ARTIST INTERVIEW: Lauren Block of Hey Gang
Company: Hey Gang
Artist: Lauren Block
Lauren Block honed her eye for fashion over her 15-year career in the industry. She’s had her own stores that quickly gained a cult following in Austin, first with The Royal Family on the east side (before it was the hipster epicenter it is today), and then at Bows + Arrows, where she met her now husband, Josh Block, a musician and producer for the likes of Leon Bridges. She oversaw Shinola’s U.S. boutique distribution, further expanding her love for made in the USA brands, until having her first child, Birdie. Lauren took a step back from her current endeavors and discovered her creativity was ignited by the idea of starting a kids’ clothing line that brought together everything she loves— menswear, work wear, and functional pieces with a purpose. “I’ve taken tidbits of everything I’ve learned from my experiences, what I have been passionate about along the way, and poured it all into HEY GANG. This time around, it all had to be done right, exactly the way I want it to look, run how I want it to run, with the hope to make people happy with these pieces at the same time.”
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
I love and am inspired by workwear, and utilitarian pieces, mixed in with fun of course, but I believe kids clothing has to be functional. I don’t like unnecessary pockets, I like them all to be able to be used, there is even a crayon pocket in our overalls and coveralls! I also use snaps and zippers when possible so they can dress themselves when their old enough, AND of course so they can use the potty on their own. It’s important to them gaining responsibility and confidence, i.e. our coveralls have a zipper and a snap so they can put them on and take them off themselves, they are also able to pull our overall straps up or down off of their shoulders, without having to unbutton or unhook anything, and my daughter loves that she can easily slip the pinafore on all by herself. I also use durable fabrics that can be washed often, and most can be thrown in the dryer. I love using ripstop in kids wear – it was originally designed for parachutes, and used in the military, the grid in the fabric actually stops it from ripping if you get a hole. I don’t like having to worry about pieces that are too precious to play in, eat in, or literally just walk around in, they somehow always find something to get into and get dirty or get a snag or hole, but they should… we need to let them be kids, let them get dirty!
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
I have a very random collection of vintage children’s books and little objects that I’ve collected over the years that I look at often, boy scout handbooks, a lot of cowboy and Indian themed vintage books, and little golden books, also old photographs and postcards, and vintage toys. I like looking at the clothes in old photographs and books – the clothing then was designed for functionality, not just style, so it’s interesting to me to see what they wore, how it worked etc…
Did you have any mentors or important creative influences?
Two designers that I always carried every season in my store, and make up the majority of my wardrobe today, including pieces that I bought 10 years ago are Daiki Suzuki of Engineered Garments / FWK and Noriko Machada of Chimala, I absolutely love their use of classic workwear presented in modern silhouettes, their incredible use of sturdy and traditional fabrics, and Chimala’s washes, well you just cant get any better than those washes! Unfortunately I don’t think childrenswear should be too crazy expensive, so there are limits to what I can actually produce, although I’m developing a denim wash right now that I’m hoping will be available this Spring!
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
100%. I’m so inspired by my friends and people I’ve “grown up” with in my adult life. I may not live in the same city as all of them any more, but I have such creative and amazing people around me who were willing to jump on board for the ride. A lot of whom I’ve known for a long time now and I’m so proud of the people they’ve become and the amazing careers they have made for themselves!! Which is really what hey gang is about… hey! Let’s do something, let’s help each other and let’s have some fun! I want our kiddos to feel the same way… everyone is included, let’s just have a good time.