Designer Profile: Laura Ker, Owner of TAKEKO clothing line - Portland, Maine

 
Female Not Factory Profile Laura Ker Find Portland Maine.jpg


Hi, Laura. We love your altered vintage clothing line. What’s the meaning of TAKEKO?

I spent time in Japan as a teenager, and have been fascinated with the language ever since.  Takeko can be translated as "bamboo child".  After I picked the name I researched a bit, and found a famous female samurai named Nakano Takeko.  I figured that was a good sign.

When did you get started?

I had been hoarding nineties denim for a few years because i love it so much.  In the spring of 2016 I realized that minimalist denim was having a moment in indie-into-mainstream fashion.  I decided to do a capsule collection for the summer, and it was so successful that i kept it going.  

Describe your design process.

I choose garments that have a simple design, and are often oversized.  The design process is quick and intuitive.  I look at the piece, and decide what the best proportions would be for it; whether or not it should be frayed; whether it could use a pocket or a patch, and go from there.  Fraying each garment takes about an hour (often spent outside with my kids) and then it gets a couple runs through the washing machine.  I sew in a messy studio in my basement.  I love sewing; it's my favorite part of the process.  Oh and bleach painting is a blast too!

How do you choose which garments to alter?

I gravitate toward 90's denim that is 100% cotton, usually a light wash, and linen in natural colors.  Oversized is good because it works on a variety of body types.  Much of TAKEKO is meant to be gender neutral, so straight lines, not tailored pieces, are what i look for. 

Laura Ker works on her TAKEKO designs outdoors and in her basement studio. She creates patterns by painting on bleach, altering the fabric color. Each item is washed thoroughly afterwards.

Laura Ker works on her TAKEKO designs outdoors and in her basement studio. She creates patterns by painting on bleach, altering the fabric color. Each item is washed thoroughly afterwards.

Laura Ker's son Connor hand draws TAKEKO labels that are sewn onto each design.

Laura Ker's son Connor hand draws TAKEKO labels that are sewn onto each design.

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TAKEKO designs featured at Female Not Factory pop-up store in Portland, Maine.

TAKEKO designs featured at Female Not Factory pop-up store in Portland, Maine.

Who are your favorite artists and designers?

My favorite current designers are Ilana Kohn and Black Crane.  They can do no wrong!  Ilana makes the most fantastic jumpsuits, and I credit her with the resurgence of the jumpsuit in current fashion.  Historically,  Issey Miyake and Liz Claiborne in the eighties, and nineties Gap was fantastic.  Also I would be kidding myself if I didn't cite the wardrobe from Star Wars!!!!

What's the most challenging part about running your company Find and creating work for your clothing line?

Finding the time to work on it!  Running a shop and taking care of two kids, plus our new project Safe Space Portland, takes up a lot of time.  

What’s the most rewarding part?

Selling the pieces to customers who are thrilled with them!  Hearing compliments about the line; seeing selfies that customers post in their TAKEKO.  It's satisfying to use reclaimed materials; to be making something of quality out of materials that would otherwise be headed to a landfill.  

How many designs styled do you offer?

Hmmm i guess there are about 10 or 12 basic styles that I work from, although no two pieces are exactly alike.  

Describe your favorite design.

My favorite style is the Missy Jumpsuit (named after Missy Elliot)  It's really fun to make, and people look amazing in it.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Manic, passionate, tired!

What else inspires you?

My employees!  They are the most wonderful people, and they make me feel very good about the future of Portland.

What's your hope for the Female Not Factory community?

I am so excited to be a part of FNF!  On a personal level I am hoping to meet the other artisans.  I think FNF will be a valuable part of the trend toward buying items made with care and respect as opposed to mass production  that exploits people and the environment. 

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Meredith Brockington