THE INTERVIEW: Laurel Berman, Black Halo Designer

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Slowly, but surely, I'm getting caught up and today I have for you a fabulous interview with the lovely Laurel Berman. Laurel Berman is the designer behind the label Black Halo. Laurel was in town to host the Women of Wardrobe Summer Sizzling Soiree

Shalanda Turner (S): When did you first know you wanted to be a designer?
Laurel Berman (L): I graduated from Washington State University with a Political Science Degree because my Dad was pressuring me with math and science. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life back then. I excelled in my Poly Science classes and I ended up studying pre-law. My dad was so happy and got off my back for four years. Then I realized what am I going to do? I knew I didn't want to be a lawyer, I knew I didn't want to be a doctor. I didn't know what I wanted to be so I forced myself to really look inside and really come to terms with what my true passion was. I advise that for every young person. The earlier you can find out what your true passion is the better. Its in there, its in our hearts if we are willing to look. We are so busy with life that sometimes we just forget to look. 

In the US we work our whole lives, so might as well enjoy it. I always believe if you follow your heart, success will follow. I thought it was super important to figure out what I wanted to do. And the only thing that really mattered to me my entire life was what I wore. Since I was a baby, my Mom said it was easy to potty train me because all I wanted was silk panties! By fourth grade, I was wearing a tie back mini dress with patent GoGo boots. My best friend’s grandmother would let us pick out our own prints and she would make us cute little A-line dresses. We would tie them in the back and they were so flattering, easy, cute and adorable.

I could go on and on. Every event in my life goes back to what I wore. Back to school shopping was the most important time of year for me because I got to make the choices on what I was going to wear. I got all of my self-confidence from what I wore. If I felt comfortable in my clothes then I could take on the world. What do I love? I love fashion. I love clothes! When I was little, they pat you on the head and say,  “You can be anything you want to be. You can be an Astronaut, a Doctor, anything”. No one ever said, “You can be a Fashion Designer." That was never really an option. When I figured it out, I went to design school in San Francisco and I got an Associates Degree in drafting, draping and millinery. Then I moved to Los Angeles, the land of opportunity. It was either New York or LA, but I'm a west coast gal. I started learning on someone else's dime, working for someone else and made mistakes.  That's how I learned and grew. Eventually I started my own business which was very scary. My husband pushed me out of the nest, but I'm so glad I did. 

S: Congratulations on your label and going out on your own. How long have you had it?
L: It’s been over ten years now. I am so happy to still  be in business and have the support of people like Tootsies selling our product. It’s so meaningful! Without their support we wouldn't be in business.

S: You mentioned how important what you wore has been in your life, so I'm curious on why you decided to do Fashion Design, versus being a stylist?  
L:I guess because I was in the frame of mind that I'm in school. You don't necessarily go to school to become a stylist. I don’t think I even knew there were stylists! I came from a small town and then went to Washington State. I had heard of designers, like Oscar de la Renta and things of that nature. I think it was the avenue that came to me and the easy route was schooling. So many people go to design school and come out and do hair and make up or whatever. They find their niche. I kind of just stuck to it. It’s really what I love; creating fashion! I loved it!

S: I read that you're from Spokane? Where is that?
L: Spokane, Washington. That's where I was born. Many people have never heard of it. Everyone knows about Seattle, but Spokane is 75 miles from Idaho. It’s very agricultural. I grew up on a farm. I had a horse since I was two, along with chickens, pigs, cattle, skunks and parrots.

S: Has that had any influence on your designs?
L: It has! I love animals for one. We have a stray cat. She’s all black and her name is Halo. She moved into our warehouse. It’s been quite challenging, but its worth it. She has been with us for two years and she is adorable. I love her. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals. 

S: I'm a big cat lady and I love animals too! That's cute. How did you come up with the name of your line, Black Halo?
L: My husband came up with it. Honestly, it was his idea.  He is good like that. It kind of references back to rebel romances and contradictions. Our line is very lady like but I like to think its has a little edge and a little sex appeal. 

S: I like the name Black Halo and I also like your logo! It’s edgy.  How many collections do you do a year? I'm sure you at least do the two main seasons, but now there seems to be so many! 
L:  Two? We shoot twelve collections a year plus five evening collections. You know this culture; 'Not enough, not fast enough, they want more and more and more.'

S: Wow! How do you draw upon inspiration for twelve collections every year?
L: I'm so deep in it. Everyday we are making dresses, tops and skirts. We are constantly in it! Everything that surrounds me inspires me. This trip has been inspirational. Meeting people with different personalities and seeing all the girls wearing Black Halo has been such a pleasure. All of the different body shapes, sizes, & colors. The gals, making it their own in their own unique way. I love museums especially since they show all the fashion exhibits now like the Prada, Alexander McQueen, YSL, and Balenciaga. I haven't missed one! That’s how it is with me. If there is fashion, I love it.

S: I too enjoy going to museums. I also like going to look at the Egyptian exhibits and looking at all of the jewelry from the time period of the Pharaohs. 
L: It’s funny you mention Egyptian, because when asked who should be at my dinner party, anyone living or dead, Cleopatra is on my list, she’s powerful. Maybe even Coco Chanel and Marilyn Monroe. 
My photo with Laurel Berman the night before at the W.O.W. Summer Sizzling Soireer
S: Tell me more about the woman you are designing for, who is she, and what is she like?
L: My woman is a working woman. She's a career girl. She works hard for a living and she earns her own money. She looks at that dress at $350 and says, "That's an investment piece, I better be able to get some mileage out of that dress." I respect that and I love that she can style it in many different ways. She can style it with a motorcycle jacket, with a Chanel-esque jacket for some lady like event, or she can put on a little boy blazer and its more corporate looking. I call one of our most iconic dresses the Jackie O dress. She wants to feel confident and doesn't want to think about how she looks. She puts this dress on and she says I look like a million bucks and I don’t have to worry about my boobs falling out. I look appropriate, I look powerful, I look feminine and now I can present whatever it is I need to do that day.

S: I love your woman! Especially because I am her! Who would be some celebrities that you have seen your looks on or any that you haven’t seen that you would love to see in your clothes?
L: Oh wow! We have been so fortunate with so many different celebrities. I'm so honored to have all these different women wear our clothes. There is a couple, well several that haven’t wore our clothes, yet. I would love to see Angelina Jolie in Black Halo. I would love to see Gwen Sefani and Heidi Klum in Black Halo. Cameron Diaz would be fun. I love when really young girls wear it too. I love that Black Halo has range.

S: I think it's great for Designers to never limit themselves to anyone age group. Your label definitely has range! Can you give us any preview for your Spring 2015 collection? 
L: Yes, we are going to do our lookbook shoot in just a couple of weeks. We've got most of January, February, March, April and May designed out for 2015. We are seeing some ice cream colors but brighter, more like sherbet. I'm obsessed with baby blue so you'll see some baby blue. I'm also feeling yellow and green. I have a lot of color in the collection for Spring. We also do very well with white so we have a couple of those.  I'm very excited about it. 

S: Sounds gorgeous! I can't wait to see the collection! I know we can find Black Halo, here at Tootsies, but where else can my readers find your clothes? 
L: We sell at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and then a broad range of boutiques across the country. We're also on great websites like Shopbob. And I can't forget to mention our flagship store where you can find unique styles that no one else has. It’s our website, our flagship. You will find some other unique pieces on there, so please shop

S: Is there anything else you would like my readers to know about you? Your background story or anything you would like to add.
L:  Everything is made in LA, did I mention that? We make everything in LA, we have for the last twelve years. It’s very on trend now to do that but we started our company with that intention since the beginning and that is how we run our business. I am proud of that. We are an indie brand so many of the looks people buy from us are nearly exclusive. We are owned by just my husband and I so we are self owned.



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