Friday Feature: Linda Demers of à la mode August 06, 2010 13:16

Linda Demers is an artist and designer living in Barrington, Rhode Island who runs the successful handmade business, à la mode. She has a clean and modern aestheic and likes to surprise us by turning unexpected materials turned into awesome everyday accessories. I am the lucky owner of two à la mode handbags, and have taken to carrying her business cards inside them because I get so many compliments! Here's the interview I did with Linda for this week's artist interview. Enjoy, and Happy Friday! 

When did you start your handmade business?
I officially started
à la mode in November, 2005.  However, I’ve been dreaming about my own creative business since I was a little girl.  While others were playing “house” and “dress up,” I was playing  “designer studio” with my own drafting table and fashion plates.

What inspired your decision to take the plunge?
It was serendipitous.  I had just moved to RI with my family from Chicago and had decided to stay at home full time.  I had been making decorative light switch plates for years and a friend saw them in my house.  She decided to have a holiday craft bazaar in her home and asked if I’d sell them there.   She called me 5 days before the party and said no one was bringing handbags and asked me if I could make some.  I went to the party with light switch plates, maybe 5 handbags, and business cards.  When I left the party I had sold all the bags and had many orders.  Voila, a business was born.

Describe your studio space for us.
I took over our 4th bedroom (once my husband’s office and guest room).  It is tight but I’ve managed to fit all I need into this space.   I have several work stations:  computer, craft (cutting, gluing), sewing, and my storage.

What is it about industrial materials that inspired you to work with them?
I love making the unexpected out of the mundane.  Most of us touch a seat belt everyday (getting in and out of our cars) and don’t think twice about it.  However, when an entire bag is made from the material, we see it completely differently.  I’ll often wear one of my hardware necklaces into the local hardware store.  I get the biggest kick when the men working there realize and comment that I’m wearing steel retaining rings.

When you're feeling a creative block, where do you go for inspiration to help get over the hump?
I typically walk away from a project for at least a day, sometimes longer.  When I return to it, I’m often over the hump.  I also read lots of magazines:  Architectural Digest, Dwell, Lucky, Martha, Sunset, Real Simple.  Those magazines along with design blogs fuel my creativity.  I’ve also been known to wander the hardware store for ideas.

What advice would you offer to someone who is interested in taking their crafting from hobby to business?
Think carefully about what you do and where you want to go so that you don’t pigeon hole yourself into one thing (unless, of course, that one thing is all you want to do). Find mentors. Ask questions.  Ask lots of questions and take notes. 

You seem to successfully create a range of different types of products, any words of wisdom for designing and producing a cohesive collection? 
I try to stay true to my own aesthetic which is tailored and modern.  If given something extremely feminine, I’d likely add grommets or hardware to it.  That is just my nature.  Every once in a while I’ll make something that just doesn’t fit into my collection.  It usually becomes a one-of-a-kind and won’t be made again.
I’ve also worked hard at branding the à la mode name.  I think it’s important that all my marketing materials look the same and stay consistent. 

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I applied for their popular holiday show several years ago and was accepted.  Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to sell in their year round store.  It is such a wonderful experience to be involved with a great group of artisans.  The Craftland concept is brilliant:  shows, exhibitions, shop, classes.  It is the perfect creative environment.

Guilty Pleasure?
Going to Claudia Curl Salon (on Hope Street) for a hair cut/color every 5-6 weeks and devouring People Magazine and US Weekly.