Fashion designer and born-and-bred Atlantan Laurel Wells turns 29 next week and tells The Atlanta Creatives Project how Seventeen magazine, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and--of course--Atlanta shaped her world.
What's your connection to Atlanta?
I lived there my whole life until I left to go to college. I went to school at the University of Georgia where I majored in painting, and then I moved back to Atlanta for a few years, and then I moved to New York.
How did growing up in Atlanta affect your work as an artist?
In two ways. One really superficial way being that coming from Atlanta, I really wasn’t exposed to a lot of stuff, cause now it’s kind of more of a cosmopolitan city, but when I was growing up, it wasn’t at all. I didn’t know about Saks. I had a subscription to Seventeen magazine and that was kind of my relationship to that whole world. ... I was a really creative person. I idolized Cyndi Lauper and Madonna in the 80s, but I didn’t know where you would buy things that were really fashionable, so I started making my own clothes when I was 14, just because I wanted to buy things I couldn’t find anywhere. So in a way living in Georgia helped my creativity.
And the second?
I think being a Southern women you really have these ideas about womanhood and about what a woman should be—that sort of Scarlett O'Hara influence that you constantly have kind of needing to feel ladylike, and since moving to New York, I’ve noticed now how not everybody has that. And that’s a specifically Southern thing.
Are you supporting yourself full-time as an artist?
I did support myself full-time with my business for the past two years, but now I am taking a break from my collection because I am designing for a company called Hayden-Harnett. I am their new apparel designer. So it’s my stuff, it just doesn’t have my name on it. So this collection for them will be out in fall 2008.
What can we expect from Hayden-Harnett's fall 2008 collection?
It’s really wonderful working for them because they really respect my ideas, so I pretty much have the freedom to do my own collection, but on a much better, bigger scale because I have more resources and better manufacturing. But stylistically, it’s cool, a tailored military style meets South American aesthetic. And I think it’s gonna be really, really good.
Has being in New York helped you artistically?
New York is such a great place of opportunity because you’re just physically close to so many people. In the fashion world, of course, things are going to happen a little more here than in Atlanta, but I think being any type of artist, New York is a great place to be. You might go to a bar and have a beer and meet someone who can change your life, and that didn’t really happen when I lived in Atlanta.
What are your thoughts on The Atlanta Creatives Project?
I’m always bragging about the amazing talent that comes out of Atlanta. Hopefully some day I can have a book on my coffee table and say, 'Look at all these people who came from this community.' I don’t know what the magical element is about Atlanta that causes so many creative people to come out of there. Maybe it’s because it’s not a big city.