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A model wears a wool and nylon dress from the Luba By Hannah Payne collection.

Q&A: Local Fashion Designer Hannah Payne

The founder of Luba talks about her local business, supporting women, and inspiration for her upcoming fall and spring lines.

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The perfect winter coat takes on a new look this month, with outerwear in a feminine, but dramatic pale palette. The colorblock coat from Denver-based designer Hannah Payne makes her line, Luba, particularly special. Although Payne knew she wanted to be in fashion since she was a teenager, it was during her college year abroad that she started taking drawing and sewing courses in a fashion program in Florence, Italy. She then interned at Vogue and for a fashion PR firm, but realized it was the design process she found most fulfilling. She eventually attended Parsons School of Design in New York City, and launched Luba after graduating in 2013. I sat down with her to chat about her Fall 2017 collection, the difficulties of launching a fashion business and how she hopes to bring some of her production to Denver one day.

GB: I know you attended Parsons, which is a great design school, but do you feel they prepared you for the business side of fashion? These days, you really have to know both sides of the business.

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HP: I don’t think the school prepares you for the actual business of the industry, but they offer great opportunities for internships. I had a professor who knew many designers and they were all looking for interns. I interviewed at Naeem Khan, and that’s where I interned the whole time I was at Parsons. I thought it was going to be a huge company, but it’s a small group of people. I worked directly with Naeem on his designs and runway show. It was an amazing experience.

GB: So how did you start Luba?

Hannah Payne

HP: I decided to start Luba because my boyfriend was accepted into law school here. So, I made the decision to move back to Denver. When I went to write my business plan for Luba, it was the same idea I had when I created a final project for my college social entrepreneurship class. It was cool to see that I never really changed my vision, and that my design style had stayed consistent.

GB: How did you settle on the name Luba for the line?

HP: My grandmother’s name was Luba. It means love in Russian. She came here from Yugoslavia. Her family was in a concentration camp during World War II and she died of breast cancer at 42, so I never got to meet her. When she came to the U.S., she didn’t know anyone nor did she know any English. She’s so inspirational to me—such a force.

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GB: That’s quite a story. She sounds like an amazingly strong woman.

HP: I knew I wanted to create a brand that empowered women. I love creating clothes, especially when someone puts a piece on and says, “I look good.” And they feel good. I don’t think women need to dress masculine to be taken seriously; a woman can wear very feminine clothing and make a strong statement. I named the line after my grandmother for that reason.

GB: It’s an interesting time to create a very feminine line, because of the rise of transgender clothing.

HP: It’s hard because at times I’ll second-guess myself—like boxy cuts are in, menswear is in—so being really feminine can be somewhat hard. But when I was at Parsons we had someone from Louis Vuitton come in and he said, “Stay true to who you are, those are the people that succeed. Don’t ever try and be like another designer.”

GB: That’s great advice because right now, there’s too much product out there and much of it is repetitive. Where is Luba carried?

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HP: So, we’ve gone from three stores to ten stores this season. We’re in Los Angeles, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Minnesota, and Vail at Luca Bruno.

GB: I know you mentioned the line gives back. Are there any projects you’re currently involved with?

HP: Right now, I’m doing an embroidered T-shirt for Domestic Violence Awareness month. It’ll be available October 1 (on shopluba.com) and will sell at a lower price point than my regular collection ($50), with 50 percent of all sales going to fund local women’s shelters.

GB: Let’s chat about Fall 2017; what was your inspiration for the collection?

HP: My inspiration for this collection was actually the mountains in fall. Fall is like the New Year to me; I don’t know why, but I just feel refreshed—it’s almost like a rebirth from the past year. I love the fall colors and the smell of the air.

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GB: What kinds of colors and fabrics did you work with?

HP: I really wanted to work with warm colors, like gold tones, oranges and yellows. The collection is about mountain style, so all of the pieces are named after places in Vail. But I did add a little bit of glamour; I brought in some metallics, as well as a brown lace. I was nervous about the brown, but it’s a good color for most people.

GB: What about the coat we shot from your collection?

HP: I design for my lifestyle, and I love a big coat. I travel a lot to NYC for work and it’s freezing there in the winter, so I wanted a coat that was really heavy and had a high collar. I also like a boxy coat, but I know there are women who don’t, so I added a drawstring because I think it’s a great way to create a style most people can wear.

GB: Your collection is made in NYC, right?

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HP: Yes. I did look into Denver when I was first launching the line, because I thought it would be amazing to make the collection here. But—and this was a few years ago, so it could be different now because I haven’t explored it since—I found that the factories here were one or two people and the price was extremely high. But I’m interested in trying to find a way to do at least some production in Denver. I would love to create jobs here.

GB: So can you give us a hint of what you’re working on for spring?

HP: I just went to Tokyo in March, and was so inspired by the culture and beauty there. I knew I was going there when I picked out my fabrics in January, so I picked a lot of Asian-influenced fabrics. I have some blacks—like black lace—and I’m really feeling blues and nude pink. I’ll also have a few metallic options. I think my looks will be consistent with my past collections, but the colors are drastically different from this fall—they’re definitely brighter!

Luba by Hannah Payne, shopluba.com

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