Magdalene Ayuk
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Women Making History: Laura Mehlinger

Laura Mehlinger is the designer behind Lola Haze, the gorgeous lingerie line inspired by the energy of New York city. Before pursuing fashion on a full-time basis, Mehlinger was a student at Harvard University. She completed a BA in English; in fact, her favorite book, Lolita, served as inspiration for her clothing line. Lola Haze can easily be described as daring, feminine and playful. Just by looking at these garments, with their mix of fabrics, colors and textures, one can tell that this line is the brainchild of someone who thinks outside the box.

M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?

Laura Mehlinger: Elsa Schiaparelli is one of my favorite designers and an inspirational figure of mine. I admire her whimsy, innovation and mix of design with fine art.

M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start as a designer?

LM: I’ve been designing and making clothes since I was a child. I used to lie down on fabric and trace my body to make patterns. My first job as an actual designer was at the Gap when I was 22.

M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite piece of lingerie/loungewear/outerwear that you’ve created?

LM: My favorite piece I’ve created for Lola Haze is the fur chemise for fall 2011. I just had an urge to create something whimsical yet classic. It’s an ode to Hollywood glamour with a touch of sauciness.

M.I.S.S.: What fascinates you the most about the Lola character?

LM: I named Lola Haze after the title character in the novel Lolita, which is my favorite book and the subject of my college thesis. My choice was less a reference to the book’s themes than a tribute to the author’s mastery and artistry. Plus it’s just a saucy sound.

M.I.S.S.: How and why did you make the transition from studying English at Harvard to designing?

LM: Designing was always a love, but I was also bookish as a teenager so I wanted to study literature. In my senior year at Harvard, I decided to put on a fashion show of 30 looks I made. I raised money and hired a 40 person volunteer team. I found myself devoting all my energy to that project, and my honors thesis, which I ended up writing in two weeks, took a back seat. I realized that designing was my vocation.

Because I’m self-taught, I had a lot of learning to do when I entered the fashion industry after college designing for the Gap.

M.I.S.S.: Besides the title of your line, does your interest in literature come across in any other aspects of your creation?

LM: I think my liberal arts background taught me to consume arts with an analytic as well as an appreciative eye. This approach helps me find inspiration in the world around me.

M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to collaborate with?

LM: I would like to collaborate on a project where I’d focus on print, pattern and embellishment.

M.I.S.S.: What inspires you the most?

LM: My favorite part of design is getting to distill elements of disparate inspirations and combine them into one harmonious garment that will feel fresh and exciting to a wearer. Inspiration has come from travel to Asia, Prince concerts, the paintings of Morris Lovis, 20s fashion plates…

M.I.S.S.: What part of designing is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?

LM: The easy part is coming up with ideas; the hardest is throwing them away. Not every great idea can come to fruition.

M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career path similar to yours?

LM: I would say that the most important thing is to love what you do. Being a fashion designer is a true labor of love.

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