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Meet Deborah Lindquist of Deborah Lindquist Eco Couture in North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Deborah Lindquist.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m an eco-conscious clothing designer of women’s clothing, accessories, lifestyle, and wedding. I work with a combination of organic, sustainable, and recycled fabrics. In my vintage/reincarnated cashmere line, I also design men’s, children’s, dog sweaters, and home decorative accessories.

I’m a farm girl from Minnesota and started sewing at the age of 5 so I guess that’s my initial clothing design and construction start, where I dreamt up ideas and taught myself how to sew and make patterns with the help of my professional seamstress Grandmother Ida, a tiny talented Norwegian perfectionist. I’m lucky to have grown up so close to nature, and as an eco-designer, it makes sense to me to always consider the impact my business has on nature. For years my care labels have contained the phrase “Save Your Planet”.

My professional training as a clothing designer (with a minor in jewelry) began at the University of Minnesota and then at Parsons School of Design in New York City where I moved in 1979. After finishing my education there, I worked for a few years as a designer for companies in New York before launching my own line in 1983 of unique and handmade Milanese mesh belts and jewelry using a mix of vintage materials and semiprecious stones with mesh. It was a great time to launch a business.

The economy was strong and people took pride in owning unique luxury designs and embraced independent designers. My focus was always handmade with elements of vintage materials. My first belt was made of Milanese mesh I found in a messy trim store in the garment district, with leather from a distressed leather jacket I found in the east village. With that belt, I launched my line, and within a few months, I was featured in WWD as a new designer to watch. I designed belts and jewelry for about a decade and sold them all over the world.

So before there was a name for eco-consciousness, I launched an eco line. For this reason, I’ve been called a pioneer by journalists for years. I appreciate that term very much and am happy that I’m part of the community of earth-conscious business owners. I believe that more than ever, it is truly necessary to consider the environment when making decisions.

In 1989 I relocated to Los Angeles. I loved New York, but I missed gardens and nature. I continued with my belts and jewelry but considered working for someone so interviewed with a well-known belt company owned by a husband and wife team. “We love your work and would like to hire you,” they said. A little time passed, and decisions were not made for me to start working for them. The couple split and low and behold they both knocked off my line.

“Welcome to Los Angeles. You’ve been knocked off.” Not only did they copy my work and take it to volume production, they did it badly which I could see from the start. Their belts fell apart, making the category I had created nearly a decade prior look flawed. I’m sure they lost a lot of money. Clearly, I had to come up with something completely different. What looked like a disaster to me at the time turned out to be a new and wonderful opportunity.

I was trained as a clothing designer so went back to that. Jackets were wildly popular in the 90’s, shoulder pads and all. I was living in Venice at the time and found a store there called Baba. The owner Kris was a big supporter of my new ideas and I created one of a kind jackets in vintage bark cloth, jacquard, and Indian blanket fabrics with vintage buttons which were sold there. We did photo shoots, collaborated on ideas, and it was there that I started making bustiers out of unusual and one of a kind fabrics, now a mainstay in my line. Soon I was selling my clothing line to better boutiques everywhere.

Fashion is a cycle, silhouettes change, and shoulder pads were shelved. I’ve just recently pulled out some jackets from my archive that I’m just starting to wear again, although I have made the shoulders narrower… I found a pile of cashmere sweaters at a flea market around 2004 and decided that I could have some fun with them. I bought a few, chopped off the arms to make body conscious sleeveless sweaters with “arm socks” as I named them. Arm socks would later become fingerless gloves, one of my popular accessories.

There are a few reasons people get rid of luxurious cashmere sweaters and potentially put them in landfill. A moth hole, a stain, the fit. For me, easy enough to remedy since I was so connected to vintage materials. I covered up problems with appliques, recut the bodies to fit closely and made them figure flattering. Celebrities started wearing them and were photographed and featured in magazines. Sharon Stone was featured in every weekly publication and on the tv celeb watch stations, captured by paparazzi wearing my iconic pearl studded skull cardigan holding her baby Quinn. Miley Cyrus embraced my dog sweater idea and bought a skull sweater for her puppy, also ending up in People Magazine.

The category expanded and stores all over the world started carrying them. They have always been bespoke and handmade of vintage cashmere. Quite a production undertaking when I was carried in almost 200 boutiques around the world! In the beginning, the media did not have a buzzword for this type of work. (I think the term Eco-conscious came about around 2006) Some people thought it was weird or wrong. A boutique owner in New Jersey couldn’t understand what vintage cashmere was no matter how hard I tried, so I decided to rename it “reincarnated”. Today it is still one of my mainstay categories and I still call it reincarnated cashmere. I even designed a wedding gown using vintage beaded wool and cashmere, perfect for an ice castle wedding in Sweden.

My love for bustiers continued as well, with celebrities like Pink wearing a one of a kind design in a vintage sari, Rihanna wearing a semi-precious beaded vintage lace design in her music video “Unfaithful”, and then on the burlesque performers Pussycat Dolls when I did a stint as a costume designer. This was a great opportunity, and I was able to work one-on-one with the dancers and revolving cast of celebs such as Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani who I created costumes for.

Around this time journalists from everywhere started writing about me, and often asked me how I could be designing eco and making it look sexy? Eco was a new buzzword and they expected to be writing about more basic, shapeless garments. They called me the “Sexy Eco Designer”. That’s a fun description although they did mean my clothing!

Soon my work was featured in magazines and publications across the globe and I showcased my work in Ethical Fashion tradeshows in Paris, London, and the US along with so many innovative and creative ethical designers from all countries. Eco was the way of the future and boutiques everywhere embraced the idea.

I was also at this time nicknamed “Green Queen”, which I segued into a brand name for my lifestyle basic and active line, Green Queen by Deborah Lindquist. Green Queen is focused on the things you wear every day. T-shirts, dresses, leggings, catsuits, and yoga/dancewear made of vegan modal and organic cotton blends.

Today my bustiers are most often seen in wedding gowns, special occasion looks, and are still handmade, limited edition or one of a kind. I’ve designed wedding gowns for years but after our economy changed so drastically in 2008 and boutiques started closing, I expanded my wedding collection, figuring that in any economy, women will get married.

My gowns are made of vintage beaded wool, hemp/silk, organic linen, pineapple, coconut, vintage lace, vintage kimono, vintage sari, vintage parachute. I mainly sell them direct and bespoke.

On the flip side of eco-friendly, fast fashion has always been around. But today it makes me sad to see that the masses have embraced fast fashion in the way they had never before. Buy it cheap, wear it twice, throw it away, overproduce, and then add to the landfill. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. Documentary films such as ‘The True Cost” and “River Blue” have opened many eyes to this problem. I am grateful that these filmmakers and others like them have documented the ugliest truths about the “monster” of fast fashion and the disregard for the very land we stand on, the air we breathe and the water we can’t live without.

Fast fashion has successfully put most of the better boutiques I worked with for years out of business and many of the eco designers I call friends. I’m stubborn enough to stick with it and change the way I sell my work because I feel that I need to be part of the solution of saving our environment. I’m a farm girl. I grew up immersed in nature in a farm-to-table lifestyle utilizing old-school methods of crop rotation and allowing the soil to rest and replenish via diverted acres. You can talk to me about farming…

I realize my background is quite unusual for a fashion designer but it did in part shape my love for the environment. This year I will have been in business 35 years. I have a few retailers I still work within the US and internationally, one being the store Tesoro at Fred Segal Sunset. You’ll currently find my group of vintage leather clutches and crossbody/belt bags there. And you’ll occasionally find me there as well. I love the opportunity to talk to people from around the world who visit LA and shop there. I hear from most everyone that it would be nice to see more unique offerings from indie designers. Creative people are a tenacious group and I’d like to see that happen as well.

You can find my work and more about everything you’d ever want to know about me on my websites: www.deborahlindquist.com and greenqueenclothing.com.

What I didn’t know as a business person, I made up for with a fearlessness and tenacity that got me into some of the best stores in the US and internationally. I also met a creative community of young creative people like me who helped and encouraged each other, did sample sales and trunk shows together.

For the last 9 yrs I’ve been working with international interns who come to work with me usually in the summer for 2 months to study hand made/sustainable fashion.
I’ve had many students from Denmark, France, Austria, Korea, Japan, China, UK, and occasionally US students as well.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Deborah Lindquist Eco Couture – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in eco fashion, most of which are handmade and made to order. I’m best known for edgy/feminine, figure-flattering clothing which is unique, limited edition, and one of a kind. (www.deborahlindquist.com).

In the past few years, my wedding gowns have begun to garner a lot of attention. I collaborate with other professionals in the wedding industry to create themed styled shoots for pr. We get published in bridal blogs and publications in the US and internationally. I’ve designed gowns for a “wonder woman marries superman” shoot, “Pirates of the Caribbean” shoot, as well as bohemian, art deco, gothic, 2 brides, beach wedding, themed shoots.

I also style editorial (non-wedding) photoshoots and collaborate to do many types of creative shoots. Underwater photoshoots have become one of my favorites. I often work with professional mermaid Hannah Fraser who is photographed all over the world, swims with sharks, whales, and sea creatures of all types. And Cheryl Walsh, the underwater photographer often uses my work for her underwater shoots. I love the dramatic and dreamy images and in addition to creating beautiful art, it helps to create a dialog for keeping our water clean and safe.

I appreciate this kind of work because it becomes a close community of self-employed, supportive people, and we all use the images for our social media and branding. We need each other and this helps everyone involved.

Today I’m expanding my product offerings to include lifestyle for the home such as pillows and throws made of vintage cashmere, gift items to assist in meditation and re-centering such as dream pillows made with locally picked mugwort, organic lavender, and chamomile, and some mini matchboxes for your home altar with vintage materials and semiprecious stones. I like the idea of creating a sanctuary in your home to reset, recharge, and re-balance.

We all need this in this busy, confusing world. I was a yoga teacher for 6 years and find the practice of mindful movement and meditation to be important in my life. So I came up with things that I like personally and now offer them as part of my lines. I do have a volume capable line, Green Queen which is focused on basics, yoga, dance. Part of it is hand worked as you see in the slashed and hand crocheted designs. (www.greenqueenclothing.com)

Everything is produced locally in Los Angeles. I am proud to be an eco-designer and am committed to employing people locally for my production.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like the diversity of our cultural melting pot of humanity here in LA. With that comes the availability of diverse/ethnic artistic fabrics that I can find to use in my work and interesting food that comes from these regions that I can buy. My lifestyle is focused on organic and sustainable food and products and LA makes it easy to source what I need due to supply and the demand of likeminded people.

It has been said that many new ideas come from the left coast and I think that’s possibly true. New ideas do come from everywhere but we have a lot of diversity that is easily accessible here. The ocean is nearby, mountains and deserts also. You could literally go surfing and ski the local mountains in the same day. With that, I think that we have easier access to things that spark new ideas.

I’m drawn to people who are uniquely talented and create a story that is truly individual to them. I think these ideas have the power to change the world. I find a lot of these people here doing great things that would be unusual or very weird in other regions.

What I don’t like: The traffic, the distracted drivers on their phones, and the fact that most Angelinos don’t know how much personal space they take up. They seem to be completely oblivious to others. Much unlike my experience from living so long in Manhattan where you will literally be run over or pushed aside if you’re a dumbass blocking the flow of 10 million people trying to get somewhere.

I also wish we had more rain so it was easier for me to grow vegetables.

Pricing:

  • My Green Queen line is priced from $50-$300 at retail (greenqueenclothing.com)
  • My main clothing brand Deborah Lindquist Eco Couture starts at about $120 (cashmere accessories for instance) and goes to $3500 for a special occasion or wedding gown.
  • Gift/home decorative under the Deborah Lindquist label, (which some is in the works) will start at $12 and go to about $400.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Carolyn Hennesy Photos by Eugene, Alicia Underwater, Jenn Spain, Fifth District Photos, Voir, Brienne Michelle, Peter Parker, Altar Image Photo

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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