The Intersection of Fashion, Art, and Feminism with Lauren Altman 

With a focus on empowering women to embrace their uniqueness and express themselves confidently, Lauren Altman Studio serves as a canvas for self-expression. In this interview, designer Lauren Altman delves into the intersection of feminism and her creative vision, shedding light on how her personal journey, familial influences, and societal observations shape the ethos of her brand. From upcycled collections born out of isolation to bold messaging promoting self-acceptance, Lauren Altman’s approach to fashion embodies empowerment and inclusivity. As we unravel the layers of her inspiration, aspirations, and challenges, we gain insight into the role of art and design in advancing feminist discourse and fostering gender equality within the fashion industry.

Lauren Alman Studio celebrates body positivity and embraces sensuality in a way that challenges conventional beauty standards. Can you share how feminism informs and inspires your creative vision for your designs?

My studio’s collections aim to help women feel confident in their unique style.

The designs are cheeky and playful, and yet there’s also a more bold and daring side to what I’m offering. Each piece is an invitation to break free of prescribed beauty standards by simply being yourself and allowing fashion to be a canvas for creative expression.

I want the women who dress in my collection to love how they feel and love what they see in the mirror. My clothing represents the philosophy that fashion is a vehicle to reclaim a woman’s self-image as her own— a personal reminder that the choice is hers to express her desires. 

My hope is that my brand is helping women believe that their authenticity is their greatest and most powerful asset – this idea is very much informed by my personal view on feminism.

What inspired you to start Lauren Altman Studio, and how does feminism influence your brand’s mission and ethos?

The brand’s ethos is an invitation to join my world, fueled by creative expression, not the trends of the day. I started the brand during the early onslaught of the pandemic, a time when we were all confined to our homes. Therefore, I didn’t have access to my Brooklyn art studio. In an effort to keep creating, I resorted to looking in my closet for inspiration, pulling out clothing that I hadn’t worn in a while to use as a canvas to paint on and express myself during that time of isolation. 

As a forever lover of timeless utilitarian design, I had some old jumpsuits, cargo pants, and denim jackets and began to embroider them. I found inspiration in words and drawings that I had scribbled in my sketchbook, and, from there, I hand-stitched elaborate head-to-toe works of art. I created probably 10-15 pieces during this period, which became my first upcycled collection. 

Creativity, to me, is a space to explore, learn about who you are and what you stand for. In this case, I think my choice to share this message of empowerment through self-expression and creativity is deeply inspired by feminism. 

The women in my family taught me the importance of following your passion.

Both of my grandmothers were feminists — Gertrude worked for the first Planned Parenthood to open its doors in Minneapolis for 33 years, and Dulcy was a graduate of Smith College, one of the few universities that admitted women in the 1940s, who went on to write a book, teach at Columbia University, and build and become the director of an elderly care facility in New York.

The stories of inspiring women, like my grandmas, have very much been a driving force behind the mission of my brand and creative practice.

Lauren Altman Studio embraces bold, empowering messaging in its branding. How do you believe this contributes to the broader feminist conversation around self-expression?

It’s funny because, while my designs are definitely bold, there’s also a very heart-forward, sensitive aspect to the collection. The Silk Heart Bomber jacket, from my latest collection, is designed for an oversized fit—creating the illusion of a woman taking up more space. Yet, the words, “give” and “receive,” are hand-stitched on the inside pockets, gently reminding her to speak up for what she needs. 

Being that we as women know the realities of wage gaps in this country for women, and especially women of color, I wanted the jacket pockets to symbolize opportunity and be a source of personal encouragement to ask for what we all deserve.

Can you share any particular design elements or collections from Lauren Altman Studio that are directly influenced by feminist principles or movements?

Yes – vintage workwear is a recurring source of inspiration for my collection. 

For example, the faded hearts reversible cargo vest in my latest Hearts capsule is inspired by androgynous fashion of the 1970s and 80s.

I love how many women of that time were breaking the male gaze and co-opting workwear originally created for men. 

The way Grace Jones owned that fierce blazer in the iconic 1981 photograph by Jean-Paul Goude—inspired women like me to dress the same. I also can’t talk about the work suits that inspire my collections without mentioning my mother, Leslie. 

I grew up admiring my mother’s unique fashion sense, especially her fabulous pantsuits. When she passed away, my sister and I inherited her extensive collection of custom suits. These suits have continually inspired, and in some cases become literally woven into my textile paintings, collages, video artworks, evolving into today’s collection as well.

Your brand has garnered attention for its body-positive messaging. How do you see Lauren Altman Studio contributing to the ongoing dialogue about body image and self-acceptance within feminist spaces?

My brand stands for the idea that looking at yourself in the mirror can be fun and that you can LOVE what you see. There’s no “one size fits all” — there are designs in my collection that can work for many women. 

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for Lauren Altman Studio in terms of its impact on feminist discourse and the fashion industry as a whole?

To me, feminism means practicing compassion for yourself and others. Feminist discourse of today is about celebrating and making room for all women – in all of our nuances and beautiful complexities.

I hope to contribute to the advancement of the movement and the fashion industry as a whole by catering to more body-types, ages, and abilities with every collection. 

How do you believe art/design can contribute to the feminist movement and promote gender equality?

I believe creativity is an essential part of the process of societal change. Through creativity, we can use our voices and develop our visions for the future. This is very important to understanding where we can serve in the movement to promote gender equality. 

I encourage my clients to reflect on how their self-expression can help them live their purpose – whether it’s by buying a piece of my clothing because you want to support women-owned, sustainable fashion, or by personalizing your wardrobe with an embroidered affirmation on your inside pocket, art and design can help us serve in a way that feels true to each of us.

Have you faced any challenges or resistance in expressing feminist ideas through your work? If so, how did you address them?

I think my challenge resides in understanding how to design a unique, cohesive collection while also making my work available to a diverse clientele. It’s a challenge I’m still working through, because it takes time to transition from one-off, one-of-a-kind pieces to creating sustainable collections that are also available in multiple sizes for a broader audience.
How do you balance pushing boundaries and challenging societal norms with creating accessible and inclusive art/design?

As an artist, I’ve never had a problem pushing boundaries creatively. The journey for me has been to package my creativity in a way that it becomes accessible to more people who want to step into my world. 

Partnerships and collaborations help carry my work beyond the studio – reaching new places and people who wouldn’t otherwise know about my art and fashion collections, while also helping to validate my work in the market.

Are there particular feminist artists or movements that have influenced your work? If so, how? 

I’ve been inspired by conceptual feminist filmmakers who portray the complex inner-worlds of women, such as Chantal Ackerman; Sophia Coppola, and Greta Gerwig. Experimental film was a medium I focused on while pursuing my MFA at Penn, and these are artists whose works have stuck with me from that period. 

Of course, the musicians who are the soundtrack to my creative flow in the studio also play a major influence, like Madonna, Robyn, Lauryn Hill, and Shirley Manson, to name a few.

Looking forward, what are your aspirations for the future of feminist art/design, and how do you see yourself contributing to that vision?

I aspire to be a growing part of the community of women artists and designers, pushing the boundaries with their craft and empowering other women to do the same.

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