After a long, successful stint at rag & bone, designer Lauren Bucquet launched her own brand, Labucq. Ever since her first round of Italian-made high boots, ankle boots, flats, and heels dropped this fall, major press outlets have been paying attention. As a designer-led direct to consumer brand, Labucq fills a gap in the market. We caught up with Lauren on what it’s like to take the leap into entrepreneurship, her design inspo, and the direct-to-consumer model.
For our readers who don’t know, Lauren designed the cult favorite Newbury boot for rag & bone. What was it like to watch the world react to something you created?
Honestly, it was a bit surreal. I was just doing my thing at rag & bone, designing and making things that I loved and it was really rewarding to see other people loving it too. I still remember the first time I saw someone wearing the Newbury boot. I was on the L train, and I had actually run into my boss Marcus on the platform that morning so we were riding together. We were at the 6th Avenue stop and the doors opened and we saw a woman on the other side of the platform wearing the boots, and we both took a double-take and were like, “Wait, is that our boot? That’s our boot!” From there it grew organically, and I think mostly by good old word-of-mouth, more and more people began wearing it.
Where does your design inspo come from?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, and as a designer a lot of time you can feel shifts starting to happen in style and trend and you react to those changes through gut feeling. I think so much of dressing and fashion is about finding confidence in what you wear, and shoes play a particular role in that that journey. A pair of shoes can transform your attitude, making you feel powerful and strong, not that unlike how a strong relationship can make you feel. I love that about shoes, and I think a lot about what might give me confidence in dress while I am designing.
In a practical sense, I also take a lot of inspiration from vintage shoes. Usually if I find something that I want to wear or that I can see my friends wearing, I know it will only take a few updates to make it modern and relevant. I spend a crazy amount of time scouring vintage shops and scrolling through Etsy and Ebay to find those perfect pieces.
For the Labucq debut collection much of the inspiration also came from the strong women who have surrounded me throughout my life. Each style is named after either a woman in my family, or a close female friend—all of whom have provided me with guidance or support over the years. The Jil Boot is named after my sister-in-law Jillian, a sharp lawyer and mother with a grit that was likely strengthened through growing up as the middle child between two brothers. I see some of these qualities in this boot. The crinkled black patent makes a reflective, shiny surface that’s not afraid of standing out. The block heel is practical, not too short, not too high. Like the Jil Boot, each of my styles have hidden personas for me that come from their inspirations.
You really make the ankle boot an art form. What is it about ankle boots, in particular, that you find appealing? Which other types of boots do you have a particular appreciation for?
I think I love ankle boots because I wear them all of the time! I think they are the most versatile type of shoe when they are designed right. They can be comfortable, chic, and cool. So much of what I design comes from my own desires — I always think about what I want to wear personally. I want to design shoes that are really a part of women’s wardrobe, and for me, that is ankle boots. I do love all kinds of shoes though, and right now, I’m also really into a slouchy over the knee boot. It really reminds me of my mom in the 80’s. She used to have the most beautiful pair that I remember trying on as a kid and feeling so grown up. Now when I wear it, it makes me feel super confident and powerful.
So after accomplishing a lot at a major brand, you’re venturing out on your own with a digitally native direct-to-consumer brand. How does it that feel?
It’s totally exhilarating. I have wanted to have my own brand and be an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. That’s not to say that it has been easy though, or even remotely what I expected it to be going into this. Every day is like walking into a new territory; I’m learning, growing and adapting with each new decision.
Tell us about what the months just ahead of launch looked like.
We have just opened up part of our LA headquarters into a public showroom where customers can try on and purchase shoes in person, meet me and my staff and learn more about Labucq. It’s a way for us to have a more interactive space with our customers and to test brick and mortar economically — I’m excited to see where this leads the brand. We are also in final development with our Spring 2019 collection which includes some really great, wearable sandals. I’m looking forward to share what Labucq stands for beyond boots!
Direct-to-consumer brands are so, so hot right now. Obviously, we don’t need to tell you that! But, we’re curious about what led you down this route. DId you consider other business models, or did you plan on selling directly to customers from the beginning?
I knew that if I were going to start a brand in the current market landscape, I was going to do it differently or at least not in a traditional manner. After leaving my position at rag & bone where I had been for the better part of a decade, I knew I wanted to continue designing and making shoes, but I had to take a step back to look at the market from the outside to realize what it lacked. I saw a real gap in the direct-to-consumer space. While several online brands were offering shoes at great price points, when I saw their product up close it disappointed me. These shoes didn’t stand up to the claims that were made to sell them, and there was no individual designer voice behind them that excited the brand. Through my experience, I knew that I could actually deliver on their unfulfilled promise of designer quality at direct prices, making the same great shoes I always had. It finally seemed like now was the perfect time to launch Labucq.
We’ve noticed your messaging is a bit different than other brands getting into the direct-to-consumer space. Can you tell us a bit about how you define your brand?
A lot of the brands in the direct-to-consumer space are led by technology, and not by design. I have an incredible respect for fashion as a consumer, designer, and industry veteran, and I believe that what makes a brand great is not just marketing or algorithms, but an individual vision. There is no reason that a company that is digitally native and digitally focused can’t also be designer-led. With Labucq, I want to design and build product with integrity that I can stand behind with a vision that uniquely comes from me as the designer, while also offering it at a more accessible price.
Let’s end with a few questions about the mama side of being a mama in business. How did becoming a mama influence your approach to your career?
If anything, being a mom has made me have a more balanced approach to my career and home life. Before I had my son, I was working full-time and was a bonafide workaholic. I think I am now more efficient at work because I my top priority is leaving on time to get home to my little man. I now would rather leave the office early—even if it means some work after bedtime—in order to have family time.
What advice do you have for other mamas thinking about venturing out on their own?
Make sure you have a great support team around you, they will be your most valuable asset as you stress over every detail, question your decisions, worry about childcare, and celebrate your little victories. My husband and extended family have been invaluable for me through this whole journey.
Enjoy the cuddles while they still want to cuddle you.
Always let them explore and be creative.