When Linda Lundstrom left her clothing manufacturing facility in Toronto in 2010, she brought two very important items with her: a customized dressmaker’s mannequin and an old sewing machine she brought from Sheridan College in 1974. “In a way, I returned to where it all began,” said the 1972 Fashion Design graduate and Canadian fashion icon. Sheridan was where I started making my dream come true.”
Lundstrom is still living that dream, albeit with a twist. She now creates one-of-a-kind garments (using that same Sheridan sewing machine) at her studio in Caledon which she sells directly to “Lundstrom loyalists.” Not only is Lundstrom enjoying the freedom of working from home, she is also sharing her deep knowledge of design and manufacturing with others, through workshops, speaking engagements and her consulting practice.
“I returned to where it all began. Sheridan was where I started making my dream come true.”
With her tale of both great success and adversity, Lundstrom has a wealth of experience to share. The company she started in 1974 grew into a multi-million dollar operation that manufactured and distributed her designs to boutiques throughout North America, as well as her own retail stores. Her signature piece, the LAPARKA winter coat which hit the world by storm in 1986, put Lundstrom on the map. Sales grew steadily and by 1997 the company produced 12,000 LAPARKAs alone, all manufactured in Canada. In addition, four collections totaling up to 700 styles a year were designed and manufactured in this country. What’s more, her 60,000-square-foot manufacturing operation employed sustainable business practices before they were popular. Numerous awards for Lundstrom soon followed, including the Order of Ontario and three honorary doctorates.
“There is a purpose to everything. Even losing my company brought me many unexpected gifts.”
However, the economic downtown in 2007-08 created a financial crisis for her company. The Lundstrom brand was sold but she stayed on as head designer before resigning in 2010. “When I lost my company, I lost my identity, my self-worth,” Lundstrom recalled.
During a respite at the cottage, she reassessed her future, one she wasn’t sure would include designing. But her turning point came via a leather garment Lundstrom made as a birthday present for her daughter. The piece generated so much interest on the part of her daughter and her friends, that “before I knew it, I had a 20-piece collection,” Lundstrom recalled.
Re-energized, she continued to create, selling her work directly at pop-up shops, which allowed Lundstrom to connect one-on-one with her customers. All the while, she has maintained a design philosophy she can trace back to her youth in the small mining town of Cochenour in the Red Lake district of northwestern Ontario. Lundstrom’s designs feature the unfinished edges and natural hues which reflect a love of nature and an eye to sustainability. “I take beauty in the imperfections of nature, she said. “My policy has always been waste not, want not.”
Today, Lundstrom offers a philosophical take on this stage of her career. “Everything is a gift. Even losing my company brought me many unexpected gifts,” said the designer who was looking to step off the treadmill and refocus her professional and personal priorities. “Life is like a balloon ride. If you want to go higher, you have to let some things go.”
Dawn Mercer Photography