Our Interview with Loren James of Mamie + James

Loren wearing her own design, Bonnieux

A profound adoration for beautiful garments, her beloved Mamie, travels to France and the constant search for inspiring vintage pieces… Loren James encompasses all her passions for life into her breathtaking designs for her very own line, Mamie + James. Loren’s pursuit to design dresses tailored and becoming on all women is only part of her purpose… in her own words “these dresses are meant to be laughed in, danced in, and loved in.” Being an inspiration herself, we were curious to know more about this lovely lady and how she came to be…

BB: What do you think has been the most important factor in the success of your business?

LJ: I feel being brave may just be the most important factor. It takes a mixture of un-knowing and a craving for adventure to create a business. I think not knowing how everything is “supposed to be” done has helped me tremendously. In this way I don’t limit myself; I am free to create an environment or an aesthetic for my brand that is truly unique, and a complete reflection of who I am as a person, and as a designer. I’m really quite obsessed with every single detail, down to how a fabric swatch will be presented to a bride. I feel this somehow comes through to those who connect with Mamie+James, and hopefully find it just as charming as I do. My goal is to make sure everything is genuine, and lovingly made. I always keep in mind how my Mamie so carefully packaged every item she shipped to me, and how her devotion to her craft made each gift so much better. It is my goal to do the same for every M+J item that is delivered to each bride and her party.

BB: When designing for women, specifically bridesmaids, what are your inspirations?

LJ: I constantly think about the girl who will be wearing my dress, and in a sense she becomes my muse. I think about her day-to-day life, how she dresses, what she buys, how a wedding is special to her, but at the end of it all I try to create something that she would really love— a dress she can actually wear again. I am often inspired by moments and the feelings those moments bring...the emotion of the moment. I think that is the primary source of inspiration for all of my dresses: my own memories, and the dresses I dream up based on those moments. In turn, I take those ideas and place them in contemporary scenarios, trying not to limit my focus to only the wedding-specific aspect of my work. Yes, these dresses are for weddings—but alternatively they are for parties, for celebrations, for feeling lovely in… isn’t that really what a wedding is all about? I am also hugely inspired by vintage garments. I endlessly research clothing, pieces from both men’s and women’s collections. My Spring 2012 collection pulls inspiration from 50s and 60s American and French fashions.

BB: Was there a specific event or person in your life that led you to begin designing bridesmaid dresses?

LJ: I definitely was blessed to have been surrounded by many amazing women who believed in sewing and hand crafting garments. My Mamie constantly sewed and provided many delicately sequined costumes and fluffy tulle skirts for me over the years. I think I was the only little girl in Mississippi, who at age 4 fully knew the power of a fabulous sequined piece. I think my love for dresses really began with her. I also feel our society is so casual that it made me crave a more ladylike look, and I feel that nothing is more becoming than a woman in a fabulous dress. Since high school I have wanted to create bridal gowns, because I think there is something whimsical about a brides’ big day. It’s the realization of a lifetime of dreaming, and the fabrications are unique, showcasing a bit more freedom. Throughout college I put the idea of designing bridal to the back of my mind and worked on ready-to-wear inspired pieces, as was encouraged, however towards the end of my college career, a few of my professors frequently commented that my pieces had a deeply bridal feel to them. I suppose it was kismet!

Eleanor Roosevelt via National First Ladies

BB: If you could give any famous woman a makeover, who would she be, and how would you style her?

LJ: Of course I am going to choose a historical lady! I wish I could make over Eleanor Roosevelt. She had so many progressive ideas, and was just an amazing person—however, I feel she had a tendency to overlook her personal style. I would definitely place her in more tailored dress suits and style her hair in a more refined, neat manner. A lot of the clothing she wore was over-sized and ill fitting, almost frumpy. An extraordinary woman deserves to have an incredible wardrobe in order to garner more positive attention to herself, and ultimately her causes.

BB: What high school trends are you embarrassed to admit you followed?

LJ: Ohhh, where to even begin? It was at the turn of the millennium when I attended high school, so there was definitely an abundance of fashion offenses occurring on a daily basis. Glittery makeup, printed capri pants, fitted polo shirts, and… I have to stop there! This could be why I vehemently believe in classic styles today.

Loren's design space

BB: If you weren't a designer, what career path would you have chosen?

LJ: I have always loved science, and genuinely always thought I would be a physical therapist. Throughout design school I constantly thought of it as a back up plan. I mean, not many people are actually able to have their own fashion line, and I never thought I actually would! So, my back-up plan was that if designing didn’t work out for me as a career, I would go back to school to become an art therapist. I love the idea of using art as a way to help people overcome life’s obstacles and  better themselves. I am constantly looking for the metamorphosis in life.

BB: What is your favorite dress in your collection?

Bonnieux dress

LJ: My favorite dress in the collection would have to be Bonnieux with skirt No.6. It was a dress bodice that I made a super last-minute change to before the patterns went out for grading, and it quickly became my favorite. I have always admired a rounded neckline on any garment, and I think the below-the-knee pencil skirt is just so classy. It was actually the first dress I had made for myself. After years of sewing and I have never had a dress of my own...until Bonnieux.

BB: Any advice for certain styles for different body shapes?

LJ: I constantly think of the girls who wear my dresses, and I constantly talk to friends about their dress insecurities (sorry girls!). Their advice continuously guides me, and in part led to the designs you now see for M+J. A friend of mine is busty and hates wearing strapless bras, so I kept her in mind when designing Coquette… the straps are wide enough to hide a bra strap. Another friend is constantly worried about her hips, but loves fitted garments, so that is where skirt No.1 saves the day! The fit is similar to a pencil skirt, and provides a feminine shape—but its pleats allow room to move, and cleverly disguises larger hips. She now has an M+J dress with skirt No.1 hanging in her closet! Additionally, the full pleated skirt, No.2, fits many hip widths and yet provides a consistently feminine silhouette. I wanted my collection to highlight elegant solutions for every kind of girl, and it is extremely important to me that they feel happy and confident in the dresses I’ve created.

BB: What are you carrying in your purse?

LJ: My Mamie taught me to always be prepared, so I carry everything in my purse! I have everything: Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, Mamie’s cute mini flashlight (perfect for those fabric shops with dim lighting!), measuring tape, thread, needles, Swarovski crystals, fabric swatches, 3 different shades of red lipstick, cough drops, Tylenol, Splenda, True Lemon, Emergen-C, Clif Bars, Strange Women’s rose scented hard perfume, etc. But the most meaningful item is a small suede floral change purse that contains the last bit of change leftover from when I first visited France. I just couldn’t bring myself to cash it in when we transferred back to US currency, and I have switched it over to every purse I’ve carried since college as a reminder that France is always near, and I will be back there again before I know it!

Thank you, Loren!


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