September 5, 2013 · by Rupa Ganatra · in 

We caught up with Calgary-based architect and fashion designer Lara Presber who designs her professional womenswear collections around the theme of ‘Building your Wardrobe one piece at a time.’  Inspired by the recent peaked interest in crowd-funding and pricing sites, savvy entrepreneur Lara has recently introduced crowd-pricing strategy with her women’s collection and on top of her regular collection, launches one limited edition piece from the collection online every month. Having trained as an architect first because Lara didn’t feel fashion design was a practical career path, she now shares her time across both her creative passions; architecture and fashion design. We asked Lara a few questions.

Tell us about your background? I was always interested in designing and making things when I was a child, which typically involved sewing or building things in the garage. When it came time to choose a career path architecture seemed like the more ‘practical’ option. Fashion came along later in life after 10 years of working on mostly large-scale institutional projects and yearning for a more intimate design experience.

Tell us about Studio Presber. What inspired you to launch it? Studio Presber evolved organically with wanting to collaborate on design projects with friends and colleagues who are immensely talented and experts in their own fields. It seemed to make a lot of sense after spending years in top-heavy organizations to strip away all of the bloat to provide clients with direct access to the designers who are also small business owners themselves. Design after all is an investment in your business and who better to advise than another business owner; it changes the perspective of the deliverable.

What inspired you to launch your fashion brand Lara Presber? The Lara Presber line was essentially born out of the frustration of the lack of options available for professional womenswear for myself and my colleagues. Our choices were limited to either very formal suits or pieces that were either too casual or were too revealing for the workplace. The line evolved over time to incorporate elements of architecture with a different building inspiring each collection. The result are pieces that can be worn to work, but also transition easily to evening or weekend. I’ve tried to create some options that are still feminine and could be considered as a suit alternative without the overly formal feeling that a suit sometimes gives.

What has been the most exciting part of launching your business so far? The most exciting part of launching both the fashion line and my architecture practice is seeing them come together in once project. We were recently awarded a commission for a cafe where we will be designing the interior, advising on furniture, collaborating with the branding and graphics component, providing the soundtrack and designing the uniforms for the staff. It’s really fulfilling to see so many facets of design coming together in one project and can’t wait to see the result.

What has been the most challenging part? And how did you overcome it? One of the greatest challenges is being based in a city that is just beginning to find their ‘design legs’. There is so much potential here, but it’s been somewhat of a slow start to convince people that, for example, clothing that is designed and made in Canada is worth the extra cost or that small independent designers who band together to form a larger design team are as reliable and stable as the larger, more traditional firms.

What advice would you give for someone starting out in the fashion industry today? The best piece of advice that I could give to someone starting out in fashion is to do as much interning with established companies as possible before striking out on your own. I had spent some time with an accessory designer in Milan before returning to Canada to launch my own line, but was not prepared for the challenges I encountered. It’s still a relatively new industry here so finding support and mentorship was almost impossible and I made a lot of very expensive mistakes before getting it right.

Who or what has been your biggest inspiration? My biggest inspiration has been my thesis mentor while completing my graduate studies in fashion in Milan. She had started her career in architecture and then transitioned into lighting design before becoming the art director for Christian Dior accessories. She gave so much of herself and really wanted to see me succeed without wanting anything in return. I liked that we had similar backgrounds and that she really understood where I was coming from as a fellow architect; she’s the only person that I’ve met in my adult life that I wanted to be like ‘when I grew up’!

What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future are to continue with Studio Presber and let it grow organically to see where it takes us. Some of the results of the turns we’ve taken have been so much better than anything we could have planned for so will continue along the lines of collaborating with people we enjoy and hopefully making some memorable projects and experiences along the way.

When you look back on life, what would you like to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for having a full and diverse life. We live in a time where everyone is constantly ‘busy’ and seem to compete with each other on how much we can put on our plates at one time. I am trying to find a balance between creating beautiful spaces and objects and then also having the time to enjoy them with the people in my life that are important to me.

If you could be stuck in an elevator with anybody, who would it be? I think I would choose Coco Chanel. She was such a pioneer in the fashion world, but also culturally with redefining how women saw themselves in society.