By Sarah Donofrio @sarahnicole_d
In the past two years, the name Laurs Kemp has become synonymous with the sustainable fashion scene in Portland.
But her brand of sustainability is different from just using organic fabrics. The designer works with vintage and locally sourced materials, and then donates all of her scraps. This also makes her label zero-waste.
Aesthetically, Kemp designs everything from basic T-shirts to intricate wovens. Though most notorious for her signature "boob tee" a few years back, the label also boasts impeccably made blouses and separates reminiscent of the '70s, Kemp's favorite era. While the designer doesn't adhere to conventional seasons—she makes collections as she gets inspired, not when she is told to—each released collection is well thought out and has its own signature color scheme.
"I try to create items that I wish existed," she says, "whether they're intricate or very simple."
The vintage sentiment extends beyond her individual garments—it can be seen in every detail, from her label to her moody Instagram feed.
Since its inception three years ago, the label has been available in some of Portland's best boutiques, like Johan and Backtalk, where Kemp had a yearlong residency in 2017. The versatility and one-of-a-kind aspect of Laurs Kemp assures the consumer and boutique owners that any stores carrying the line would have different collections, while samples and one-offs are only available in Kemps online store.
Currently working out of an industrial studio space, Kemp has wanted to move to a location that's more accessible to potential clients. As she says of her current digs, "a six-floor walk-up under a bridge isn't too welcoming."
She has, however, already found a new storefront.
Owning her own storefront has always been the plan, but as with many other independent designers, the timing and location had to be right. When a spot opened up in the building at 811 E Burnside St. a few months ago, she couldn't believe her luck. Home to Seven Sisters and Lisa Rietz, and next to Lille and Hattie's Vintage, the location is headquarters to designers and business owners who share Kemp's sensibility.
"I love how all of the shops are so distinct and yet they blend so well together," she says. "And, of course, I love that all of the businesses are women-owned."
She's naming the store Shampoo.
"I thought calling it just my name might give the false impression that customers would need an appointment to visit and that I'd only be showcasing my own clothing," she says. "I've always loved the word 'shampoo,' and I thought it fit the vibe of the store perfectly. It always makes me think of self-care and effervescence"
The merchandise selection will be as diverse as her clothing label, carrying everything from vintage clothing, film books, objets d'art, interiors, random paintings and prints—and, of course, all of her current collection, along with some samples and one-offs. Though the majority of her space will be a retail shop, Kemp will also have a studio in the back, and a place set aside for screenings of her favorite films and shorts. The store will officially open May 22, with weird films, drinks and another of Kemp's passions, karaoke.
SHOP: Find Laurs Kemp online at laurskemp.com.