Lauren Lail understands the awkwardness of showing up to a party wearing the same dress as someone else. That's why she started collecting and selling vintage clothing to Charleston's social butterflies. The Kentucky native founded Library: Archives of Fashion out of her Rutledge Avenue home in 2009, eventually expanding to a brick-and-mortar store at 341 King St.
Lail sifts through racks at thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales to find high-quality, designer vintage goods, but she has a hard time letting go of some of the one-of-a-kind pieces. Realizing that the patterns and silhouettes of her favorite eras — the 1950s-1970s — were well on their way to extinction, she decided to create her own vintage-inspired clothing line in an effort to keep them alive.
"Over time, I pulled things aside where I just thought, this would be so cool to remake and make contemporary," she says. "The collection is eight pieces that are all kind of inspired by pieces that have come and gone through the [vintage] collection."
She adds, "I think some people love vintage and maybe are a little bit scared because it's just not new fabrics and it's not contemporary, and this is kind of like an evolution of that."
A self-taught designer, Lail says the creation process came fairly naturally to her because of her familiarity with vintage clothing. "I had a vision for what I wanted it to look like as a whole, and just kept working toward that," she says. "Of course, I learned lots of industry tips along the way, but it was such an fun, creative process." She's using a factory in New York to produce the pieces, which range in price from $80-$310.
The collection includes a relaxed-fit, blush-pink blazer and a shirt and shift dress with Peter Pan collars in a matching hue. Another pink dress features a subtle floral print and a scalloped neckline. A gray-striped pencil skirt and deep blue shorts give some depth to the collection. The color palette was inspired by one particularly unique shirt that Lail found while thrifting. She asked her business partner, painter Way Way Allen, to recreate the fabric in watercolor, and it became the inspiration for the entire collection. It now adorns one of the collection's A-line skirts. "It's really a soft palette, feminine with blush colors," she says.
"They're all rooted in vintage silhouettes," Lail says, but updated for modern sensibilities. No corsets required. "It's really relaxed garments, things you can dress up and down," she says. "Shorts that you could wear to the beach or a silk dress you could wear day or night. It kind of spans the gamut."
Although she plans to continue adding more pieces to her line — like fall and holiday clothing — Lail assures us that she won't stop selling vintage. "The vintage collection is the driving inspiration, definitely the creative foundation of the brand, so I never want to stop doing that," she says. "It's just in addition to."
Find Lauren Lail's designs at Novel, 341B King St., and online at libraryfashion.com.