designer Byron Lars about what it’s like to design women’s clothes, how social media is affecting the fashion industry, having the first lady wear his designs and what article of clothing every woman should own.
Naomi N. Lugo: How did you get started in fashion?
Byron Lars: I realize now that every significant event that happened in my life was marked by the clothes that people were wearing at the time. … So I guess it was always there, but it wasn’t always obvious at least to me.
The one ‘aha’ moment came much later. I guess when I learned to sew, I wanted some baggy pants, but my friend that sewed wouldn’t make them for me but she (told) me she’d teach me how to sew, so I could make them for myself. That was a real source of empowerment for me.
Then from there I was like “you know what I can start making like prom dresses for kids to make some extra dough,” that really was where it truly started. When other people were wearing something that I made and enjoying it, that’s when I got the fashion bug.
NL: What is important to you when designing clothes for women?
BR: You know what is important to me, is to make a girl look better. To really make the most of all her womanly wiles. It’s all about accentuating a waist, perking up a bust line, rounding out hips; things that just make you look in the mirror and say, “I look awesome.” Not “what a great dress,” but “wow what a great girl, what a great girl I am.” You know, because that’s really what it’s about. At the end of the day, it’s about the person wearing the clothes, not about the clothes.
NL: What are your customers saying via social media or who do you see reaching out on social media?
BL: Wow, so many, and all different types. That was another learning curve. There’s so many types of women wearing these clothes that I didn’t factor in in the beginning. I always saw my girl as professional, upwardly mobile, power suit, she’s wearing go getum tiger. And you know what, we have that, but we also have that super girly girl, we have that bohemian.
We have all these things through social media… I’m like “wow, look at how these women are working in these clothes in their own ways.” It’s just awesome, they taught me so much. In fact, so much so that this seasons photo shoot is all about that. There’s six different characters, the power player, the politician, the punk, a cat lady, a bohemian, the nerd, the movie star, (and) they’re all rocking the brand with equal credibility. And often time rocking the same piece in very different ways, the way we see our customers do it.
It’s just super exciting thinking about it in this broader context. Really what we learned is the reality of our customer. She’s so many different types of women. They all want to look better, they all want to look their best, they all want to maximize the things that are great, and minimize things that they don’t feel so great about.
NL: How do you see fashion evolving, in terms of working with the customer in creating pieces that are for such a diverse clientele?
BL: Thank god now for social media and just e-commerce. Now designers have a direct pipeline to their customer and access to her like they never had before, like they never could before. Clothes can happen now that never would have had a chance in the traditional chain of command of the way things worked.
This is what’s really what’s facilitating the return of the individual. It’s just really exciting.
NL: So what can you tell me about your upcoming Fall 2015 collection?
BL: There’s lots and lots of texture, lot’s of structure, a lot of sweater knit dressing, a lot of new fabrications and construction that I’m excited about. Like there’s a kaftan trench coat that morphs into a sweater coat at the bottom. There’s some really great moto dressing pieces that I’m just super excited about. Moto pleather pants and moto jeans and moto dresses, moto jackets, moto everything. But, not motorcycle jackets, there’s kind of a difference. They’re all kind of monochromatic, so no metal, no trim like that.
One of them is in this girdle-stretch cotton python, and everything on it is white the zippers are all white, the hardware is all white. It’s almost like a moto jacket that had been dipped in plaster and decided that it liked living that way.
NL: What did you try differently in this collection that you hadn’t tried before?
BL: This is the first time that I approached thinking about all these different types (of women) as I worked on the collection, and it made it tremendously easy. This photo shoot with these six characters was just the start of something. I think it’s going to change the way I approach things from here on out.
NL: What staple do you think every woman should have in her closet?
BL: I think, honestly, whatever girl you are, every girl needs a really killer peg skirt in her closet. I don’t care who you are. If you’re the bohemian and you’re wearing your big boyfriend sweater you need a peg skirt to reclaim your body. Wear it with your boy boots and all that and you’re still hot. If you were the movie star, you might wear that with the push up tank like we have in the spring collection. It’s all about body, body body. If you’re the power player you put a jacket over that and work it that way. That item is for every girl, and every boy appreciated her in it.
NL: What has been the most important part of your fashion career so far, or the most memorable?
BL: Probably the most memorable would be the first time Michelle Obama wore a dress of ours, that was pretty huge. It was the way we found out about it too. My mom called and was like, “I think Michelle Obama is wearing your dress.” I was like “how would you know?” I didn’t say that out loud but I was thinking “really?” Sure enough, she spotted it on a commercial for (The) White House show with Paul McCartney. That was extremely exciting.
Thankfully (she wore their designs) many times after that. She’s graced us with that high honor, and we even got to go The White House and meet her, which was nice. But that first time, that’s probably the most special. That first shot where you’re like wow, of all the things she could have chose, she chose our thing.
NL: What was it like getting into Bergdorf’s?
BL: That was super exciting because it’s an institution that you read about before you ever come to New York, you see that in magazines. Of course you go in and you look at the finery and you “ooh and aah.” To have your own things hanging there is of course an incredible honor.
NL: If you could dress anyone, who would you dress?
BL: That list is so long. I definitely would like to dress Queen Latifah. We don’t make her size currently, but I have always wanted to make this product for a large size. Not like large size that’s just bigger, but hot large size. Like “I am a big girl and I am a hot girl, and I’m wearing clothes to let you know that I know that I’m a hot girl. I think that I could get that message out there with her. So we’re going to get that message out there soon. Within this year I would like to get that message out there and that product there in some way or form.
NL: What is your ultimate career goal?
BL: To never stop learning, to never stop growing, and never stop striving to be better. I know it’s vague, but really that’s it.