'Project Runway' Q&A: Laura Kathleen

In Style

Seven “Project Runway” stars will gather in St. Louis for Saint Louis Fashion Week on September 28. Meet Laura Kathleen, who will show her collection in the show at Fox Theater.

Laura Kathleen Baker
Season 9 and “Project Runway All Stars Season 2”

Age: 20… OK, 28
Current Location: St. Louis
Website: laurakathleen.com

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Your “Project Runway” experience in 75 words or less. I can honestly say “Project Runway” has developed me as a designer and as a person. I was thrown into a pressure cooker surrounded by other talented designers and industry professionals. Being open to criticism, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to propel my brand and business. I made great friends, and I am happy to say that a few are in this feature with me! “All Stars” was a little bit like “The Hunger Games.” Everyone there had achieved a level of success and experienced some fame. I do feel that a few contestants felt entitled, which made it a less uplifting situation, to put it mildly. I had to deal with my personality being skewed at times, but that was my trade-off for nationally marketing the brand. In the end, I don’t regret the experience.

Where has your career gone since “Project Runway?” I’m in my third season of production and love my manufacturing facility. I’m developing a jewelry line, and we’re currently exploring quicker production methods and lower cost options for manufacturing at larger minimums. LK has just been accepted to SCENE at Dallas Market Center in October. It will be my first run at a large market. I’ve been consulting for local and regional apparel companies along with a local branding company. Also, I am proudly signing on for the 5th year at Lift for Life Academy with the fashion program I started back in 2009. Our gala this past spring raised $70,000 for the students!

Describe your design aesthetic. I design for a sophisticated, modern woman. I dream of who she is and what she looks like. I aspire to be her and look like her, however I have never met her. This woman is always glamorous and is the epitome of luxury.

What makes your style stand out from the rest? Only I dream of this woman, so it has to make my style stand out! I’ve never seen anyone who is her so I continue to recreate her with the clothes I design.

What are you working on currently? Spring 2014. We have to have all the samples ready for October! And filling fall 2013 orders for delivery.

Where is your line headed next? We are wanting to expand our ready-to-wear line from 10 styles to more each season. Each sample that we produce equals more money each season. “Slow and steady wins the race, but you have to know when to sprint”— that’s my personal motto for the fashion industry.

When you hit a creative block, what do you do to get the juices flowing? Stop. Sometimes you have to work on other things, and organically the right design elements will come to you. Maybe this is why I like to keep my plate full. It always allows me to stop designing but still be working!

Your favorite look for going out. HEELS, good heels. And probably a jumpsuit, since I am the jumpsuit queen. (I think I gave myself that title, but titles have to start somewhere!) I used to tend toward wide-leg style, and now I am moving more toward skinnier, tapered legs.

Your favorite look for staying in. A slouchy, well-cut sweatshirt and leggings. The sweatshirt has to be long because the behind should still be covered, even when you don’t leave the house. Gotta keep it classy not a**y.

Fashion trend you’re sick of. The word trend really turns me off. Even though I still design items that may be categorized as trendy (I try not to), the ones that I always love the most have lasting power. The garments that have an aura all on their own are never trendy.

Whose fall lines do you find most exciting? Always Tom Ford. It’s hard for me to watch his shows because they are too good to handle. I always love Giambattista Valli footwear. Balmain. There are so many great artist and labels out there. I always hate to limit my list—I don’t like having limits.

The one accessory every woman needs right now. Anything Love Armour.

The one accessory every man needs right now. A good pair of shoes. I love that when I look down, my husband is always wearing Gucci, Prada or Ferragamo. It’s worth saving the money to have fewer pairs of good shoes than to have a lot of mediocre shoes. Now I put a lot of pressure on my husband.

Give us your trend forecast for 2014. Feminine details combined with structure. Or maybe that is just how I am designing for it!

What do you do when you’re not designing? Design is such a small part of running an apparel business. I am reviewing samples, fitting, sourcing fabric, always trying to find better pricing, keeping track of a budget, marketing, managing the website, networking and so on.

I love my family and my new family, now that I’m married. My husband and I have recently taken up road biking and it’s a great hobby to do together. I also love hot yoga. It’s such a detox.

Something people would be surprised to know about you. Although I have had national exposure, I am still in the beginning stages of my business. A lot of people think I already have this major brand in a bunch of retail locations. However, I’m still driving around from city to city and checking out markets to make the correct decisions as my brand grows. Each year I am surprised at how far I’ve come, but there is still a long road ahead.

What’s in your fridge right now? Always milk and orange juice, eggs, salami, grapes, Champagne, beer and possibly some leftovers. We eat out often.

What books are on your nightstand? My iPad and “Gone Girl.”

Your favorite piece in your closet right now. Always my fur coats and my Laura Kathleen!

What do you love most about living and working in St. Louis? My family is here, and people (especially ALIVE) are so supportive. St. Louis is a great place to raise a family; the quality of life is amazing. New York is a quick Southwest flight away and so is Vail. My husband and I like to visit the mountains often.

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