What I Learned from Canadian Designer: Linda Lundstrom On the day that I was given the opportunity to interview Linda, I was ecstatic.
It's that surreal feeling you get when your world unexpectedly collides with someone magnificent, even if just for a day.
My first few hours are spent thinking about her career. I'm nervous and wonder: "How can I capture this interview successfully?" There is so much gold for the reader here. How can I do this justice?
All of this melts away within my first call with Linda. She is captivating as a speaker, and her experience and knowledge brings you along the conversation with ease and inspiration.
I can't wait to meet her.
I pull up to Linda's studio, established on her scenic property in the Caledon Hills. We sit down in her beautiful home for some lunch and a fashion lesson in her atelier.
Linda, tell us about your design philosophy.
I really try to let the fabric speak and work to pay tribute to the personality of the fabric. When I began designing fashion many years ago, I tried following the trends, but that didn't work for me. I gained confidence in myself and began doing my own thing; being unique. That decision is ultimately what brought me success.
When it comes to manufacturing and fashion design, what would you say is most important?
I grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario, and my family came from humble roots so nothing was wasted. My father would hunt and use all parts of the deer: hide, meat etc. for materials and food. I brought this approach to my designs as well.
The industry standard for fabric utilization is 75%. So if you buy $3M worth of fabric, $750,000 is wasted. Not only is that money poorly spent, but then you have to pay something to dispose of your scraps! I just couldn't accept that. I aim to utilize 100% of the fabric, and average 85 - 90% in my operations.
There are a few benefits to this:
- We give the customer greater value because the fabric is in the garment rather than in the garbage
- We offer the customer a unique design because we are designing to optimize fabric use
- We save money on our bottom line
My team has heard me refer to this as the WIN-WIN business model (or W/W for Waste not, Want not).
Because I'm designing with the fabric as a starting point on a body or mannequin and not on drawing paper, my designs have been recognized and rewarded for being totally unique.
Real women are gorgeous, they have geography in their body. I love working with curves.
Often, fashion design disconnect happens when designers relinquish control of their quality and production.
I also believe in a 'forgiving fit'. If your clothes can't forgive you, how can you ever forgive yourself!? I design all my pieces in 4 sizes (1-4) for women and men to cover a broad range of sizes. Clothes shouldn't restrain you, they should journey through life with you.
You often speak very passionately about culture, tradition, and the relationship with one's self and the world. Fashion is a very personal experience, a journey in self-discovery, and discovery about others. What are your takeaways for designers, shoppers, and regular people alike when it comes to these themes?
I would say to value authenticity and ingenuity. Also, follow your instincts and you'll gain the confidence to succeed on your own terms and be happy. I credit my success to working with fantastic people and to my travels to Japan, where I learned about Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi means 'happy accident' and is a phrase about celebrating imperfections.
Tell us about your business philosophy.
I consider myself a designer who manufactures and a manufacturer who designs. I love watching the marker makers, the spreaders, the cutters and the skilled sewing machine operators, all part of the process of Lean Manufacturing. As a Lean Manufacturing Consultant, I can help designers to understand both fashion manufacturing and the business of fashion. I'm currently working with a local college to develop a Lean Manufacturing training facility.
As we all know, Canadian economy is officially in recession again. You've witnessed 3 recessions. In many ways, both fashion and economics live in cycles and this is part of the natural circle of life. How can startup designers find their path through challenging economic times?
By realizing that fashion design is as much, if not more about understanding the business aspects as it is about coming up with creative ideas. Designers need to understand cash flow, costing, manufacturing, accounting, payables, receivables etc.
Linda, you have spent 36 years in the Canadian fashion industry. What do you foresee for the next generation of Canadian designers and the industry as a whole? What are our strengths? What can we get better at?
One of our greatest untapped strengths is the experience, knowledge and wisdom of those of us who have paved the way for the next generation of designers. There needs to be more value placed on this bank of intelligence.
You have an incredible wealth of experience, and knowledge to be able to share with others. What can your clients look forward to in your workshops?
To be inspired, motivated and to create a paradigm shift that will result in them thinking in new ways.
My day in the studio with Linda was packing with learning experiences.
I'm so glad to have spent a few hours in her orbit.
As the Key Note Speaker, Linda will be discussing her approach to Lean Manufacturing at the Business of Fashion Conference on October 6th at StartUp Fashion Week in Toronto.
You can also connect with Linda here:
Amazing Coat $499 (see feature photo at top) & Leather jewelry (travel-friendly) $89 shown here.
Linda Lundstrom below.
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