Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Tanzer.
Laura, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born an artist, creating art from a very young age. My grandmother, also my muse, taught me to sew, also at a young age. I began making my own clothes around age ten, segueing to making clothes for my sister and friends, and eventually for others. That led me to leave art school for fashion design and engineering school when I was a teenager.
I honed my fashion illustration skills at Parsons School of Design and technical skills at Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with honors. I worked on Seventh Avenue in the fashion industry for several years before attending business school. I graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in international marketing and an MBA in international finance.
To better understand the fundamentals of sustainable practice, I pursued a PhD at the University of Arizona’s School of Renewable Natural Resources. That knowledge was the final input for creating a sustainable women’s clothing business.
It was always my intent to combine my business and fashion skills, and to create a company that could reflect my talent for fashion while also implementing the sustainable practice concepts that I both learned, and taught, at the University of Arizona.
Founded in October 2013, Laura Tanzer, LLC is the embodiment of that intent.
I started my company in a 10×10 closet in a warehouse. I made them put a window in a wall so I could have some natural light from the skylight nearby. The building was old, no heat in winter, no A/C in summer, and crumbling all around me. But I held open studio twice each year the first years and got new clientele, who brought their friends, who then brought their friends… Eventually, I moved to a larger studio, where I continue to grow my business.
I digitally print my photography, and some illustrations, on textiles. I often create huge panels with my art, and then cut those and make garments. Digital printing is very sustainable as there is no water needed, and very little energy needed to print.
With the remnants from those garment cuttings, I created my “Frammento” collection (the Italian word for remnant). I started that collection with a simple pullover tunic, and now make coats, jackets, and dresses with remnants. And they are really cool. All are one-of-a-kind, of course, dictated by the shapes of the remnant pieces I work with.
The small pieces of remnants I cannot use goto k-12 schools for their art classes. I aim for as little waste as possible – only one aspect of my sustainable business. It takes about two weeks to fill a grocery plastic bag with ‘trash’ – and most of that is composed of minuscule textile scraps, threads, and random stuff.
Another sustainable initiative – I use only natural fiber textiles, sourced from small mills in France and Italy and Spain. These mills do not unnecessarily make thousands of yards of textiles. They make to order, as I do. And they do not treat the natural fibers with toxic chemicals either. I also source what is called ‘dead stock’, leftover textiles from other mills/manufacturers that brokers carry in their warehouses. I go see my favorite brokers in NYC, and buy a bolt here and there.
This is how I am building my business. Organically, bit by bit, client by client. 🙂
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
NOT SMOOTH. I have faced many challenges, from hiring a sales rep who stole my money, or sewing techs who said they had skills but didn’t, which meant I had to remake the garments myself… It has been a roller coaster, but I love what I do, and I have a vision, and I am stubborn. I read somewhere that most successful entrepreneurs have those qualities, so I am in good company.
Laura Tanzer – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I design and engineer modern clothing in a sustainable way, right here in Arizona. I hire local workers. I am the creative aspect, and I have a business coach, a couple of mentor pals, and a vision.
I specialize in sustainably made clothing for women (eventually for men as well). I also create art by digitally printing my art on textiles.
And, I use a system I call Body Geometry to create a variety of styles that will flatter the different body types. There are six basic body types, and each of us falls into one of those categories. Square, Rectangle, Circle, Triangle, Inverted Triangle, and Hourglass. Our height, limbs, neck and other specifics create each of our unique forms within our body type. My measurement and pattern systems take the variety into account. The result is stunning clothing that fits.
The combination of sustainably sourced small batch textiles, Body Geometry, and my Frammento concept results in limited edition awesome clothing for the discerning woman.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Creating a business that serves delight to its clientele, and sustains itself through that service.
- Most separates price in the $200-$400 range
- Gowns start at $1500
- Website: www.LauraTanzerDesigns.com
- Phone: 520.981.9891
- Email: Sales@LauraTanzerDesigns.com
Neil Peters Fotography