It's a brand-new year, and with it comes a brand-new focus on local fashion and new trends. --- Something that's been sorely lacking over the past year was a look at Utah designers and creators, which I will attempt to remedy in this blog during 2014. The first will be on Lauren Begent, a local musician with creative flair who launched her own fashion line last year to positive reviews and a lot of interested buyers, all highlighted by her patterned works.
Today, I chat with Begent about her works, breaking into local fashion, thoughts on the scene and a few other topics. (All photos courtesy of Begent, last picture by Ryan Houston.)
Gavin: Hey, Lauren. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lauren: I'm a Salt Lake City native, multi-instrumentalist, artist, and clothing designer.
Gavin: What got you interested in fashion early on, and what were some influences on you?
Lauren: I have always had a struggle finding clothing styles that truly spoke to me growing up. Over the last few years, I've had the wonderful opportunity to travel through so many parts of the United States, being constantly inspired by so many art and music scenes. I was especially moved when I saw the fashion out at Lightning in a Bottle in Los Angeles a few years ago. It was incredible and inspiring to to see so much hand-made clothing, and meet with the artists who designed them. Overall, I've been inspired by a lot of tattoo art and free-spirited designers around the country.
Gavin: To some people, you're better known as a musician, mainly a guitarist and violinist. What got you interested in performing, and how did you get into playing professionally?
Lauren: Music and art have always been my greatest passions in life. I started playing violin about 10 years ago, starting off in the classical world in various orchestras. Over a few years, I started to discover that I loved improvising with other guitarists and singers in different genres. After playing with local musicians, I began songwriting and taught myself the guitar, mandolin, and viola. The open-mic and poetry slam community here in Salt Lake was so incredibly supportive, and it truly helped in my growth as a songwriter and performer. Eventually, I took a leap and decided to start booking shows out of state, and ended up touring throughout the country for nearly two years.
Gavin: What was it like for you breaking into our music scene?
Lauren: The musicians I've seen and performed with have been incredibly talented and welcoming in Salt Lake. No matter what experience level I was at, there has always been a strong, supportive community to help me connect with other musicians and venues to showcase my music.
Gavin: You've got a couple of albums out and a new release in the works. Tell us a little bit about the new one.
Lauren: My newest album is long in the works; it will feature some songs from my travels and many new experimental pieces. After playing in orchestras and touring as a folk singer/musician, I'm trying to create a meld of these two worlds as a solo musician with use of loop stations, vocal layering and various instruments. Music is a way for many of us to explore our "shadow," or darker side of our minds, and writing and preparing the music for this new album has been a journey for me. I am hoping to have the new album, Liars and Thieves, out in the fall of 2014.
Gavin: What inspired you to start creating your own pieces of fashion and accessories?
Lauren: I've had a singular passion from an early to be an artist. This has, not surprisingly, led me to a life filled with a lot of experiments! I've worked as a graphic/Web designer, musician, painter, and I truly wanted to find something new I could find passion in and enjoy earning a living with. It started with painting instruments, in hopes of creating a piece of art that was usable and could have a life of its own. I began approaching my own clothing and appearance as an art practice, and this began the spark to create wearable art pieces, starting with jewelry and evolving into clothing.
Gavin: What was it like putting together those first few works, and what made you decide to start your own line?
Lauren: My first few articles of clothing I worked on seemed so silly. I attempted to draw my art with a bleach-and-baking-soda combination on a pair of leggings, just to see if it would work. The response I got was incredible -- those first pair of leggings sold that same day! Since then, I've had overwhelming support, and I have been able to create an entire line of hand-painted clothing that's continuing to grow every day.
Gavin: What specifically drew you to patterned designs and the colors you choose for for each?
Lauren: I love geometric patterns and abstract figures. I feel that many images and symbols can attract different parts of our psyche/subconscious and give us a way of looking at our world through a different lens. I love mysteries, whimsy, subtle details, and sometimes darker images, and I try to reflect this in each piece I make.
Gavin: What's the process like in creating your own pieces, from concept to final product?
Lauren: Each item of clothing I create takes oceans of hours. I sketch out the larger parts of my designs on paper first, keeping in mind that I'm not working on a flat canvas, then I try and add details and different shapes to complement the human body. After I have the art in mind, I free-hand paint each line of the art with a bleach mixture on a side panel of fabric, making sure it does not bleed through or touch any other side of the shirt, hoodie, leggings, etc. My workspace ends up with dozens of pieces being worked on around me; as one chunk of fabric is drying, I'll work on another panel of fabric, and rinse another to stop the bleaching process. It's a fluid and almost meditative process for me now, but it's taken a lot of patience and some failures, as bleach is a delicate medium to work with.
Gavin: Do you play around with them a lot before you finish or do you stick to the original design?
Lauren: I do a little of both! Each piece I make, even if the same design is requested, comes out a little bit different each time. I love creating new art to paint, but I really enjoy watching the designs I'm replicating evolve.
Gavin: How was it for you breaking into the local fashion scene and doing showcases with other designers?
Lauren: I have had a wonderful experience in Salt Lake's fashion scene so far, but I'm striving to get more involved, as I have been mainly working and sharing my work online. The Urban Arts Festival and Arts Meets Fashion were both exciting events for me to take part in recently, and I'm looking forward to working with more boutiques, shows and vending events locally this next year.
Gavin: What made you decide to set up an online shop rather than work with local retailers to sell your products?
Lauren: Selling my work online has been wonderful for me in finding out what designs people are attracted to, as well as reach a huge number of possible clients. Since I've opened up my online shop in this last year, I've designed custom clothing for individuals in Germany, South Africa, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and so much more! It's been very reassuring and motivating to know that my clothing line is appreciated in so many places across the world. Now that I am more established and ready to grow as a independent artist, I will be working with more local retailers to showcase my line in Salt Lake.
Gavin: Are you looking to expand the line or operations beyond what you're doing now, or are you comfortable where things are at for the moment?
Lauren: I'm absolutely excited to grow! It can be exhausting at times as an independent business owner, but I truly love working in art and fashion, as there is always more I can create and offer.
Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on the fashion scene, both good and bad?
Lauren: I love the designers, boutique owners and models I've met so far. I'm very fresh to the local fashion scene, but I've seen some stunning and creative work from local artists.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Lauren: One-of-a-kind pieces can be a little bit of a hard sell for a lot of shoppers at events here, so it can be difficult at times to show your work as an independent designer. I hope to find more fashion-oriented shows that are open for "alternative" designers to share their work. I'm grateful for boutiques like Unhinged and the Tempest, as they really give locally made clothing a great place to be showcased and purchased.
Gavin: Who are some of the local designers people should be checking out?
Lauren: My close friend and collaborator Makenzie Taylor creates some beautiful clothing and jewelry with her company, Voodian Design. I'm also a huge fan of Pretty Macabre, Kelli Baker, Bullets & Bees and Peach Treats.
Gavin: What's your take on the models coming up through the ranks in recent years and the talent we have here in the state?
Lauren: The models I've had the opportunity to work with this last year have been incredible, and have showcased my line so wonderfully. I feel like we have a great amount of talented and willing models, especially for "alternative" looks, who are grateful to work with other local artists.
Gavin: For those interested in modeling, what advice can you give them to break in?
Lauren: Talk to local boutiques and designers! There's so many events and opportunities available, even if they may be smaller. Creative models can have a great impact on any fashion line, so keep an open mind and share what you can offer.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Lauren: I will be working on a new screen-printed line in the next couple of months to offer more to those who may not be able to afford one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing. I am also designing a hand-made line of clothing that will combine a lot of new styles and elements. I'll also be doing more art and music events locally, with a possible tour in the works.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
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