Look of the Irish: Rising star of New York fashion scene

Laura Weber, designer for Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, now has her own athleisure brand

Laura Weber at home in her midtown apartment in Manhattan.

When Laura Weber arrived in New York in 2013 with no job, no place to stay and no contacts, she headed for the Garment District in Manhattan, home of the fashion industry, manufacturing and design. The young Dubliner, a textiles graduate of NCAD the year previously, was immediately taken on at an embroidery company, the owner impressed by her portfolio.

It was the start of a stellar career making embellishments in pearls, rhinestones, sequins and embroidery for clients that included Michelle Obama and Anna Wintour, top US designers Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang, and stars like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Katie Perry and Bette Midler. Weber also made the green sequined gown worn by Saoirse Ronan for the Oscars.

In late 2019, after six years in the business, Weber took the plunge and left the company to set up her own LW Pearl embroidery and embellishment atelier, armed with valuable contacts and a team with artisanal backgrounds in bridal couture and high-end luxury.

Business boomed with clients that included world-renowned designers like Dolce & Gabbana and Thom Browne. Weber received the Vogue Fashion Grant Award from CFDA, and her work included creating garments and embellishments for the James Cohen Gallery under acclaimed Mexican artist Teresa Margolies. “Things just cascaded,” she recalls.

Crop hoodie €320, bicycle shorts €94, leg warmers €50.65, bag €3,000, scarf €222. Photograph: notpaulsimon
Crop hooded sweater €320, shades €140. Photograph: notpaulsimon

When the pandemic hit, she continued to receive orders, admitting that it was quite a challenge “surviving, navigating and doing everything in my power to retain my skilled employees”, but the space during lockdown enabled her and her husband Joseph Rein – who had also made couture for celebrities – to focus on their dream of establishing their own lifestyle brand. This will make its debut in a few weeks’ time online.

A collection of athleisure garments with core basics and accessories, she describes its design vision as “based around our own lifestyle. Between our morning runs around Central Park and back-to-back design meetings before sunrise, from choosing Italian leathers to French silks, our love of luxury combined with an active lifestyle pushed us to fill a gap between the comfort of Lululemon and the high-end craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton,” she says. “It has been five years in the making.”

Silk satin quilted coat €1,207, silk scarf €222, embellished leather bag €3,000, shoes €250. Photograph: notpaulsimon
Crop top €320, silk scarf €222, shades €140, leggings €119.50. Photograph: notpaulsimon

Their collective experience of making garments for celebrity clients that often meant alterations has given them a special perspective when it comes to design. “We have worked endlessly on fit and silhouette. We have specially placed seams for easy tailoring and the basic shapes have been made with care and precision and our sizes go from XXS to XXL. We have incorporated seams into the leggings and tops so anything can be altered very cleanly and easily, and all that comes from celebrity couture when everything can be altered the night before. It’s the same with our swimwear.”

The collection of leggings, crop tops, leg warmers, sweaters and quilted coats includes shoes, shades and bags in luxury fabrics such as stretch jersey, leather, chiffon, silk and double face satin. Prices start at €50.65 for leg warmers; €94 for bicycle shorts and beanies; up to €320 for knit sweaters; €1,207 for long quilted coats; and €3,000 for embellished leather bags. Well put together, the collection has a stateside slickness and style, but is also about performance.

Though there are plans to open a flagship store, Weber admits that "surviving the Manhattan madness has been quite the journey living and working in the garment district" but remains optimistic. "We have seen the military on the streets, we have seen them opening extra centres for the sick, we have seen the riots, the fires and the broken businesses, we have seen so many small suppliers collapse, we have seen it all." As to the future of fashion, she believes it needs change and though "the pandemic changed it, maybe it will be a change for the better".

Styling and direction: Joseph Alexander Rein; photography: notpaulsimon; producer: Jackson Wiederhoeft; model: Sarah Abney