Designer Spotlight: Laura Siegel

It is one thing for a designer to be making hand-crafted clothing, and an entirely different thing to reach out to impoverished areas of the world to find artisans to work on these hand-crafted looks. Laura Siegel is an award winning designer who studied design at Parsons School of Design in New York City and London’s Central Saint Martins’. She is skilled in silver making, knitting, natural dyeing, and embroidery.  She has worked with big name international designers, but that isn’t what makes her work stand out.

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Laura Siegel has traveled the world and through these travels she has been able to work in collaboration with artisans from Asia and Latin America. Her mission in her work is to create ethically hand-crafted and easy to wear clothing while working with artisans in third-countries the opportunity to use the unique skills and support their communities.

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Ismail Khatri an artisan from India whose family for generations has been making hand block printed fabrics known as Ajrakh. This is an ancient craft, and the Khatari family uses only natural dyes found in India. Laura Siegel’s work with this family has helped to rebuild their community of Ajrakhpur that was devastated by earthquakes in 2001.

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The Rabari are a nomadic tribe from the Kutch region of India. The women of this tribe were known for their embroidery skills, these embroideries are characterized by explosive color, rich texture and elaborate scenes that mirror their surroundings. 15 years ago the elders of this tribe decreed that women would no longer be able to work on these beautiful embroideries, taking away part of their livelihood. The women found a way around this and now working with Siegel they have the opportunity to use the craft that they love to support their families and community.

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Laura Siegel’s garments are made by using a natural dyeing process. Natural dye is better for the artisans because it has no harsh chemicals which can cause health problems and also leaves behind no damaging chemicals that can enter into the community’s water supply and environment.  Siegel works with dyers at a welfare center outside of Munnar in India. This location helps rehabilitate physically challenged young adults, which involves teaching them how to participate in the dyeing. These dyers take pride in their work and are also given the opportunity to support their families.

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All of the hand knitted material that Siegel uses is made in collaboration with a group of women from Bolivia. These women specialize in hand knitting and hand machine knitting. Their involvement with Siegel empowers them and gives them a chance to have a better working environment for both them and their families.

All of Laura Siegel’s pieces have an earthy and natural look to them which can really only be achieved because of the commitment she has to handmade elements of her work. Her clothing is wearable and chic, but more importantly helps support families and communities that would otherwise be exploited or without work entirely.

Written By: Courtney White

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