What is the future of fashion? The only answer is circular. Laugh By Lafaille’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection works on filling the void through the creation of new and wearable art with the use of aged garments. From a refreshing colour palette to quilted fabrics and parachuting silhouettes, the Montreal-based label gives already-made garments a second life by fusing the concepts of reconstruction and reprocessing. For the label’s founder, Ben Lafaille, the limitations of recycled garments have the power to pave a new path towards an inventive and unexpected journey. Celebrating sustainability, equality and diversity, the old defines the new with the Montreal’s one-of-a-kind label.
Before launching your label, what had been your greatest takeaway from your professional and academic background? Would you say your personal style has a large influence on the identity of the brand?
When I studied design and fashion, I was definitely experimenting quite a bit with my style, which was what picked at my curiosity. In the past, I worked for a toy company, which is where I spent a lot of time manipulating objects and computers; this was part of what influenced my inspiration behind the brand today.
My personal style tends to be more subtle now as I try to devote most of my energy towards Laugh By Lafaille’s creative process. Although I did experiment very much with my personal style in the past, I wouldn’t say it has much of an influence on the identity of the brand today as the brand mainly emphasizes on upcycling, which is something I kept learning more about over the years. But I will say that coming to terms with my own style allowed me to push boundaries and maintain an open mind while working on the direction of the brand.
Was there a particular motive or inspiration behind the making of the brand?
Before Laugh By Lafaille, I did have another brand where I was creating garments from scratch but I was quite young and didn’t know exactly where I was heading. During this time, I did overcome some personal challenges in my life, which allowed me to start seeing things differently in my creative process, and I wanted to stray away from the standards of the fashion cycle. At this point, I started upcycling and began to receive positive feedback on my new work. Eventually, my aesthetic became more refined, and that’s when I knew I was ready to launch Laugh By Lafaille.
The motive behind the brand was to always keep evolving. With that said, the Fall/Winter 2020 collection strictly emphasizes on upcycling. Moving forward, the next collection will remain sustainable but will not exclusively rely on the upcycling process.
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How has your life in Montreal influenced your work? When did you realize that fashion design was the direction you were willing to venture through?
When I moved to Montreal from the suburbs, I began to gain a stronger sense of my identity and my growing interest in design. I then decided to study fashion as it gave me the space where I felt most comfortable in. Living in Montreal is quite interesting as it’s an affordable city to maintain a proper work-life balance. There also isn’t as much being done here compared to major cities around the world, so there is definitely a lot of opportunity for growth locally while still continuing to work on targeting an international audience.
Laugh By Lafaille allows viewers to question functionality and their perception on fashion in its entirety. How do you hope consumers interpret your garments? Who is the Laugh By Lafaille customer?
I really hope that my customers see that upcycling adds longevity to the cycle of a garment that was about to go to waste. In terms of the ideal customer, I wouldn’t say there is one, but the majority of our audience is from a younger age bracket, who are creative, who support sustainability and enjoy experimenting with their personal style. To add, the majority of our customers are from the queer community. For myself, being part of the community and having the opportunity to speak to others who share similar values is really special.
Versatility is quite prominent across your work. In order to ensure that versatility is acquired, what is the most important factor during your design process when manipulating garments?
From draping, parachuting and quilting, the most important factor to ensure versatility in our garments is understanding the fabrics we are working with. Some fabrics can be manipulated in many different ways, while others are considered to act as a more staple piece with an interesting element.
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In your Fall/Winter 2020 collection, there is a presence of refreshing colour palettes and gender fluidity. Given these elements, is there a particular message you wish to convey to your audience that is different from past collections?
There are many elements that make the Fall/Winter 2020 collection different. For example, when I chose the colour palettes, I decided to colour dye the garments for the first time. For the fabrics, I wanted to use some that are not manipulated as often as others; quilted and parachuted elements are what stood out very much during the selection process. The message behind this collection was to allow our customers to develop a very intimate and personal connection to the garments – a cozy and home-like feeling.
Given the playful approach to the F/W 2020 collection, what do you look for in the teams you work with? Is there anything you search for in the subjects that you capture?
Laugh By Lafaille emphasizes very much on experimentation. So it also has a very playful element to it, as we want to have fun during our process rather than taking things too seriously. I like to work with a diverse team who can truly be themselves, who have an understanding of queer culture and global current events.
Both sustainability and gender equality are topics that continue to gain visibility in the fashion industry today. How do you think the industry has changed since you launched your career?
There has definitely been a lot of growth and change in the industry when it comes to both sustainability and diversity. Although things have changed very much, there is still a lot more work to do. I believe that transparency, communication and continuing to educate is very important.
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Do you believe there are any trends that will help shape the future of sustainable fashion?
I really hope that more designers begin to work with upcycling. I’m saying this because I see there are a lot of designers promoting their brands as ‘sustainable’ since they use organic fabrics. But, there is so much more that can be done with older clothing rather than shipping them back to where they were made. There is always room for reinterpretation.
Given the experimental and organic nature of your work, how do you hope to see Laugh By Lafaille evolve in years to come?
I won’t say too much, but there definitely will be a lot of changes in the future. I’d like to fuse the foundation of the brand with deeper dialogues and storylines. For example, the upcoming collection will focus on a parallel world between humans and the force of nature. With all my past experience, I’m working on creating much deeper connections with subjects.
For the distribution of the brand, there is definitely a lot of room for growth outside of Montreal. We are currently in talks with some international stockists, but I’ll have to keep that a secret for now! At the moment, Laugh By Lafaille is available online and at Radd Lounge in Tokyo, Japan.
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