I first saw her in an evening yoga class. It was hard not to notice the girl who moved through all the poses with ballerina poise, perching birdlike on her mat, all grace and sprightliness. What’s more, it was hard not to notice the pants she wore as she flowed. They weren’t the performance fiber uniform donned by the rest of the class. They were loose linen trousers in a smoky sea-glass hue, tapered slightly as if each pant leg were a cocoon. “I love your pants,” I confessed when the class let out. “Thank you!” she beamed, “I made them.”
The girl in the pants was Lauren Winter—designer, seamstress, and owner of the quality and comfort-focused sustainable-clothing brand which bears her same name. Lauren Winter’s pieces are polished and minimal, yet distinct in form and feature. Lauren makes what she herself wants to wear—clothes that stand alone in their charm and still offer the wearer freedom to express themselves, even on a yoga mat.
Clothing is powerful. What we wear can transform us, emotionally and mentally, into different versions of ourselves. The best articles of clothing multitask—taking on no obvious trend, yet lending their structure and artistry to the wearer’s confidence and intended presentation. For Lauren, “Comfort is key . . . I want my customers to feel empowered, that they can express themselves.” Lauren is, herself, a lot like her clothes. Classic, graceful, able to shift shapes easily from designer to the manifold interests that make her, her. A die-hard fantasy reader, an avid video-game player, and a lover of old cinema—there’s a shimmering thread through it all, a deep love of being transported, of living in a story, where you can be—and become—anything.
It’s no wonder that Lauren’s love of fashion was always tied to story. Finding storied, vintage pieces are what began Lauren’s self-taught adventures in sewing. Lauren and her husband, Neil, lived in Nashville for four years, where she took advantage of the city’s many thrift stores, buying vintage and altering it to sell through her blog and Etsy shop (they later moved to Portland, Oregon, where she began creating clothing under her namesake brand). “Thrift-store clothes were much cheaper than buying fabric new, so it became an inexpensive way to teach myself how to sew,” Lauren says.
Those grassroots, thrift-store origins wound up setting a foundation for Lauren Winter the brand, echoed throughout her design ethos. All of the clothing in her line is mindfully sourced—“That’s where the story of the garment begins,” Lauren says—and follow this rule: “No zippers, snaps, or buttons.” Lauren explains that this choice was “birthed from a sewing limitation,” but it’s now a pillar of her brand. The choice to omit fastenings allows a cohesive aesthetic and provides a life-giving challenge to all of Lauren’s new designs. “Limitations get a bad reputation, but they are important in figuring out who we are and what we’re not.”
In May 2019, Lauren and her husband left Portland, Oregon, where she grew her brand and her life desires. “We want to put down roots, have a place to raise a family,” she asserts. So, they moved to Greenville. “Every place we’ve lived has shaped my business and design ethos in a unique way. I’m excited to see how Greenville influences what I create. There’s something that feels right about manufacturing clothes in a city with such a rich textile history.”
With Lauren’s track record of telling a story—and allowing stories to be told—through her clothes, we’ll doubtless see an attentive shift in her designs to come. As for what’s next, Lauren mentions working with United States–made hemp fiber, designing her take on the quintessential ’80s blazer, and a focus on big shapes. No matter what is on the horizon for Lauren Winter, Lauren will face it with the same bright-eyed, adventurous spirit that’s brought her to where she is today.
Tanya Stiegler Tremendous sterling tendril earrings ($450); LW Mesa Top in black linen ($190); LW Slim Pant in black linen ($210)
Photography by Paul Mehaffey. Special thanks to model Paola Valiente / Millie Lewis, Isabelle Schreier for hair and makeup, and to Greenville jewelry designers Tanya Stiegler and Kate Furman.
To view Lauren Winter’s spring 2020 collection, go to laurenwinter.co.