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With her designs that integrate art and sci-fi, Laura Taka Taka is making a name for herself in the fashion industry as the go-to girl for the fashion creature in all of us. From indie artists in Chicago, to local and national publications, to international promos and recognition (recently with Prince Alonzo’s tour promo posters), Laura Taka Taka’s fashions designs are a unique blend of fashion and futuristic. I recently had a chance to interview the designer whose fashion skills were put to amazing use during her stint on Rihanna’s Styled to Rock, and she shared with me some interesting details and inspiring words many of us can live by.
Your full name is Laura Thapthimkuna, but how did you come up with Laura Taka Taka? It sounds like a bad ass character in a Quentin Tarantino film.
That’s funny that you would think that, it actually came about from people not being able to pronounce my last name. A friend of mine started calling me Laura Taka Taka and it just kind of stuck.
With the success of other fashion industry related shows such as Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, many people’s lives and careers have changed since their appearances on reality television. Has your life changed since appearing on Rihanna’s Style to Rock?
Being on Styled to Rock definitely was huge experience for me. When I first saw that they were casting for the show I knew I had to apply, and not to sound cocky, but I had a good feeling I would make it on the show. I met so many amazing people and learned a lot while being on the show. I would say it has definitely made me a stronger person and taught me to trust my instincts more with my designs regardless of anyone else’s opinions.
Have to had a chance to actually work with Rihanna or any other celebrities?
I haven’t for the chance to work with Rihanna yet, though I have really enjoyed working with a lot of amazing indie artists and up and coming acts.
So now that we talked about all the fun stuff, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty! Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What type of girl were growing up in school? Did you always want to be a fashion designer or did you somehow fall into it?
I grew up in Vermont in a very small country town. There wasn’t a lot to do so I would spend a lot of time writing and drawing in my room. I think growing up in such a quiet environment forced me to use my imagination at a young age and kind of forced me to be creative. Being that I was also a Korean adoptee in a predominantly white community, I always felt somewhat an outsider in school, so I tended to pretty introverted, which may have also been a blessing in disguise because I was able to channel those feelings into my art and writing.
I didn’t really get into fashion until after taking a class at Columbia College my senior summer of high school. Columbia offered classes to high school students in the summer and one of the classes I took was Fundamentals of Fashion Design. I realized while taking the class that I had a natural ability to design and I remember my teacher Dennis Brozynski telling me that, which really got me thinking about fashion seriously. After that I came back to Chicago and enrolled in the International Academy of Design and Technology and rest is history!
Where did you get your start in fashion and how did you get to point where you designed your own clothes?
I started making my own clothes early on. My senior year of college is when I really found myself as a fashion designer. I had an amazing teacher, Beata Kania, who exposed me to a different side of fashion that consisted of Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto. I hadn’t seen fashion executed as an emotional art form like that before and I discovered the freedom to find my own voice as a designer through seeing other designers who were unafraid to be different.
I’ve notice your couture and ready to wear designs are very constructed and rebel against the fashion industry norm. What is your inspiration behind your designs?
For my couture/wearable art pieces I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from microscopic organisms and biology. Recently I’ve been inspired a lot by space, black holes and other planets. My last ready to wear collection was inspired by Japanese street wear and opulence. I can really draw inspiration from a wide range of places.
You seem to have a growing following with indie artist, including The DM founder Nikki Lynette, do you think your designs could possibly have an influence on music and pop culture?
I love it when my designs can help elevate an artist’s image. It’s always amazing for me to see an artist really light up and bring a garment to life on stage or in a photo shoot. I try to push boundaries with my designs, so I hope, if anything, that message of pushing boundaries and trying new things is recognized in pop culture.
With the success you’ve had in fashion, where do you see yourself going? What are some upcoming projects, events that your fans can look forward to seeing?
With my new designs I have been utilizing 3D printing and designing my pieces on the computer. I have been working with architects, video game designers, and 3D artists to help me realize my designs. What I love about 3D printing is that I’m no longer limited by fabric, so I’m really excited about my new work. Also collaborating with others has been a whole new experience for me which has been an amazing experience as well.
My last question is, if you could tell all the aspiring fashion designers one thing, what would you tell them?
I think I would tell aspiring fashion designers to learn as much as you can from your teachers and don’t be afraid to go beyond traditional design techniques. There are so many new technologies emerging all the time and young designers can play a big role in creating innovations in the field.