Interviews

Off Duty: Lauren Bucquet of Labucq

Written By Tiana Gidley

Photography By: Zachary Gray

As someone who has always considered herself very much into fashion, I can admit that growing up there was a spell or two (or three or four) where I daydreamed of what it would be like to own my own line. It’s been years since I last allowed myself to get lost in this fantasy, partly because my definition of “being into fashion” can be wholly summed up by spending well past my allotted monthly clothing budget, but mostly because I came to the realization that becoming a fashion designer (not to mention owning and running your own label) is so much more than a series of daydreams strung together, regardless of how focused or intense the passion may be. It takes grit, ambition, and well, a lot of know-how.

For Lauren Bucquet, the brains and muscle (read: founder and designer) behind budding shoe label, Labucq, the road to becoming a designer was paved through some serious experience. Having previously wet her feet at household name Rag & Bone, transitioning into a project of her own seemed as natural a progression as any. Today, the 30-something California resident clocks out of the fast-paced lifestyle that often accompanies running a business (not to mention switching studios in L.A.) to get candid about owning her sense of style, balancing work and family life, and what it really takes to turn sparse dreams of design into a robust, profitable company. For any of you that have ever sketched imaginary collections in the margins of your notebooks, or spent hours intricately selecting your outfit for school the night before, this Off Duty interview is for you. I hope you find it as inspirational as I did, and I dare you to try refraining from sticking every pair of Labucq shoes in your online shopping cart.

Vintage leopard bias cut dress (found on Etsy). Vince cashmere sweater. Labucq Kitty loafers. Happy Socks.
Vintage leopard bias cut dress (found on Etsy). Vince cashmere sweater. Labucq Kitty loafers. Happy Socks.

How do you typically spend a day off when the work can wait?  “I’ll go to the farmers market and the park with Norman, my two-year-old. Then, we’ll grill with friends in the backyard in the evening.”

Do you sleep in on your days off?  “I usually sleep in as long as I can until I’m being pounced on and pulled out of bed by Norman.”

How many times (if any) do you hit snooze?  “I don’t use an alarm.”

What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up?  “Coffee first!”

What’s on your bedside table?  “Right now it’s Helter Skelter. I bought it when I got in the car while driving home after seeing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is a great movie by the way. I was just too interested in the true story after the movie to let it go.”

What’s the story behind your home and how long have you lived there?  “We’ve lived in our home for about four months. We moved here from another place nearby to be walking distance to my studio. I recently left our studio though to be able to spend more time in Italy. So now work and home are here — it’s an all-encompassing place.”

What are a few favorite things that you cherish in your home and why?  “I love our John Mascheroni 1960s Tubo coffee table. I found it in Palm Springs for an incredible deal, originally having bought it for the Labucq showroom. After having looked at it online from another dealer on 1stdibs for almost ten times the price, I felt like I had won the lottery when I brought it home. I also love my ‘shoe rug’ which was passed down to me from my grandmother. She had a great sense of play when it came to her home. I love seeing it and thinking of her, as she passed about a year ago. She might be the only person who has loved shoes more than me in my family. Finally, my antique Iranian rug in the living room. This was one of the first big home purchases we ever made, and it felt like a sort of stepping stone into adulthood when we bought it.”

Tell us about the art in your home.  “We’ve spent a little bit of money on artists from our own generation whose work we thought was relevant to our time and concerns, who we thought might be both a) nice to live with and b) a possibly decent investment. There are also a lot of boats in our dining room; my husband’s family were commercial fishermen, so these are mostly things that have been passed down to us.”

Where do you find / shop for home decor?  “I buy mostly vintage for my home and have found some great things from Out Of Stock Vintage (on Instagram only), Galerie Sommerlath, Pop Up Home, Candid Home, and Misty’s Consignment in Palm Springs. I also regularly stalk Etsy and eBay for various vintage home accessories like the ’80s pendant lamp in my dining room that I recently found on Ebay.”

What are your favorite, must-read books?  “I love The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Fairly predictable, but I blazed through these books, totally fell in love with the characters, and could not put them down. I also felt like I was learning something about Italy and its history. The central relationship-envy dynamic is obviously very relatable. I also loved The Talented Mr Ripley. This book just works so well on every level. It’s a realistic novel, it’s a page turner, but it also has this incredible sophistication and sense of style. I don’t think Patricia Highsmith gets enough credit, and it’s probably because she was a genre writer. But, Tom Ripley is an infuriating, sympathetic, incredibly ‘real’ character, much more so than a lot of the ‘great American’ literary novels of the time. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did, but I loved it. Maybe it’s because it’s so pertinent to my life right now (entrepreneurship, shoes, etc.), but I found learning about the personal, financial, and physical challenges Knight faced as he built the company from the ground up to be super inspirational. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar. My husband picked this up as a tourist at Hadrian’s villa — they’ve actually named the street it’s on after Yourcenar. I listed this one here, but it might as well be her other works, The Abyss or The Dark Brain of Piranesi, both of which are fantastic. Yourcenar was the first woman to be elected to the ‘immortals’ of the academic Francais. She is, among other things, an incredible historian; she writes of two thousand years ago as if she were there, and we feel it.”

Favorite Netflix series / movie?  “I loved The Assassination of Giani Versace. Did people freak out about this show when it came out? I can’t remember hearing that much about it, but this definitely riveted me more than anything else recently. The parts with Darren Criss, who is a fantastic actor, are very much like The Talented Mr. Ripley or American Psycho. And the other story, about late Versace (Penelope Cruz as Donatella is amazing) is just a fantastic world to spend time in. Both are equally compelling. It feels like two really good movies put together; movies which are different genres, which are good for different reasons.”

Any good podcasts you recommend?  “Aside from the typical NPR set of podcasts, I’ve been listening to Red Scare regularly for the past year or so. I’m not sure I would recommend it, but undeniably I feel like Dasha and Anna are a part of my life now.”

Coffee table books and magazines you love?  “Teeth, Riot of Perfume, and Metal Magazine.”

Favorite candles?  “I love my Rodin candle and Diptyque Feu De Bois in the winter.”

What are your hobbies?  “None really. I used to do all kinds of crafts before becoming a mom and starting Labucq, but I find it difficult to create time for that now.”

Night in or night out? How do you spend it?  “Night in making pork chops, drinking a bottle of wine, and reading my son some Dr. Seuss before bed.”

Song currently on repeat?  “Thanks to my husband, my son has become obsessed with this novelty brit-pop song from the nineties called ‘Football’s Coming Home’ which became the anthem of the England 2016 World Cup team. He’s either singing it or asking us to play it multiple times a day, and it’s generally driving us crazy. This morning actually, my husband wrote the name of the song on a piece of paper and we told our son that we’re planning to do an official ‘burial’ ceremony for the song where we will say bye bye to ‘Football’s Coming Home’. Not sure if it will work, but fingers crossed we won’t have to listen to it in the car ever again!”

Signature scent?  “I don’t wear perfume everyday, but when I do its Maison Louis Marie No. 4 Bois de Balincourt.”

Vintage tee found at Fairfax Flea Market. Uniqlo trousers. Labucq slides. Jade bracelet passed down from my grandmother.
Vintage tee found at Fairfax Flea Market. Uniqlo trousers. Labucq slides. Jade bracelet passed down from my grandmother.

What’s the one thing in your closet you would save in a fire?  “I’m not that attached to anything in particular. In fact, I cycle through things quite regularly, selling on The Real Real or at local consignment stores. Part of me thinks it might be even better to start fresh with a nice insurance claim if something like that were to happen.”

Your first fashion splurge? Details please.  “A Proenza PS1 handbag, which I got on discount from a friend’s store the year they came out, I think around 2012? I remember being able to afford it by then, but still hyperventilating a little bit when my card was swiped. Even though I don’t wear it anymore, I don’t think I could ever get rid of it because it was such a big deal for me to buy something like that for myself then.”

Your biggest fashion failure?  “I could take this two ways, either ‘I bought something expensive I regretted’ or ‘I felt embarrassed by what I was wearing.’ I don’t have much of the former or the latter to draw on. I once brought a white leather Marc Jacobs bag to a Halloween party at the Bowery Hotel, where it predictably was smeared with fake blood. It cost me $200 to clean it, I felt pretty regretful about that.”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day comfortable, at home, and off duty?  “Labucq Mo Slides and my Off-Hours robe. We actually did a photoshoot based on this look.”

Your five wardrobe staples, go…  “Vintage t-shirt, men’s inspired trouser, simple oversized blazer, Labucq Jules Boots, and gold jewelry.”

Go-to pair of shoes?  “Labucq Jules boots.”

What are three things on your want list?  “Milo Bauman 1960s burl wood dining table, vintage Prada tessuto minbag, Max Mara camel cashmere coat.”

Favorite designers / brands and why?  “Hermes because they never compromise on quality or identity. Lemaire because it’s always going to be reliably chic. Prada for its unpredictability and playful attitude, not to mention its incredible archive. Jacquemus because Simon is irresistibly open and optimistic as a designer and social media persona and is so fun to watch.”

Very favorite online shop?  “Etsy!”

Your favorite vintage clothing stores in L.A.?  “Wasteland, Fairfax Flea, and The RealReal. This one is not in L.A., but every time I’m back in New York, I spend a good hour or so perusing through Beacon’s Closet in Greenpoint.”

Dresses or jeans?  “Jeans.”

Heels or flats?  “Flats or block heels — no stilettos please.”

Vintage or new?  “Vintage clothes, new shoes.”

Breakfast / brunch of choice?  “Two eggs over medium with a dollop of labneh. And, black coffee.”

Coffee or tea? How do you take it?  “Coffee, black.”

Favorite local cup? Highly Likely Cafe.”

Fave cookbooks? Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking. I bought this book specifically to know how to make their sorrel rice — totally worth it.”

Your go-to dinner recipe when at home?  “My Bolognese sauce with cauliflower rice. I make this at least once a week on my husband’s request [laughs].”

Regular Postmates / takeout order?  “There are a few. Cardamom on Beverley was our staple, but we moved and they won’t deliver to our house anymore — heartbreaking.”

Any supplements you take / magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “Rishi turmeric tea!”

Any most-loved kitchen gadgets? “The thing I use everyday is our lemon juicer. It’s generic and I don’t know who makes it, but I use it to make lemon or lime sparkling water twice a day. I guess the Sodastream, also.”

How do you stay active?  “I haven’t worked out basically since my son was born. I used to work out a lot, it’s just lower on my list of priorities. I’d rather eat healthier and have more time.”

What does self-care look like for you when you’re off duty?  “I like getting a gel manicure and regular pedicure at Tenoverten in Culver City and the occasional massage.”

You decide to treat yourself, how do you indulge?  “We drink red wine almost every night, yet it still feels like an indulgence. Rarely— very, very rarely — we’ll drive up to Larchmont village and get ice cream from Jeni’s.”

Lisa Says Gah top. Agolde jeans. Labucq Chan sandals.
Lisa Says Gah top. Agolde jeans. Labucq Chan sandals.

Tell us a bit about what you do.  “I used to say ‘shoe designer’ and that led to certain kinds of conversations, but now I say, ‘I own a shoe company’ and the conversations are a little different.”

Was it always shoes / design?  “I was that 16-year-old girl who sewed her own prom dress. I always wanted to be a fashion designer and I always wanted to move to New York to do it. As a teenager it wasn’t shoes specifically, that happened sort of by chance in my twenties, while I was working for Rag & Bone. I was very lucky to sort of land in a category that really felt right for me.”

Who / what has been your biggest inspiration?  “There’s no ‘key’ to everything I’ve done — like Charles Foster Kane’s Rosebud, or Gatsby’s Daisy. I’ve made hundreds of shoes over the course of my career. My own likes, dislikes, and inspirations evolve with time, as the world evolves and trends evolve; these are all intertwined and circling one another, like a sine wave, like DNA.”

What does a typical work day look like?  “We have a small team and we’re juggling every aspect of the business, so there’s a great variety in what I’m doing. On any day, I could be producing a photoshoot, creating ads, mocking up shoe protos, trying to come up with good email headlines, talking to Italians about production, doing customer service…”

Typical work lunch?  “Cava order for pickup.”

In such a competitive industry, how do you keep up with the Jonses?  “It’s important I remind myself not to make stuff because others are doing it or to have too competitive of an attitude towards business. I’m doing this because I love it. If I didn’t believe in it — if it didn’t come from me — it would be hard to sustain the effort. There are something like eight billion shoes made every year, and 400 million end up in landfills before the year is over. So, I think it’s better not to compare yourself to the Jonses as much as possible, but to focus on what you’re doing, what makes you you.”

Keys to productivity? “I’m nowhere near confident enough in my own productivity to give others advice! I tend to make to-do lists which grow and grow and grow.”

Can you tell us how you remedy being in a creative funk? What puts you back on track?  “A creative funk for me is sometimes more that I’m changing things that don’t need to be changed, so I’m a believer in putting things on the shelf and coming back with a fresh eye the next day.”

Any advice to other women looking to start a career in shoe design?  “You need to set yourself up in a position such that you are making shoes. Get a really great internship with a company you admire. Don’t be afraid to get in there and learn as much as you can, do things that might not effectively be your eventual goal, but that might teach you about the business. I was very lucky to work with some people who knew what they were doing, and took me under their wing, from factory owners to entrepreneurs, to great merchandisers — Meet Tull Price [laughs]!”

Any exciting news or projects on the horizon?  “We’re about to have a pop-up shop in New York City for three weeks in October. Sign up for our email list for details.”

Written by: Tiana Gidley

Tiana Gidley is a 20-something Contributing Editor at The Bleu. She binge-watches reality TV on Bravo, throws a mean murder mystery party, and makes her bed every morning.

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