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  • Writer's pictureAlina Fridman

Sustainable Style: An Interview with Deborah Lindquist, the Green Queen of Fashion

Deborah Lindquist - Green Queen of Fashion

In a world where fast fashion dominates the market, there are those who stand out for their commitment to a more sustainable approach. Deborah Lindquist, an acclaimed eco-conscious designer, is one such individual. Known for her exquisite creations that blend high fashion with environmental consciousness, Lindquist has carved a niche for herself in the industry and has earned the moniker of "Green Queen" for her commitment to sustainability. Her innovative designs have graced the wardrobes of mega-stars like Sharon Stone, Pink, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and many others, solidifying her reputation as a sought-after designer. In this interview, she opens up about her background, her journey as a designer, and what inspired her to become an advocate for eco-friendly fashion.

From Farm to Fashion: Nurturing a Passion for Design

Lindquist's roots can be traced back to her upbringing on a farm as the youngest of three children. With her siblings significantly older, she had to forge her own path, ultimately discovering her passion for art and sewing. At the tender age of five, Lindquist's mother entrusted her with a treadle machine—a foot pedal Victorian sewing machine—which sparked her love affair with fashion.

"I started making clothing and creating patterns for my dolls," Lindquist reminisces. "As I grew older, I transitioned to crafting my own garments on that same treadle machine." Recognizing her talent and dedication, Lindquist's grandmothers decided to gift her an electric sewing machine, propelling her skills to new heights. Unbeknownst to her at the time, this was the catalyst that would shape her future as a fashion designer.

Despite her early love for sewing, Lindquist initially pursued a degree in sales and marketing. She believed that understanding these facets of the industry would be invaluable in her journey toward becoming a fashion designer. Later on, she attended the University of Minnesota to study fashion design and eventually transferred to Parsons in New York City, where she received a well-rounded education in all aspects of the fashion industry.

"The fashion world encompasses numerous components, from illustration to construction and pattern work," Lindquist explains. "My classical training has equipped me with the necessary skills to excel in all these areas, providing me with a solid foundation for my career."

Unveiling a World of Inspiration: Exploring a Creative Tapestry

Every artist has their muses, those sources of inspiration that ignite their imagination and fuel their creativity. For Deborah Lindquist, a myriad of influences has shaped her remarkable journey as a designer. From the visionary works of iconic designers to the vibrant energy of the streets, Lindquist draws inspiration from a rich tapestry of sources.

In her early days as an accessories designer, Lindquist found herself captivated by the daring and avant-garde creations of fashion icons such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen. Their boundary-pushing designs resonated with her, showcasing the transformative power of fashion as a form of self-expression. Lindquist saw the potential of her accessories to complement and elevate these bold, statement-making ensembles.

Yet, her admiration wasn't limited to the avant-garde. Lindquist recognized the mastery of designers like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, who approached fashion with a more streamlined aesthetic. She admired their ability to create cohesive collections where every piece worked harmoniously together. This understanding of the importance of unity and versatility stemmed from her early experience designing children's clothes at Garanimals, where each garment was meticulously crafted to coordinate effortlessly with the entire line.

"The concept of everything working together as a cohesive whole really stuck with me," Lindquist shares. "It's about creating a collection where each element complements and enhances the others, allowing individuals to mix and match while still achieving a harmonious look."

As she honed her skills and delved deeper into the world of fashion, Lindquist found inspiration in unexpected places. The allure of chainmail dresses and opulent metalwork drew her to Cher's iconic style, where she experimented with her own belt creations that could seamlessly complement such bold ensembles. Additionally, Lindquist admired the fierce fashion choices of Tina Turner, as she found herself primarily designing for women and drew inspiration from the empowerment exuded by strong female performers.

Beyond the realm of fashion, Lindquist's wellspring of inspiration encompasses a vast array of influences. She finds herself captivated by the art world, drawing inspiration from the colors, textures, and concepts that permeate the creative sphere. The vibrant streets of Manhattan, where Lindquist once resided, served as a constant source of stimulation. The city's diverse mix of cultures, styles, and individuality awakened her senses, influencing her designs and infusing them with a distinctive urban flair.

"I've always been drawn to the energy of the city," Lindquist reflects. "The amalgamation of people, art, and fashion created a melting pot of inspiration. It's the constant ebb and flow of creativity that invigorates me and fuels my own artistic pursuits."

Discovering Eco-Fashion: A Serendipitous Journey

Sometimes, life has a way of leading us down unexpected paths. For Deborah, her journey into the world of sustainable fashion began with a serendipitous twist. As she recounts her early days in the industry, Lindquist reveals how her knack for upcycling and blending vintage materials with newfound treasures set her on a groundbreaking path toward eco-consciousness.

In 1983, when Lindquist first ventured into the business, she initially focused on designing belts. Collaborating with prominent brands and delving into the realm of high-volume fashion, she soon found herself yearning for a unique accessory that stood out from the crowd. It was during a visit to the trim store in the garment district of Manhattan that fate intervened. Lindquist stumbled upon a mesmerizing material—Milanese mesh—that seemed destined for her envisioned belt creation.

Excited by the possibilities, Lindquist quickly realized that the material she had fallen in love with was not typically used for accessories. Undeterred, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She taught herself the craft of belt making. Using Milanese mesh as a base, Lindquist skillfully blended her ingenuity and fashion sense. She even went on a hunt for a vintage distressed leather jacket from the East Village to complete her masterpiece.

Armed with her newfound treasures, Lindquist began crafting one-of-a-kind pieces, skillfully merging vintage elements with contemporary materials. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she was laying the groundwork for a movement that would later be termed "eco-fashion." Recycling and upcycling became the cornerstones of her creative process long before the words were even coined.

"In those early days, there wasn't a specific term for what I was doing," Lindquist explains. "I simply took vintage materials, mixed them with the mesh I had discovered, and created unique, limited-edition pieces. It was all about my core values and my love for crafting things myself."

The 1980s were a time of bold fashion statements, with accessories, big hair, and broad shoulders reigning supreme. Independent designers like Lindquist flourished, captivating the attention of stores seeking innovative and intriguing offerings. Excitement filled the air as a wave of indie designers burst onto the scene, showcasing their distinctive creations. Lindquist and her peers were at the forefront of this movement, fueled by the support of enthusiastic retailers.

Pioneering Eco-Fashion with a Passion for Sustainability

It wasn't until 2004 that the term "eco-fashion" began to gain traction, officially encapsulating Lindquist's commitment to sustainability. Through her early ventures into upcycling and resourcefulness, she established an innovative approach to fashion, setting her apart as a pioneer in the industry.

As Lindquist delved deeper into the fashion industry, she began to witness the detrimental impact it had on the environment. The excessive waste, pollution, and exploitation of resources prompted her to question the sustainability of the industry as a whole.

"I couldn't ignore the devastating effects of fast fashion," Lindquist asserts. "I felt a responsibility to create a positive change and offer consumers an alternative that aligned with their values."

This realization led Lindquist to embark on a remarkable journey as an eco-fashion designer. Combining her love for design with a passion for sustainability, she started crafting garments using environmentally friendly materials and practices. Her designs feature upcycled and repurposed fabrics, as well as organic and cruelty-free materials, breathing new life into discarded textiles.

Lindquist's commitment to sustainability extends beyond her designs. She prioritizes ethical production methods, ensuring fair labor practices and minimizing waste throughout her supply chain. By embracing a circular economy model, she encourages consumers to rethink their approach to fashion, advocating for a shift toward conscious consumption.

"I believe that fashion should be a force for good," Lindquist affirms. "By choosing eco-friendly options, we can make a positive impact on the planet while still expressing our individual style."

With her exceptional designs and unwavering dedication to the environment, Lindquist continues to make waves in the fashion industry. She proves that sustainable fashion can be both elegant and accessible, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.

As consumers increasingly demand eco-conscious alternatives, Lindquist's visionary approach and enduring passion for sustainability serve as a beacon of hope, showing that fashion can flourish without compromising our planet's well-being.

Denim Unleashed: How A Setback Turned into Sustainable Creativity

During the initial days of the pandemic, when the garment district closed its doors, Lindquist found herself labeled as non-essential. However, this setback couldn't dampen her innovative spirit. Lindquist's path took an unexpected turn when her boyfriend gave her a pair of his old jeans. She transformed them into a stylish jacket with a feminine twist, incorporating her punk rock influences. Encouraged by the positive response, Lindquist delved further into the world of denim.

As the demand for masks surged, Lindquist saw an opportunity to combine fashion and function. Though acquiring enough denim proved difficult during the lockdown, she reached out to her trusted supplier, who offered her a bale of discarded jeans. With a thousand pounds of denim at her disposal, Lindquist designed masks and embarked on an exploration of denim's versatility.

Beyond masks, Lindquist engineered captivating garments, including theatrical coats, dresses, and jackets, utilizing her engineering skills to create stunning one-of-a-kind pieces. The unexpected did not deter her. In fact, Lindquist went a step further and crafted a breathtaking wedding dress entirely out of white denim, defying convention and showcasing the beauty of sustainable fashion.

The bales of denim became the centerpiece of Lindquist's creative space, inspiring her to even venture into making shag rugs from denim scraps which she finds therapeutic. Every strip found its purpose, allowing Lindquist to create unique pieces.

The pandemic may have brought limitations, but it also ignited Lindquist's creative spirit. Her determination to repurpose materials and infuse sustainability into her designs is evident in every project she undertakes. Lindquist's denim adventures during the pandemic stand as a testament to her adaptability and unwavering commitment to eco-conscious practices.

Inspiring Creative Exploration and Community Building

In addition to her remarkable fashion journey, Deborah Lindquist has also embarked on a mission to inspire and educate others. Recognizing the importance of craftsmanship and the therapeutic value of working with one's hands, Lindquist launched her Masterclass: Creating Eco-Conscious Fashion.

Her flagship course, "Introduction to Eco Design and Fabric Embellishment," invites participants to unleash their creativity and transform plain garments into works of art. From applique and reverse applique to studying, beading, and embroidery, Lindquist teaches a range of techniques that empower individuals to personalize and embellish their clothing. By introducing people to these craft skill sets, Lindquist believes she is not only nurturing their artistic expression but also promoting a healthier and more mindful way of living.

To Lindquist, ideas are like seeds waiting to be nurtured and brought to life. She envisions them as films playing in her mind, where she can visualize the entire creative process and the final outcome. Guided by her intuition and passion, Lindquist nourishes these ideas in her heart before manifesting them into tangible creations with her own hands. It is this dedication to handmade craftsmanship that sets her designs apart.

Beyond individual creative exploration, Lindquist emphasizes the importance of building communities centered around making and creating. She encourages individuals to leverage their talents and skills, advocating for bartering and trading as a means of collaboration. She believes that fostering supportive communities where resources and expertise are shared is essential for personal growth and collective progress. Lindquist passionately remarks, "We need to work together and appreciate each other's diverse talents. By coming together, we can create something truly wonderful."

In a time when people have experienced various forms of trauma and societal disconnection, Lindquist's teachings serve as a reminder of the healing potential of creativity and community building. By engaging in artistic pursuits and fostering an environment of collaboration and resourcefulness, individuals can find solace, empowerment, and a renewed sense of purpose.

Protecting Creativity and Fostering Authentic Relationships

In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion, Deborah Lindquist has encountered a new challenge that many designers can relate to. She discovered her own exquisite denim dress, priced at $500, featured on a website completely unrelated to her brand. A stunning model, seemingly floating in the dress, was used to promote a cheap and inferior knockoff. Lindquist quickly realized that this phenomenon extends beyond her own experience and decided to raise awareness about this alarming trend.

Taking to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, Lindquist rallied support from fellow designers who had encountered similar issues. The unauthorized use of images to sell subpar products not only devalues the original creations but also compromises the integrity of the fashion industry as a whole. It is a new kind of knockoff—one that exploits the emotional connection people have with clothing, selling them an illusion rather than a genuine experience.

Reflecting on this disheartening situation, Lindquist shares her perspective: "I made a big fuss about it. I contacted them directly, and they said, 'Oh, we'll have to check.' Then I started posting on Instagram and Facebook, and I'm like, 'Hey, any other designers have this problem?' I was getting a lot of support for this too because, actually, we have to kind of look out for this—it's a different kind of knockoff."

Delving deeper into the issue, Lindquist explains the impact of such practices: "People stealing your images and then using them to sell a product that's so beneath any kind of reasonable merchandise—it's like cheap and crappy and falls apart." She highlights the importance of protecting intellectual property and standing against this exploitation within the industry.

Lindquist believes that this phenomenon is intertwined with shifting consumer behaviors and desires: "People buy feelings, not things, is what I think. How does this make you feel? What do you want to feel? I want to feel pretty, I want to feel better by buying something." She emphasizes the need to restore balance in our needs and urges consumers to seek quality over quantity, suggesting, "Maybe you don't need more outfits. Maybe you need something that's really cool and then wear it in different ways."

Drawing from her experience and industry insights, Lindquist stresses the significance of meaningful relationships in the fashion world: "Shopping for clothing is really kind of relationship-driven. You would go into a store, you'd meet the store owner, the buyer, maybe even a salesperson you really related to, and you develop a relationship with them." She encourages customers to reconnect with the essence of shopping, forging connections with designers and store owners, as this fosters an environment of trust, uniqueness, and longevity.

Expanding Horizons: Empowering through Education

Deborah Lindquist's passion for teaching extends beyond her online courses. She envisions a future filled with in-person workshops that provide individuals with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of wearable art. Recognizing the healing power of art, Lindquist is currently collaborating with a treatment center for addiction, exploring ways to incorporate creative workshops into the recovery process. By developing skill sets and channeling emotions into beautiful creations, participants can find solace and express their innermost thoughts.

Lindquist shares, "Art and wearable arts, then, is something that lets you build some skill sets so that you have something that you can take your ideas and pour it into and your heart and love and soul into this and make it beautiful."

Children also hold a special place in Lindquist's heart, and she aspires to share her knowledge and skills with young minds. She reminisces, "I started sewing and doing things when I was really little. And it's stuck with me my whole life. So, I really like that idea."

Reflecting on her recent collaborative workshop, Lindquist explains, "I did a group class recently...I was gonna teach applique, it's a little hard to teach that...But what I did instead is I taught embroidery, which you can also use with applique and reverse applique." She recognizes the adaptability of her teaching approach to cater to different time constraints and skill levels.

As Lindquist continues to explore new avenues for sharing her knowledge, she expresses her intentions also to teach a course in denim as she has now acquired so much experience with the fabric and still has a lot of it left over.

With her eyes set on writing a book, Lindquist acknowledges her determination to learn the necessary skills, stating, "I also think I should write a book. So there you have that. I don't know how to write a book yet, but I will learn how."

Deborah Lindquist's commitment to education and her desire to empower others through creativity is evident in her future plans. From in-person workshops to teaching children, from expanding course offerings to writing a book, she envisions a world where individuals find healing, express themselves artistically, and learn to appreciate the beauty that can be created with their own hands.

As Lindquist continues to evolve as an educator and artist, her dedication to fostering creativity and imparting valuable skills will undoubtedly inspire countless individuals to embark on their own transformative journeys.



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