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Interview With Linda Lundström

Last night, Eleventh Floor Apparel (EFA) debuted Lundström Collection, but with Ms. Linda Lundström no longer as the head designer, the finale did not proceed with the accustomed bow.

The namesake designer officially resigned from the helm of her collection in June of 2009, fifteen months into her 2-year contract with EFA. Lundström was approached by EFA in early 2008 when it was announced that Linda Lundström Inc. was filing for bankruptcy due to their bank giving the company 30 days to pay back a $1.9 million loan. As part of that deal – which included all company assets, inventory, and the 40,000 sq. ft. location – they now own the Lundström name.

“Fall 2009 marked the last collection I was fully responsible for under the Lundström brand,” she mentioned in a recent press release, “Although I contributed to the Spring 2010 collection, and a portion of Fall 2010 that is now showing – I haven’t seen the complete collection that will be hitting the runway this season.”

Linda Lundström

Moving on, Lundström recently launched her new company Linda Lundström Works while continuing to teach her Apparel Manufacturing course to Fashion Management students at George Brown College and also offering her thirty years-plus of experience in product development, fabric sourcing and colour, and fabric trend interpretation through her Lean manufacturing consulting services.

Having founded the Lundström label in 1974, she has a wealth of  knowledge on the fashion industry and graciously agreed to share some of it.

On Changes Over The Years:

“When I graduated from Sheridan College in 1972, there were very few Canadian designers. Marilyn Brooks, Pat McDonagh, Leo Chevalier, and Michel Robichaud were my role models, but most of the companies in the fashion industry did not have designers. It was common for them to have a ‘tie-up’ with a NYC company; whereby they would just buy styles, patterns and ideas from them and produce the goods in Canada.

The industry back then was just beginning to see the benefits of having a designer create original pieces. Spadina Avenue and the garment district in Montreal were buzzing with the activity of the many manufacturing companies, many of which did not employ a designer. Tie-ups and copying were the accepted methods of producing new merchandise. That’s why I started my own company. Design jobs were very hard to find.

Today, the industry has completely changed. Most companies, even those that still copy, usually have a designer on staff. However, the manufacturers have disappeared, as production has moved offshore to countries with cheaper labour costs. Those designers with their own companies must rely on contractors to produce their goods.

At Linda Lundstrom Inc., I insisted on manufacturing all my designs here in Canada, in my own factory. This was the way I was trained to work, with control over the quality, with the ability to see my designs being produced. I would like to see more designers manage their own production. That’s why I decided to teach Apparel Manufacturing at George Brown College, to encourage young students to see the opportunities in knowing how to implement LEAN Manufacturing to enable Fashion to be designed and made in Canada.”

On Changes She Would Like to See:

“I would like to see more interest in manufacturing. I would also like to see more Canadian designed products on the editorial pages of Canadian Fashion magazines.”

On Social Media:

“When I first heard about fax machines, that was ‘out there’ in terms of leading technology. I just cannot project the social media of today onto the world back when I started. I have always embraced the most current technology and that has not changed. When I bought my first CAD equipment from Lectra in the early 80s for pattern making and digitizing, it was considered inappropriate for a small company like mine. But because we started so early, the CAD/CAM systems we acquired truly gave us a competitive edge that was part of the reason for our many years of success. Today, being on Twitter is just an extension of my love of technology and the ways it can make my life easier but also more interesting. Facebook, Linkedin, and let’s not forget my blackberry, all help me stay connected and relevant.”

Her Advice to Emerging Designers:

“Your creativity can never be taken away from you, but you also need to understand the business and how to make money, how to understand financial statements, how to buy fabric, all the stuff on the business side is just as important as the designing. Also, don’t listen to too many people. Everyone has their own ideas, but you must follow your instincts. I tried to please too many people and as a result my line got too big with too many choices. Sales agents will tell you that they could reach their sales targets if only you made more dresses. Retailers want lower prices, everyone wants something, don’t try to please everyone at the expense of pleasing yourself.”

Her Advice To Her Daughter and Those Starting a Career in Fashion:

“The advice I have always given [Mosha] is that what we see in fashion is somebody’s creative interpretation expressed on the page. It is not necessarily real, or intended for people to duplicate but rather to be inspired by. My advice to those in other capacities in fashion is to understand that this is a creative, fun, and challenging business. What you see on the runways and magazines is the glamour with no limitations, but behind it is hard work, a physically demanding schedule, lots of risks with no guarantee of success and pay that is often below other industries. But it has held my passion for over three decades and has given me a life full of incredible experiences. There was simply nothing else I wanted to do. Mosha has that same passion for fashion writing and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of designers and their influences. She was brought up in this business and knows what it takes to succeed.”

On Her Immediate Plans:

“My immediate plans are to have my new company, Linda Lundstrom Works, be the vehicle for me to contribute the things I have learned to benefit other businesses not just in the fashion industry, but also in other areas. I don’t want to have 150 employees again, I don’t want to owe anyone money, I just want to be creative and share my knowledge with those who appreciate what I have to offer. I also want to be there for my family; in ways I was unable to when my business demanded so much of my attention. I want to enjoy my life now and think about my legacy, what I can do to make a difference. I would love to help women in First Nations communities in Canada, participate in the economy. Maybe help set up Lean Manufacturing cells in impoverished communities here in Canada and elsewhere. Africa is calling me to do something to help the victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, I am trying to listen. I also plan to continue my career as a motivational storyteller, giving keynote speeches at events across Canada.”

On Her Long-term Goals:

“Build a green home on our cottage property so that we can spend summers and winters there. I took a course on building a straw bale home, maybe with a studio where I can sew and design. There are many places I would like to visit – Greece, Bali, Nunavut, India – but mostly I want to spend time with my husband, my daughters, family and friends. So much of my focus was on my company for 36 years, that now I want to explore the important relationships in my life. I want to satisfy my curiosity, so many things interest me that I never had the time to pursue before.”

On Returning to Fashion Design:

“Maybe. Stay tuned.”

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About Gail McInnes (296 Articles)
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Gail McInnes has made an indelible mark on the Canadian fashion and entertainment scenes; managing and guiding the careers of some of the country's most notable talents, including Lucian Matis, Hilary MacMillan, Stephen Amell (CW's Arrow), Natalie Brown (The Strain), Brad Goreski (E! Fashion Police), and more. Visit gailmcinnes.com for more information or email gailmcinnes@gmail.com.

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