Erin Lorenzen All Business About Casual Style

“I like to wear my experiences on my sleeve,” says local artist and fashion designer, Erin Lorenzen. Drawing from her family’s relics, others’ cast-off pieces, and her travels abroad, Lorenzen’s designs are evocative of passing time and are at once exotic yet down home.

A native of Little Rock, Lorenzen graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she participated in the Donaghey Scholar’s Program, studying Spanish and studio art in Mexico, Spain and Argentina. The program and other scholarship funding also allowed her to travel to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona, Portugal, Nice, Venice, Florence, Rome, Brazil and many more locales to study.

An artist at heart, Lorenzen says she stumbled into fashion design “on accident.” “I took a silkscreen class in Buenos Aires so that I could print images on my paintings. My first two screens were maps of both Buenos Aires and Little Rock,” she said. “I printed some on T-shirts as practice and put them out at a shop that was selling my artwork. The owner almost didn’t put them out, but I’ve been getting re-orders for those shirts ever since. When I was invited to participate in fashion shows, I began doing one-of-a-kind, 100-percent recycled material dresses, separates and jewelry.”

She stuck with fashion design because she discovered she loved it. “Fashion gives me a venue through which I can blur the boundaries between art and life; a chance to go beyond the gallery and museum space and make my work accessible to everyone, available in stores, and live-in-able,” she said. One of my favorite quotes [by David Dory] is printed on a banner outside the Arkansas Arts Center: ‘Art is the one thing that speaks to everyone. Art transcends time and ties us all together as the human race.’”

Erin Lorenzen, deconstructed:

Soirée: Personal style?
Lorenzen: I have shopping rules. I try to buy only recycled material content, second hand/vintage, or cast-offs (like overstock, T.J. Maxx-type places, or oops-it-fell-off-the-truck spots like Sav-A-Bundle or Big Lots), or from local artisans when I travel. I also work with a lot of family hand-me-downs. So I guess my main “look” is American casual/modern nomad.

Why do you use recycled materials/cast-offs?
For a number of reasons, but mainly because I really hope to preserve the tradition of saving and mending…it feels so southern, so like home, and just plain nice to bring a piece of the past into the now.

Rules to dress by?
For day-to-day living, I keep it versatile and comfortable. You never know what’s going to pop up. I used to be comfortable in a tank top and jeans anywhere, but as I get older and continue to travel, I’m more conscious of what’s appropriate. Every spot has its trends or rules (keep your shoulders covered in India), but if you pack comfortable neutral pieces and layer, that seems to work pretty much everywhere. I’ve noticed that I kind of stick with the same palette — black, white, nude, blue, pink, purple, metallic.

Fashion icons?
Oh my goodness, there are tons. Frida Kahlo, both Hepburns (Audrey and Katharine), Dolly Parton, Madonna, MJ, Coco Chanel, Eva Peron, Diana Vreeland, Bridgette Bardot, Jane Birkin, Jenny Lewis, Zoey Deschanel, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Chloë Sevigny…

Where are your designs sold?
So far, I’m only in Arkansas: Box Turtle in Little Rock; the green corner store in Little Rock; PK’s in Conway; Something Urban in Fayetteville; Blue Moon in Hot Springs; and Apricot in Sherwood. I am slowly branching out to boutiques outside of Arkansas, but I am moving forward with caution so that I can keep the products made from recycled/reclaimed/natural materials.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? 
Exactly what I’m doing now, on a larger scale. What I REALLY, REALLY want is to have figured out a way to provide creative jobs and training for women and at-risk youth in the production of my recycled material clothing line.

Tell us more about your training and work program. 
I have been working with a small group of women who are helping me sew. We are working Alabama Chanin style; I am putting together “kits” of materials and patterns, they take them home, work there, and then return the finished pieces to me. I pay the artisans per piece. The youth programs have been a bit tougher to get going. I got the idea to create training and work programs for at-risk youth while working as the art teacher for the Boys and Girls Club inside the Juvenile Detention Center in Alexander. The kids seemed to really enjoy the art classes, and more than that, it seemed to really give them a sense of worth. Ideally, there would be training both within and outside the facility, as well as reentry employment opportunities.

The program needs to be one that not only teaches creative skills, but can do so in a rehab-type environment. I have been meeting with organizations that provide/are interested in creating similar programs and am currently working on a proper business plan and funding proposal.

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