Designer Laura Smith Discusses Her Label LAURASMITH

It is unfortunate that so many UK designers are willing to dirty their brand in search of labour abroad for a price that comes in staggeringly short of the living wage. Despite Laura Smith swapping England for the postcard city of Amsterdam, she is one of a dying breed willing to help keep the British textile industry powering on as she sources the same Nottingham lace cherished by the Victorians.

We talk to the womenswear designer about her label LAURASMITH, with its modern take on the echoes of a rich history and find out how she combines what is quintessentially British with the sights of Amsterdam.

What are the signature notes of your label?
The collections all use Nottingham lace which is a little touch of home. It also provides the chance to show how beautiful traditional lace is and demonstrates why we should support keeping this artisan technique alive in the UK. The style of the collection is distinguishable through my clean, fresh looks that have a relaxed take on luxury. The details of lace give the pieces an understated feminine touch and this has become my signature.

Who in the public eye do you think sums up this essence of your brand?
I usually look to icons from the past for style ideas; Jane Birkin is a favourite. I would say British actresses such as Carey Mulligan and Emma Watson are the kind of women that would wear the collection and I love their look and persona.

What are your personal highlights from the new SS14 collection?
I am really proud of the new line of knitwear that has been added to the collection this season. A real stand out piece has to be the lace jacquard tee. It’s an easy piece but makes such a bold statement. I have also been wearing the white striped shirt and pattern trousers a lot. It’s a fantastic clean look and on colder days I’ve been teaming this outfit with the rib sleeve sweater.

Laura Smith Collection

I have heard that you are particularly fond of Tim Walker’s photography. What is it about him that inspires you?
Tim Walker has long been an inspiration to me, especially his amazing use of props. It was his notion of bringing the outdoors inside that really inspires me. I have also found lots of colour and texture inspiration from his photographs of people doing outdoor activities inside stately homes.

How did your fascination with stately homes come about? How do you channel this into your creations?
Being new to Holland I did a lot of the tourist trips and looked around many galleries situated in old mansion houses. There were many of these very close by. My favourite, the Esher Museum, is set in the former palace and was just on the next street. The gold gliding on the crest and interior fabrics caught my eye most days and so my inspiration developed from there. I used the colours and the shapes of the panelling that I saw. Even the photographs on display documenting the people who lived there had an influence on the collection.

Since living in Amsterdam, what do you find the key differences are between women’s wardrobes there and in London?
Amsterdammers have a very pared down look that is effortless, just like so many Europeans. People here dress well for the practical side of Amsterdam living due to its many outdoor activities like cycling. In contrast, London has a street style that is so eclectic and I can never tire of it. I would say the UK is very trend-led and vibrant but I love the blend of being part of both cities.

How has the move affected you as a designer?
The move was a great kick-start for my label and gave me the inspiration and determination to succeed. I had to put myself out there in a new country which was hard at first, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I think being somewhere new actually helped me go for it. The lifestyle and people had a huge impact on me too.

Have you experienced any design disasters in your career and if so, how did you overcome these?
Of course there are things that don’t work as you planned, but most ideas are a working progress and things change and can develop into something new and more exciting than the initial idea.

What advice would you give to budding designers?
I would say don’t give up. Make choices that feel right to you. Things don’t go exactly as planned so it’s important to remain flexible but focused on your end goal.

Shop the LAURASMITH collection at www.laurasmithcollection.com

Words: Laura Yuen