We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Howe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I see myself and my brand as a smaller part of the global community, and I try to keep this in mind when controlling our supply chain. Our use of deadstock fabrics is just one example of this view of the planet. Instead of letting fabric bolts end up in a landfill, we rescue and reimagine unique threads. We also take this approach to the production table as well; instead of mass-producing a garment and inevitably creating a lot of waste, we create each garment to order which also allows us to make it to the measurements of the client. It can be a struggle for bodies of different shapes to find clothing that fits, and this is where we get the Matrushka name: we believe beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and it is our joy to make clothing for these individuals.
For us as a brand, this last year has been difficult, as it has been for most other designers. However, it was this last year that we were able to utilize a large amount of scrap fabric to make masks, bringing environmental practices together with the need that the community had for masks; we donated thousands of masks to both individuals and organizations throughout the world, and we were able to do this because of the sales we were making, which reminded me why I started designing in the first place: to help those in need.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve come a long way in my 20 years of designing in LA, from my early days at USC to my first shows at the Skirball; I came to Los Angeles with nothing but a scholarship to USC and a dream to become an artist.
My love of nature has been with me since the beginning, in my formative years working with horses and even thinking of becoming a veterinarian.
I still crave the outdoors and the respite it gives me after long days designing in my studio, and my nightly runs with my Italian Mastiff, Baby have kept me sane. I come from a family that believes in the importance of honing a craft and sharing it with others. My English grandmother was a seamstress and meticulous dresser and had a profound influence on me. After many years, I’ve grown into a clothing designer, art patron, and entrepreneur.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day 1: Wake up: Breakfast at All Day Baby
Bike ride around Griffith Park
Stop at Mixt and grab a salad after
Go to Gloss and get our nails done
Go to The Vista and see a movie and grab ice cream
Morning hike around Silver Lake Resevoir
Grab carnitas tacos at Tacos Delta
Go to LACMA
Dinner at Pink’s
Stop at Salt & Straw on the way home
Hike Hollywood Hills (to see the sign)
Blu Jam or Urth on Melrose
Walk around Melrose Ave.
Check out Hollywood Forever
Dinner at Musso and Frank
Walk around Amoeba records
Vintage movies at The New Beverly Cinema
Breakfast at Home on Hillhurst
Walk down Sunset to LePink
Walk around Echo Park to see PF Candle, Spacedust, and have coffee at Andante.
Grab a snack at Yoga-yurt
Ride the swans at Echo Park
Dinner at Cactus
Breakfast at Grub
Dinner at Perch
Edison or Whiskey Bar 7 Grand to see live music
Breakfast at Cafe Collage or Blue Star in Venice
Scooter down Venice Boardwalk and see shops
Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades
Walk on Malibu Beach
Dinner at Neptune’s Net
Visit Alexander Henry in the valley
Studio tour in Studio City
Dinner at Joe’s Fallafel
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The story of Matrushka is deeply intertwined with the community and living symbiotically within it. When Matrushka first opened, we relied heavily on word-of-mouth to get the word out about the good work we were doing, but now that we have been around for almost 20 years, we have the opportunity to use our notoriety within the community for good. During the early months of 2020, there was a dire need for masks in the community, while there was also a simultaneous need for work that could be done safely. My assistants, Sandy and Christine helped me work out a system to provide pick-up-and-go supply packages at the store so that volunteer seamstresses could make a little money at home making much-needed masks for the community. It was entirely fulfilling to know that we had created a system to help both our community and also individuals who needed income. Included in these bags was everything needed to make the masks, so the seamstresses could make higher volumes, but we needed fabric and all the fabric stores were closed! What to do?! Lucky for us, our friends at Alexander Henry, a family-owned and run fabric manufacturer, took notice and donated over a dozen bolts of fabric to us to continue our work.
The volunteer attitude is one that is championed within our company, and it permeates every level. Another example of this is the involvement that we have with Friends of Griffith Park. I am one of the founding board members of this group that works to protect the wildlife and ecology of the park so that generations after us can enjoy it as much as we do.
Photos 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8 were taken by Marc Walker, owner of Luckae Photography.