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Meet Lauren Bienvenue of Once Upon a Laurén in Venice

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Bienvenue.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story really starts with the restlessness I felt at my corporate PR job. I was bored, stifled and looking down a long hallway of repetitive assignments.

I had always been crafty, but I had no idea how I could translate any of my abilities into an actual business. I started to run in any creative direction I could, writing down business ideas and throwing different artistic projects at the wall until I pulled a vintage leather jacket out of the closet one day and wondered if there was something I could do to make it a little more special.

I researched leather paint and timidly painted a few flowers along the shoulders of my own jacket in early 2017. I started wearing the jacket around New York and noticed that people would stop me on the subway to compliment me on it. Friends began to ask if I could spiff up their old jackets that weren’t getting much use. After wearing my jacket to a local salon in Jersey City one day, I was invited to participate in a Valentine’s Day themed pop-up shop. I had to create a few pieces just to make it look like I had a full booth but I sold two jackets that day which felt like a huge success.

After that, I set up an Etsy shop, signed myself up for a few festivals in and around New York City and started to chase all the ways I could build leather painting into a full-fledged business until I quit my corporate job in the spring of 2017.

Aside from hand-painted vintage leather, another large part of my business became custom bridal jackets. Brides will share their invitation drafts and bouquet examples with me as well as lines from their song, vows or simply their new last name and we’ll create a one-of-a-kind keepsake piece they can wear to their reception.

Lastly, live activations and client gifting has been an integral part of keeping my business alive for the last three years. Companies will work with me to conceptualize one-of-a-kind items that represent their brand and either have me pre-paint a suite of gifts like make-up bags, laptop folios and even jackets or have me on-site for live monogramming at their premiere party, in-store activation or product launch.

My story is more about a desire to pave my own creative path, use my self-taught talent and do whatever I needed to do to quit my corporate job than it is about having a secret passion for painting. I actually think that’s a part of my success because I never had with a rigid idea of what this business would be.

I found a whole new life in following through with my curiosity, listening when people said I was good at something and leveraging the expertise I learned in the corporate world to amplify my own creativity.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Surely no one has ever answered ‘yes’ to this question!

The bumps in the road haven’t come so much from physical or logistical hurdles for me as they do emotional ones. Small business ownership is a balancing act of worry and excitement, imposture syndrome and bright, shiny confidence. It’s difficult to know that you’re making the right decisions, marketing yourself properly, filling out the correct tax forms, remaining friendly and approachable while standing firm behind your pricing structure, etc.

As an artist, there are days where that are overflowing with ideas and inspiration and others where I think everything I’m working on is rubbish and I’m running on empty.

The struggle for me is to find peace within all of those extremes.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Once Upon a Laurén – what should we know?
Once Upon a Laurén really started as a mission to bring new life to old leather. What was once a random craft idea quickly grew into a one-woman green fashion task force.

The truth about leather is that it requires massive amounts of animal byproduct, feed, water, fossil fuels and effort to produce and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t last forever. Painting it is a new form of upcycling these pieces and it keeps them from being cast aside or ending up in a landfill.

By transforming discarded and conventionally out of style jackets into one-of-a-kind wearable art, it’s given a new purpose and identity.

My favorite projects are the ones where customers say ‘I have this jacket or bag that has been sitting in the back of my closet for ten years…’ and we work together to come up with a design that makes it into a wearable, usable piece that they are proud to show off.

Now, of course, my business has expanded to new and custom jackets as well as surfaces beyond leather like denim, canvas and even small scale murals, but I think the hand-painted vintage leather is what really makes Once Upon a Laurén special.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My husband, Barry, not only encouraged me to do something creative but also never flinched when I started thinking about quitting my day job. He shows off my newest projects to his coworkers, he gives advice, proofreads, takes photos of me posing in hand-painted leather jackets and has spent many a weekend helping me set-up my booth at a festival. His unfailing support and cheer-leading gave me permission to think bigger and bolder about what I could do with my career.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Flower Skull / ‘Til Death’ jacket – Lindsey Roman; Flower sleeve (bride on the beach) — Madison Neumann Photography; Pink rose on back of jacket — Elizabeth Hand

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