We had the good fortune of connecting with Laurs Kemp and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laurs, how does your business help the community?
Innumerable textiles and garments already exist on this planet. Rather than producing a clothing line from new materials, I find it so much more germane and fascinating to explore new ways to upcycle the items that already exist. Whether by encouraging brands to created limited collections using their unsold stock and imperfect seconds, or by championing designers and makers who use mostly second-hand materials and a slow fashion ethos, or by encouraging non-industry folks to take up sewing and mending to revamp the clothing that’s already in their wardrobe. More than creating a “brand” or consistent seasonal collections, I’m taken with the concept of formulating new reworking methods – such as creating a bralette from discarded shoulder pads or experimenting with various ways to freshen up wardrobe classics like a white button-up shirt – and documenting the steps (and missteps) by making videos of each project and posting them on social media. I do sell these one-off clothing items on my website, but nowadays I’m more interested in putting the ideas out there so hopefully other folks are emboldened to use these ideas, and hopefully this collective learning framework will inspire others to use their creativity to turn something old into something new.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Anyone who subscribes to my biweekly newsletter could probably attest that I am almost as passionate about films as I am about fashion. Films have been an inseparable part of my artistic life. I watch films in the studio every day (I log and rate every one on my letterboxd account). I find inspiration for designs and photo shoots in the fashion, interiors and art direction of films. I also foist movie recommendations upon my aforementioned newsletter subscribers by curating a “movie moodboard” in every issue with a theme that is either topical (pro-labor film for Labor Day) or hyper-specific (best “let’s start a band” movies). No matter what shape my brand takes, I know that movies will be a constant companion. In fact, while I have you, Tony Takitani (2004) is a marvelous fashion-centric film that is a current favorite of mine. See, I can’t help myself!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many pop-up markets that I would recommend to support local makers and vendors: Portland Flea, Halfday Market, Unique Markets Portland and Super Market. The shops at 811 E. Burnside are a must. We would have to go to C.R. Hollis for the one-of-a-kind selection of up and coming designers.
Sweedeedee or Los Puñales for lunch. Sweet treats at Soro Soro. Dinner is a religious experience for me, so I would relish showing an out-of-towner all of Portland’s fabulous restaurants. Gabbiano’s for family-style Italian food (and mozzarella “sticks” as big as your fist), Bellwether for a gorgeous cocktail, OK Omens for their wine program, and Jacqueline for the best experience in town (my partner is the GM!)
I would also recommend checking out Church of Film, Portland’s moving cinemateque that showcases a weekly arthouse film in various venues around town.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoe designer and instructor Rachel Corry of Rachel Sees Snail Shoes deserves a shoutout. At the beginning of Covid, she was kind enough to allow me to be part of the technical edit of her wonderful book, The Sandalmaking Workshop. I had never attempted to make sandals in my life before then. Her book not only gave me a project during a period of mind-numbing lockdown (and I made three lovely pairs of sandals as part of the editing process) but her hard work and creativity inspired me to take the teaching aspect of my upcycling pursuits more seriously. I may even attempt a book of upcycling ideas someday.
Other: tiktok @laurskemp
photographer Mia Rose models Alexandra Gómez & Mytia Elliott photographer Shola model Caro Lai