VCUarts Qatar alumna Lauren Morell defines herself as a third culture kid. Her clothing line is an amalgamation of memories, experiences and cultural overlaps. She is inspired by her nomadic childhood, a time when her family travelled extensively, making each new place where she lived, a home to her.
In conversation with fashion designer and VCUarts Qatar faculty member Sonali Raman, they discuss the cross-cultural influences in the region on their designs and sustainability in fashion.
Sonali Ramam (SR): What is the design process you follow? How does it work for you?
Lauren Morell (LM): I don’t really have one specific way of a design process. My design process follows many – it really depends on my mood, the concept of my next collections, and how in depth I want to go with each design. The design process for me is the best part of it all, that’s where I zone out and start with creating mood boards, putting together scraps of textiles to envision what I want to create. I research a lot until I get to the final design process. My design process works perfectly for me, because it’s always a new way of discovering my design process.
SR: For me, it’s always about the fabric, the inspiration comes from my love for fabrics, and I begin from there. I work on creating the fabric first, finding the right small weaver – the artisan – who can translate my ideas on the loom and collaborate with me. This process takes the maximum time as we discuss the yarn counts, the weave construction and the colours; only then does the sampling begin for the fabric. After I approve the sample, the weaver needs almost two months to weave the entire fabric needed for the collection – truly a slow fashion process. While I am working on the fabric with the artisan, I am also sketching the styles and creating the technical files for the workshop to translate into patterns and fit samples. The fabric is the hero in most of my collections and I work the silhouettes to suit the fall and drape of the fabric keeping in mind my brand’s core principle of inclusivity in terms of the cuts working for all body types.
SR: Lauren, can you walk us through the design process for your latest collection? How did it start, etc?
LM: My latest Autumn-Winter Collection, “Lost Tribes”, was inspired by culture and heritage, from which most of my inspiration comes. The “Lost Tribes” collection came from my time living in the Middle East, specifically Qatar, and growing up between cultures. The palette of colors I used signify nature, growth, and diversity. The stripes on the abaya signify my journey, and the up-cycled details of raw hems signify the beauty of struggle.
SR: How does living in Qatar, away from your home country, influence your designs or your work?
LM: Living in Qatar has influenced my designs, and creativity on many levels! Not just living in Qatar, but also living in the MENA region and having the opportunity to access a diversity of cultures and backgrounds has influenced me. Having the advantage of being around a diverse culture has truly influenced my designs, and has made me feel comfortable in expressing the diverse patterns throughout my story.
SR: Living in Qatar has deeply influenced the cuts and silhouettes of my designs particularly in the last eighteen months with the Working From Home (WFH) culture and the desire to wear more relaxed clothing. My cuts are inspired by local cultural clothing and comfort fits, and I also use a lot of cultural motifs from the region in my jewelry lines, and I work on color palettes that appeal to the market here.
SR: Can give us an example of how something here has influenced your designs?
LM: I am always influenced by the Qatari culture, hospitality, traditions, and most of all the comfort and joy it brings me being surrounded by such a beautiful diverse culture. The traditions worn by the Bedouins (Nomads) influence a lot of my designs, and patterns – what I like to call, a twist of traditional urban.
SR: From concept to final outcome – how do you incorporate sustainability into your lines and how do you overcome any challenges you face along the way?
LM: From the concept of my designs to the final outcome, I incorporate core elements of re-using and up-cycling as my values, and I embrace the textiles being utilized. Most importantly, how production is being made as a whole. Every day, I am learning new ways to keep my values strong, and to source materials that are made in a way that cause little environmental impact. The experience and joy of up-cycling and creating my own textile ensures me to have a zero-waste policy, and to encourage the youth to do the same. I believe challenges are always there along the way, the challenges empower me to discover new innovative ideas to incorporate throughout my designs, from concept to final, and to keep the principal goal to raise awareness on the environmental impacts and vulnerable communities.
SR: Sustainable slow fashion is one of the core pillars of my brand. I believe deeply in cultural sustainability and supporting traditional crafts and textiles. Each of our products is intrinsically linked to India’s rich repository of crafts and textiles. Fabrics that we use are mostly handloomed and handspun the traditional way. The embellishments in our jewelry hark back to the ancient artisanal crafts of zardozi and the hand embroideries in our apparel echo the simple stitches that the Indian women in villages use in their daily lives. We reuse all our scrap and left over fabrics as our packaging bags handles and in small zero-waste products and also cover our hangers with them.
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In her own words
Patterns are a huge inspiration for me, and are part of the story I continue to tell throughout my designs. The patterns I incorporate in my designs tell a story of a ‘Third Culture Kid’ always wandering around – a story of craftmanship, culture, and heritage.
The beauty behind each pattern has a story to tell – nomadic experiences, enriched by many cultures, inspired by my upbringing, and drawing from my Latin American heritage. Every pattern signifies a place where I’ve been, a memory, a color throughout that journey, and handcrafted details of transitioning from my upbringing.
I do stumble across some designs that are finalized, and it’s not exactly how I envisaged it but I never let that get in the way of my process moving forward. I always find a way to tweak it or keep the design as it is and work around it.
I believe, as a designer, you will have many designs you envisaged and which won’t turn out to be exactly how you wanted them to be. That’s what makes the designer unique as an individual, finding ways around your design to be able to tweak it or leave it the way it is and move on to the next.
That’s a learning process for me.
VCUarts Qatar’s Fashion Design Alumna’ 2020
Lauren Morell, the Latina American fashion designer, tells a story through her collections of patterns. She is an American citizen, but has spent most of her youth in Qatar, which she calls her second home.
The details of each design proudly tell a story of craftsmanship, culture, and heritage, while embracing comfort in each silhouette. The designs take key style elements and textiles from the traditional Bedouin wardrobe, to create original, wearable pieces. Taking advantage of the skills and knowledge that have come down through generations of Bedouin craftsmanship, Lauren takes forward the traditions, and practices of the Bedouin heritage through handcrafted details, the up-cycling of textiles, and the creation of a variety of vibrant patterns. Her brand, ‘Lorenaa Michelle’, is built on the principle of sustainability through the recycling, reusing and up-cycling of textiles where through detailed craftsmanship she recreates her own authentic textile, but with an urban twist.