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Meet Laura Pitharas, the Leeds-born Designer Making Luxury Sustainable Womenswear Inspired by Men's Tailoring

Luxury Sustainable Womenswear Inspired by Men's Tailoring
February 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

Leeds-born designer Laura Pitharas's namesake brand uses men's tailoring as inspiration for her luxurious, expertly-crafted womenswear

We spoke to Laura to find out more.

When Laura was 13 she visited an exhibition of Vivienne Westwood’s work at the V&A, and decided to become a fashion designer. ‘I fell in love with the whole idea of clothing being a symbol to express yourself,’ she tells me, ‘and the picture the exhibition painted of fashion as a space of no judgement for creativity.’ Twenty years later, the signature suits of Laura’s brand may cut a slightly more understated figure, but the late queen of punk’s commitment to tailoring and the environment have clearly had an influence. 

Laura grew up in Leeds, before training in menswear tailoring at the London College of Fashion. Alongside her studies, she interned at brands like Giles Deacon and Lou Dalton before taking off to work with luxury menswear designer Tillmann Lauterbach in Paris after graduating. Her experience in tailoring saw her recruited by the head of design at Belstaff, Delphine Ninous, who wanted to bring a masculine edge to their women’s collection. Laura stayed at Belstaff for more than six years, at which point she was the only womenswear designer reporting directly to the creative director, before deciding that it was time to branch out on her own. Her plan was to return to the tailoring that she originally trained in, but this time designing for women. Thus Laura Pitharas, or LP, was born.

‘The brand is really driven from creating this perfect suit for women that I had been searching for for years, but couldn’t find,’ she explains. ‘In particular, a pinstripe that wasn’t oversized, wasn’t too masculine, [and wouldn’t] make me look like a Mafia wife.’ Laura is conscious of the additional scrutiny women face when they opt for more traditionally masculine aesthetics, and she hopes that, by adapting masculine silhouettes to suit women’s figures, she can empower her customers to dress as they please. In Laura’s words, it’s about ‘taking that stigma away from a woman “power dressing” and actually making a suit that’s approachable for your social and professional life.’ As an example, she cites their signature, double-breasted winter coat. ‘That’s been a sell-out coat for us because it’s oversized, it’s long, it’s broad at the shoulders, it’s masculine, but we’ve tailored it to nip in at the waist so it actually complements the female form.’

Keeping to these simple, but meticulously executed, design principles enables Laura to deliver on another of her passions: sustainability. ‘I don’t necessarily want you to buy new and disregard old,’ Laura explains. ‘When I think about a new collection, I’m thinking about how those pieces will work with the pieces you can already buy.’ Another way that they reduce the brand’s environmental impact is through pre-orders. This not only means that they don’t over-produce garments (which then go to waste), it also allows them to offer their customers a more bespoke service. ‘It gives customers flexibility. So if a customer says to me, “these trousers are too long”, I can take a pre-order. Then we can do it to their measurements so that they’re not having to pay for alteration costs.’

As far as possible, LP’s fabrics are sourced from the UK. ‘I really wanted to be close to the journey of it and work with suppliers: I see it as a collaboration,’ Laura says. One such supplier is Alfred Brown, a family-run mill just outside Leeds, which uses wind energy to power its weaving. Laura is particularly enthused by how embedded the mill is in the local community. ‘When I went back to visit in August 2021, just before we launched the brand, they gave me a whole tour of the mill,’ she explains. ‘There were people that told me they had worked there with generations of their family – when do you ever hear that? The fact that generations of families wanted to continue working there is a testament to the mill and the way they look after their staff.’ Crucially, they also deliver on style: Laura tells me that Alfred Brown recently produced a bespoke hot pink colourway for LP, which, of course, they transformed into a show-stopping suit. 

This is a particularly exciting moment for LP and its founder. In January they took their collection to Paris Fashion Week, and they have been selected by the British Fashion Council to be part of the schedule for DiscoveryLAB at London Fashion Week. DiscoveryLAB is designed to give new brands a chance to present a digital showcase of their work to fashion tastemakers, and LP will be showing a short film. Laura hopes that this will not only let people know that they exist, but be a platform to promote the ethos that shapes every stage of their garments’ creation.

Their clothes are undeniably an investment, but Laura explains that their cost is a reflection of their determination to pay suppliers properly, and the craft that goes in to creating them. ‘Trying to explain that in a world that is so used to fast fashion is really tricky,’ she says. ’We’re forward in innovation and working with sustainability, but we’re going back to old-school craft and that can be challenging in the world that we live in today.’

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