INTERVIEW: LAURA SIEGEL

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With a unique, collaborative take on design, and a knack for incorporating other mediums in her branding, there’s sound evidence to back up the sentiment that Laura Siegel is a leading force in transitioning away from “normal” (read: boring) in the fashion world. We recently spoke with the New York based designer about her creative process, her diverse education background, and her exclusive designs for OAK, now available online and at our Bond St. location.

OAK: Your design process is unique in the sense that it’s very collaborative. What made you decide to approach your line in this way?
LAURA SIEGEL: I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time traveling and had the opportunity to learn about other cultures hanging out with a diverse group of artisans in both urban and rural settings. These individuals and groups of people taught me so much of what they know. With so much knowledge and beauty untouched and largely unrecognized, collaboration just seemed like the right thing to do.

OAK: How has the collaborative process changed your perspective on design?
LS: The first few years I studied design, I learned the design process that is commonly used in the industry, what we were taught at Parsons at the time. After garnering a new perspective on the process through backpacking and studies at Central Saint Martins, and also after working for other designers, I quickly learned that this process can and should be re-invented and that I could design any way I wanted to.  Anything that interested me – whether it was fashion related or not – I could pull into my career and love for design.  Interacting and collaborating on a constant basis really lets me constantly re-evaluate how I do things to always be changing and improving.

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Laura Siegel cape top. Exclusively for OAK.

OAK: You’ve been called “one to watch” and have been said to be at the “forefront of [an] exciting shift” away from the “stale and bland” in the fashion industry, what artists or designers inspire you in your creative process to push design outside of its box?
LS: I have always gained inspiration from many different places. First, James Castle. I admire his different perspective, how he was able to create his work with found materials and his raw aesthetic. The man is ingenious. A lot of the cultures in and around Asia and Africa have a very organic way of dressing, especially when it comes to their traditional clothes.  It’s often a piece of fabric, for example: the saari (around 5 meters long) that is draped and tucked around the body in so many different ways. It’s beyond their clothes though. Even the way they problem solve, or go about daily lives, the mentality is very ‘make use of what you have around.’  [Also] John Hardy, the jewelry designer based in Bali, has built an unbelievable design commnity that extends his ethos beyond design.  Aside from his aesthestic he’s using his values to create a lifestyle that goes beyond the pieces and into education, culture and changing the future.

OAK: You received your formal design education from Parsons in New York and London’s Central Saint Martins’. How did your education shape the designer you are today? 
LS: Parsons was a design community for me – a group of people – all interesting, inspiring, and hard working, that fostered each others growth through criticism and really honed in on what good design is all about. Central Saint Martins was a very free and border-less education that never focused on what you were supposed to do, but rather what you love and building on concepts, and forgetting about the real world and real clothes. The contrasting educational point of views provided me a solid foundation from which I’ve grown and build my collections on today.

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Laura Siegel Tencel jersey drape dress. Exclusively for OAK.

OAK: What advice would you give aspiring designers who are thinking of enrolling in design school? 
LS: Stay focused, determined and work hard. Any feedback including the negative is important to take in and evaluate in order to grow. Throughout the process, always go back to why you were so excited to study design and no matter how much sleep you are getting, make sure you are always enjoying and appreciating the experience.

OAK: Can you tell us more about the exclusive styles you created for OAK? What makes these pieces special to you?
LS: The group I worked with on these pieces with is such an inspiring one. They are located in the south of India, in the tea plantations of Munnar. It’s a group that teaches the physically challenged how to harvest natural dyes, and various artisinal crafts. These pieces in particular, use Kasmi (a flower) for color, and shibori and tesuji [which are] two hand stitching techniques that created the results you see in the silk pieces.

OAK: You also have experience incorporating film into your branding. Can you comment on your process of creating fashion films?
LS: Up until recently, my experiences collaborating on fashion films were always very artistic projects relaying an energy and feeling to the viewer so they can connect to the brand. Now, I am realizing the power of technology, and visuals, and telling a story on a more real level. It can really influence the brand, the communities I work with, and maybe even the future of how the industry functions. I have been collaborating with Clothing Traceability over the past year to make my production process transparent.  My aim is to connect shoppers to the hand that makes each Laura Siegel garment. Now, the documentary coming out this fall, will be the first of a larger process of doing just that.

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Laura Siegel Tencel jersey drape dress. Exclusively for OAK.

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Laura Siegel cape top. Exclusively for OAK.

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EVENTS: BACK IN THE NIGHT EXHIBIT

INSIDER: MEET GEORGES