STYLE

Gift for daughter inspires Linda Lundstrom's new leather and fur accessories line

10/17/2012 12:21 EDT | Updated 12/17/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - When Linda Lundstrom crafted a leather scarf for her eldest daughter, she simply regarded the gesture as a birthday present for her child — unaware of the gift it would bring to the designer herself.

"She's in-the-know about what's coming in fashion," Lundstrom said of Mosha Lundstrom Halbert, a contributing editor at Flare.

"She opened it up — and I'll never forget this — and she looked at me and said: 'Mom, how did you know that leather scarves are really going to be really important?' And I went: 'I had no idea.

"I live in... a log cabin, I don't read fashion magazines, I don't know what's going on in fashion — I just made this for you.' She said: 'Mom, this is fabulous.'"

It wasn't that long ago that Lundstrom had thought she her designing days were over.

Three years ago, she parted ways with the investment company who purchased her brand after she filed for bankruptcy protection. Soon after, the longtime Canadian designer decided to trade city living in Toronto for her beloved 60-year-old cabin in the country.

Lundstrom said she was totally happy teaching and helping other people with their businesses, along with some freelance design work. But she admits she still had the urge to create items, and would head to her cabin studio to do so for herself.

"I guess all that desire to create was pent up in me and (Mosha) set me off."

The newly launched L designed by Linda Lundstrom features leather and fur accessories handcrafted in Canada. Items in the collection include leather rings, wrist cuffs and duster vests, with pieces bearing an "L" insignia handpainted by the designer.

The range of furs include indigo-dyed red fox and sheared beaver shawl collars. Lundstrom said she left all the natural edges and parts of the skin that other companies throw away to create additional accessories.

She said the line will appeal to those who appreciate the technique she's used, which she describes as a "rough around the edge" design approach.

"There's a certain type of person whose style is very tailored and very structured and very corporate in everything and they only wear real jewelry and there's a hardness. And I'm looking for people who appreciate softness and irregularity and asymmetry."

She launched her original company in 1974, where she earned acclaim for the label's signature Laparka wool coats.

By the end of 2006, Lundstrom had produced 150,000 of the iconic coats in more than 130 different colours in up to 30 different motifs in collaboration with First Nations artists.

She filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008, citing significant business reversals in 2007, compounded by a high loonie.

Eleventh Floor Apparel purchased the rights to the designer's name, assets and the manufacturing plant of Lundstrom's former company. She signed on as chief creative officer but departed from her design role in 2009.

Lundstrom said losing the business was "a gift," adding that she's happier and healthier today. But the pain endured during the process remains palpable.

"That company was my baby," she said. "My first employee was still with me 35 years later. I built it from that two-bedroom apartment into this multi-million dollar company with 400 retailers and I had my own three stores and I loved it. I loved the community.

"We produced great things and I had wonderful retailers all over North America and sales agents. But it was a big machine. And when I went bankrupt, I just didn't have anything else to give. I had nothing else to give. I had put everything into that company."

Lundstrom said the purchase of the brand was, in a way, an answer to her prayers because she needed a break, adding that she was operating at a "very high pace" and shouldering a lot of responsibilities.

"I went back to a very simple life and I shut off that part of me that was just designing, designing, designing — like a designing machine. And to tell you the truth, I was making things because I had to, not because I particularly loved them."

Lundstrom plans to keep her new fashion enterprise smaller in scale. Items from the line will be available in limited quantities and sold online, and she plans to stage trunk shows, including one scheduled for Oct. 26 at Verity in Toronto.

Her advice for budding designers would be to focus on their own creating vision rather than following a course defined by others.

"I think there's a leap of faith involved there to not feel like you have to get your inspiration from outside, but to get your inspiration from inside. And there's a big difference when you know that you're doing that as opposed to doing the stuff because you have to," she said.

"I've done a lot of stuff. I've done some really good stuff. But I only want to do stuff that I love now."

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Online:

www.designedbylindalundstrom.com

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