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designer LAURA PERLMUTTER with Catherine Cheng

A first-year here at Brown, Laura Perlmutter’s first full collection will be debuted at Fashion@Brown’s ninth annual runway show on Thursday, April 25th. Stylistically modern with substantial emphasis placed on organic elements, Laura’s designs combine her love for nature with, though she hesitates to admit, a soft minimalism inspired by her mom’s wardrobe. Here, I speak to Laura about her background, her inspirations, and the creative process behind her collection.

Catherine: Could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into fashion?

Laura: I grew up in Westchester, New York. I can’t pinpoint the exact time around which I became interested in fashion, but it was always a part of my background. My mom is an architect and currently paints, so I was influenced by her passion for art and design. My grandma likes to tell the story of how I used to go to the playground in a velvet dress and cowboy boots because I insisted on dressing myself. I started sewing in 2nd grade and started teaching myself design in middle school. I also took classes in sewing and draping at Parsons and FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology).

C: What were your largest inspirations behind this collection?

L: This collection is very much about very natural, organic, flowing forms. I often find myself influenced by nature, whether when I’m doing photography or just walking around. I admire the rigid structures that exist in organic forms. I’ve chosen to work with linen, which complements the simplicity and lightness of my designs. The entire collection will also be in black and white. The minimalist aspects of my designs were also partly influenced by my mom. I hate to admit, but I like her clothing and steal it a lot.

C: How did the technical aspects of your background in design influence your production process?

L: Having a technical background was definitely useful because it gave me the skills to create my collection. At times, though, it was hard to branch out despite being full of ideas because I found it difficult to break rules knowing the specific ways that things are supposed to go. It can make me less inclined to take risks, but I’ve learned that with practice, technicality can work well with creativity.

C: How do you want your designs to be perceived?

L: Modern! I want my designs to be of clothing people would actually want to wear. My goal as a designer, which is also a personal goal, is for the pieces I make to be of good enough quality so that people don’t actually realize that I made the garments myself. I also want the designs to be good representations of myself.

C: What’s your creative process like?

L: The period before I actually go ahead and make the pieces is really dynamic. When I’m coming up with ideas, they pour out in a way that sometimes makes me have trouble falling asleep. I try to think of different things to do and ways to approach my designs, so I’m constantly making revisions. The good thing is that with this collection, I’m mostly doing patchwork, so there’s quite a bit of time in between constructing individual pieces and putting them all together.

C: Where do you go for inspiration?

L: I love going to The Met. But I mostly just enjoy walking around parks and looking at flowers during springtime. When I was doing the course at FIT, I created a mini collection on Forsythia, which are beautiful yellow flowers. They’re also symbolic of springtime for me because they used to be everywhere back at home. Here at Brown, I like walking around campus for inspiration, especially when it comes to looking at intersections between nature and the built environment.

C: Has your interest in photography influenced your designs?

L: Unlike my interests in drawing and painting, I didn’t get into photography until my first semester here at Brown. I wouldn’t say that it’s directly influenced my designs, but it has shaped my understanding of myself as an artist because I pay more attention to what I gravitate towards photographing. I find myself taking photos of trees and various types of flowers a lot, for example, and I reflect on why I like them.