Meet Fashion Designer Deborah Lindquist (deborahlindquist.com)
Her creations are eclectic unique, and sustainable.
Her childhood influenced her adult career choices, even though it might not have been apparent then. As one of LA’s most sought-after environmentally conscious designers, Deborah creates exquisite apparel, accessories, and home-décor pieces from recycled, sustainable, and organic fabrics. Deborah was originally trained at Parsons School of Design in New York City. After a successful career in Manhattan as a clothing designer, she launched her namesake accessory brand in 1983, designing unique Milanese mesh belts and jewelry. Afterwards, Deborah moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and launched her clothing line, starting with one-of-a-kind jackets, vests, and bustiers made of vintage fabrics. She then began successfully catering to hip fashionistas and boutiques throughout the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Today, Deborah’s eco-conscious clothing line combines environmental ethical standards with an edge. As noted in fashion magazines and blogs worldwide, she works her fashion magic with a mixture of environmentally conscious fabrications, and the resulting designs are as alluring as they are ecologically sensitive. As a trailblazer at the forefront of the modern green-clothing movement, Deborah impacts the fashion world while remaining true to her love for the environment, earning her the moniker of “Green Queen.”
She has designed for mega-stars like Sharon Stone, Pink, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and many other celebrities. Her work has been featured in numerous shows and publications internationally, including LA Times, Elle, Lucky, In Style, WWD, LA Brides, Rock&Roll Bride, and Good Morning America.
Whether designing a simple T-shirt from organic cotton, a reincarnated appliquéd cashmere cardigan, or a cutting-edge gown, Deborah’s mission is to create American-made, breathtaking eco-conscious designs that will deliver exquisite style and luxury for her clients while using the finest quality fabrics. Deborah spoke with Gemma Magazine about her inspiration for being an eco-designer, her creative process and some of the challenges she has faced. So, lets's get started!
Did you always know that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I grew up in the farmhouse my great-grandfather built and was fascinated by the incredible handmade garments I discovered in trunks stored in the attic. I taught myself basic skills like sewing, patternmaking, and embroidery and was mentored by my grandma Ida, a professional seamstress. Without knowing what a fashion designer was, I knew I wanted to make clothing, so I started sewing when I was 5 yrs old on my mom's Victorian treadle machine. I started making my clothing around 8th grade and redesigned pieces I found in stores that could have been designed better.
I studied fashion design and metalsmithing (my minor)at the University of Minnesota before I moved to New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design. I became a brand designer in NYC before launching my own business in 1983.
What made you go "green" with your brand, which I find fascinating? I was working with eco or green before words were created to describe it, which happened around 2004 when eco became a trend journalists were writing about. When I started my brand in 1983, I began using upcycled leather and vintage materials to create upscale belts and accessories. I switched to designing clothing when I moved to Los Angeles in 1989. I created limited edition and one-of-a-kind jackets, vests, bustiers, and home décor using vintage drapery fabrics. I had to make a massive pivot after my belt line was badly knocked off by a well-known belt company in LA shortly after I arrived. That was a "welcome to Los Angeles" moment I wasn't happy about then, but it pushed me in a new direction.
Tell us a bit about the Deborah Lindquist Bridal Collection. I showed my first bridal gown in hemp/silk satin and organza, embellished with semiprecious stones, as a finale to one of my fashion shows in 2006. I was already designing special occasion pieces, so it was a natural segue into bridal. I combine new fabric with vintage to create one-of-a-kind and limited edition bridal gowns, create custom gowns, sometimes using existing family heirloom gowns, and even do bridal alterations. Since I'm a classically trained designer and a fit expert, I have found this skill set significant. The bustles are a specific art form that requires creative engineering. I've been called the bustle whisperer by my wedding planner friends.
Can you explain your design philosophy and how you implement it? I mainly design women's clothing and have always wanted to make women look and feel beautiful. I like clothing that fits well, is flattering, is made of beautiful fabrics, and is well constructed. As an indie brand, I can make that happen by choosing to produce locally in the USA with skilled labor and choosing to sell to better boutiques and straight to consumers. My fabric choices include organic, sustainable, vintage/upcycled, and deadstock. I love to rescue beautiful materials cast off, such as vintage cashmere, leather, beaded wool, kimonos, saris, and whatever I think is beautiful, artistic, and functional. I became very well known in the upcycled category with the popularity of my reincarnated cashmere sweaters featured in the press and worn by many celebrities. I'm expanding my denim collection this season, working with a ton of upcycled denim I bought at the beginning of covid—a story in itself. Also, as a farmer's daughter, I have a unique connection to nature, so I consider the environment's health when making design and production choices. I have a zero-waste and circular production philosophy.
What are some challenges that you have faced in the industry? Wow. Every possible challenge. I was only 25 when I started my biz in NYC. They say, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere." In the 80s, people wanted luxury goods and were proud to spend money on unique goods. That all changed. Some challenges include Nafta, wars, knockoffs, stores bouncing checks, stores bouncing orders and going out of business, fast fashion and its destruction of the industry, being deemed nonessential at the start of covid, economic collapse, and issues with employees. I've always said that the fashion industry isn't the yummiest business. It's tough. But as a young person starting a business in a particular kind of city, I learned survival skills that I combine with creativity, the willingness to pivot, the love for nature, and a good amount of stubbornness.
Can you walk us through your creative process when designing a collection? It depends on my creation, but I usually start by sketching ideas and draping designs on my dress form. For instance, I use basic shapes and silhouettes with my cashmere collection and decide what story to tell using color, appliques, and embellishments. It could be a happy floral story using many colors or an edgy urban fashion story using darker or neutral colors. I design and cut the cashmere and appliques by hand. I share my process in my online fashion design course "Creating Eco-Conscious Fashion: Introduction to Eco Design and Fabric Embellishment." I'm using more flat pattern techniques with my upcycled denim collection because I'm working with legs. I'm working on my second course, "Out of the Blue," which focuses on designing with upcycled denim.
Trends, good and bad, surround us. How do you stay current with fashion trends and incorporate them into your designs? Social media and the internet make it easy to research, but I find inspiration in music, lifestyle, nature, travel, and collaboration.
Do you have a favorite fashion piece that you have designed and why? I don't necessarily have a favorite piece of clothing, but I keep an archive of historical articles I love to wear in my work's development. I kept my favorite belts from the 80s, which I wear now, my favorite vintage fabric jackets and bustiers from the late '80s/early 90s, my favorite cashmere sweaters from the start in the early 2000s, and now I'm keeping some of my favorite upcycled denim jackets. I'm usually willing to sell things I set aside, but some have a personal value I'm connected with, so say no. Much of what I do is limited edition or one-of-a-kind.
Can you describe a project or collaboration you have worked on that you are proud of? I loved making costumes for the Pussycat Dolls when they were a burlesque troupe. It was fun to work with the revolving group of celebs performing with them and getting everyone dressed backstage. I like the behind-the-scenes energy of performances. I also work with underwater photographers and models and have done some beautiful collaborations creating art focusing on the health and well-being of the element of water. One of the images (a wedding dress I decided to use in the pool) won an award in Brussels, and another project which went particularly viral on IG is about the danger of glycolate, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.
What is up next for Deborah Lindquist?
Teaching my skillset is a big next thing. I launched my first course last year, which you can see on my course website: creatingecoconsciousfashion.com .
I’m also doing in- person workshops and am working on my next course called “out of the blue” focused on working with upcycled denim. and I’m writing a book about the same subject.
I see hand crafting as a big trend moving forward. It might be in part due to the renewed interest in ethical fashion, which is a good thing.
To keep up with Deborah Lindquist and her sustainable designs, you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook!