Culture 30 August 2018
Sathya Balakumar and Heather Green work in the bridal industry, so calling them a match made in heaven may be playing on a pun, but it couldn’t be more accurate. The two refer to themselves as the “Lakum Duo,” because their vision for the brand is the same: they are set on establishing a high-fashion company that infuses heritage with modernity, without the intimidation factor that often follows couture.
SWAAY sat down with the Lakum founders to talk about their latest collection, setting out on their own and what designing for the “non-traditional” bride means to them.
What is your inspiration for this new collection, Elemental 2.0?
Sathya Balakumar: “Our story is about sleek, clean silhouettes, and then we pepper them with beautiful embroideries. For this collection, I wanted to go back to the techniques, the tailoring, the structure, very simple, sophisticated foundation pieces and then build off of that. The elemental pieces of the collection are the basic pieces that we grow from, and those are the silhouettes that last for a lifetime.”
Heather Green: “We built off our original Elemental collection, and a lot of it was actually inspired by the brides that are coming into the store. We get to be educated on the floor by the women shopping from us.”
Lakum founders, Heather Green and Sathya Balakumar, at their Elemental 2.0 launch party.
What sets Lakum apart from other bridal boutiques?
HG: “We come from high fashion. I think that's clear in our direction and the way that we approach everything. We don't approach it from the bridal world. We will still do markets, we are still going to show October. We did a runway show last year and it was cool, it was an introduction for us, but what really makes Lakum is the two of us."
SB: “Some of the more traditional boutiques are like a factory. You’re in and out in 60 minutes, barely see the whole collection. It's a very unemotional experience.”
HG: “Our role in this world is to create beautiful gowns or pieces that make you feel beautiful and like your best self. That’s what we strive for.”
How did you develop the concept for your brand?
HG: “When we came together to create Lakum, we knew we wanted to do something in bridal, but in a way that would shake up the industry and cater to the modern woman. We spoke to friends and friends of friends who had been recently married to find out about their shopping experience, and how they selected their wedding gown. In essence, what we discovered is that most women selected a look they thought they SHOULD wear as opposed to a look that allowed them to feel like themselves while walking down the aisle. We created Lakum to give the woman who is utterly self aware the opportunity to be her authentic self on her wedding day and throughout her entire wedding weekend.”
What inspired you to start your own brand, and what continues to drive you?
HG: “I worked at Marni and then I went on to work at Miguelina, and for me it wasn't the right fit. I ended up turning into a corporate sales person. I originally worked for small brands where there was creativity, actual communication and relationships with the people I was working with. So now, the stores that carry us are our friends. We get to build this relationship and have this be our shared vision. We just want to do this for us. Once we decided that, which was around year two and a half, we opened the store. We’ve been here about a year and a half now. We decided that we’re going to work one-on-one and that’s the feedback that we’re going to listen to, instead of anyone else. It’s hard, going out on your own. It’s a big deal. But we have a lot of gratitude. We call ourselves the Lakum duo because even though we're different in many ways, the vision for the brand is exactly the same.”
Where were you located before your Brooklyn showroom?
HG: “We've actually always been in Brooklyn. Our origins are in Cobble Hill, but prior to this space, we were located just down the street. When we began to get requests from brides from across the country to come and make appointments with us to shop the line, we realized we needed a true retail location. We were so fortunate to find this gorgeous loft space with a roof deck just a few blocks away. So we now have a Lakum Boutique, the first of many we hope.”
Did you have any challenges finding investors for your very first collection?
HG: “We know how to stretch a penny and relied solely on our own financing as well as small gift from our family to create the first collection. We are one of the small businesses out there who can say we are fully owned by the founders.”
What makes a Lakum bride?
SB: “It’s the modern bride. She’s in control of this, it's now her vision. It's not like the industry or society telling her that she needs to wear a long, traditional, corseted white gown. She wants to wear something that’s gorgeous and beautifully made that she can wear again and again.”
HG: “Yes! Totally her. We have plenty of city hall brides, same-sex brides, women who just don’t want to wear dresses. Separates have been a huge part of our business. Now, it’s 50/50 between gowns and separates. We have some beautiful suiting, and it’s becoming one of the hottest things we have…We never know what our brides are going to gravitate towards. For appointments, brides can bring as many people as they want, but what’s very cool is a lot of our brides come solo. She's utterly self-aware.”
SB: “She doesn’t need the feedback. She just knows what she wants.”
What are you working on next?
SB: “The next collection that I'm working on, the theme is 'non-linear.' The path to love is not a linear path, that’s what I’m envisioning. I'm trying to work out elements that go against the grain, whether that's going to be brought from texture or fabric. I always look at what’s working in the collection and I talk to Heather. It’s about marrying the concepts that I’m thinking about to what we need to enhance what we already have.”
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist