- Lola Lombard
Origin Story/Pandemic Pivot
I’ve always identified as an artist. I went to school for fashion initially. Later it changed to theater. I have ventured into related fields with some success in each direction. I have taught, directed, wrote, illustrated, performed, joked and visually dazzled audiences with design--all for the purposes of the audience seeing themselves as creatives too.
In October of 2019, I was working in the field of museum design and fabrication. I loved my job and was looking for a project to do on the side. I thought I’d finally paint a wedding dress that had been in my closet for months. It had gobs of gorgeous silk and even though I’ve painted on fashion for my entire life, it was like someone queued MC Hammer to play "Can't touch this." I was too scared. Only a few singular artists paint luxury gowns like this because when you paint on fabric, one wrong move and you can seriously cause problems. These paints are made of permanent dye. There’s no going back once you begin. In fact, most companies do not sell painted wedding gowns because it would be too big of an investment/risk for them.
I’d picked up this dress for a song but after research, I found that was a $6,000 dress. So for the last 4 years it sat in my closet as I wondered if I should just sell it plain, as is, on Ebay. But with the safety of my regular day job, and the knowledge that I was an expert in hand-painting, I looked for encouragement on Facebook. and the freaks I love most sent in their resounding cries of support to “go for it!”
So, I filmed the process. The effort was so enjoyable. I was totally in my zone. Out flew bold streaks, images of birds and stars, zig zags and fields of color. The design took shape over months and one day I was done! It was beautiful. And I wished I could do it all the time. I began to hatch a plan that people would send me their old silk gowns. I would save them from the landfills, years inside lonely dark closets. I would paint them and resell them, giving a commission to the original owner. I imagined the two owners past and future radiant with karma, connected forever by the gown like twin stars.
I considered marketing these one of a kind beauties for VIPs and Brides. “Who won’t want to wear it?” I asked myself. And I began to count how many Katy Perry’s and Lady Gaga’s I knew. Quickly I counted to zero. I couldn't even wear this dress. I was already married and did not have a ticket to the Oscars. I wondered how long it would take to it enough of the market to call this a viable business?
And then I thought about all the people I'd leave out. This made me sadder. My entire career has been about inspiring others through art and creative expression. How could I leave almost everyone I knew out there with no way to participate with my venture? Wouldn’t it be better to make something for everyone? Why not make the most people happy with my art that I can?
And that was how I began translating the work onto basic wearables that could be printed on demand. This was the perfect marriage of tech and hand painting. I could wear them anywhere and everywhere. Hell, leggings are even unisex if you think about it. Basics seemed like a great option. So I launched a facebook page—in early 2020. What could go wrong?
I was reeling— as was the rest of the world as the pandemic became a bigger reality. I was trying to keep up a brave face. My anxiety was off the charts. I began to work from home. But amidst the chaos, I was pretty happy to affirm that that while we're all teleworking we certainly don't wear ball gowns. We wear basics. We wear colorful ones so we keep it cheerful. It seemed like a pretty clear Pandemic Pivot.
So I wore my sample leggings to work (in the home office), to go to the grocery store, to have a dance party on zoom and to nap. I even began instagramming #getdressedonce.
Throughout, I was nervous about the pandemic situation, but remained optimistic. Somewhere in a corner of my nervous mind I was also finding myself pretty excited about the idea that this horrible event might usher us forward into a time of positive change. What if the landscape of what didn’t work before could be overthrown--and take uncomfortable clothing for example, with it! Working from home was a much more comfortable option and things might turn out OK if I would pick myself up, dust myself off and keep going.
Then, I lost my day job. Pandemic downsizing had occurred and I was one of the newly unemployed.
Again, I could have given up at that point. It certainly was depressing. But they say that those who keep going are the only ones who have a chance. So I stood up in my Lola Lombard Artistic Athleisure and I kept going.
So this story is the business blog about what happens after March 2020. I am deep in it now that it’s August 2020. I am investing time, money, energy and faith. I've worked on the branding and the website. Pretty soon, I need to add more designs for the winter collections. I keep telling myself, I can do this. I can do this.
Hopefully, wearing basics all day will be one of those things that stay with us in the future. And when the pandemic is over, it's party time. And I'll be ready to supply painted ball gowns too. If you are still reading this I hope you’re cheering me on! It would mean the world if you’d help me share my story with your friends. ;)