Chaska native Tara LaTour knew that she wanted to pursue the creative life from a young age after watching her grandmother sew beautiful gowns. She became particularly interested in the fashion world as a teenager and decided to attend Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She debuted her first full collection of bridal gowns in April 2011 and graduated in that May.
Now Tara is back in Chaska making her signature romantic and unusual wedding dresses that are known for their sense of color and wearability. Her label hit New York Bridal Week in 2011, and the fashion industry buzz continues to build around her work. We caught up with LaTour to find out what drives her passion and what we might expect from her next.
How would you characterize your experience at Parsons?
Parsons is not for the faint of heart. The program itself is extremely challenging and intense. You need to develop a thick skin. As a student there, I developed critical thinking skills through daily criticism of my work and sometimes that kind of critique can be very daunting and difficult to hear. But that critique also allowed me to push past my limits into a whole new level. I was fully surrounded by such a high level of creative intelligence. The dynamic of all those minds together was incredible. My educational experience allowed me to grow and expand and become the best version of my artistic and analytical self. That paired with Parsons’ vast networking system truly made it the right environment for me to become the best designer I could be.
Why wedding dresses?
Designing wedding gowns was a natural fit for me. I think it was half destiny and half curiosity. I used to watch my grandmother sew all kinds of pretty things and I would play with the scraps. I have also been a very curious person my whole life, and I did not understand why brides wore white, so I researched it. The findings of that research re-molded my definition of “bridal.” Since my definition is different than most, I was eager to share my point of view. I also believe that the way a woman feels in a wedding dress is hard to capture in any other piece of clothing. I love challenging what someone may think is “bridal,” but I also love that moment when a woman finds her perfect dress. Both of these things are very magical to me.
Why did you return to Chaska?
Right after I graduated Parsons, I worked for a contemporary dress company. I quickly learned that it was not the right spot for me. The production pace, the hands-on craftsmanship, the beauty of actually creating was missing. That prompted me move from New York back to Minnesota and start my own bridal label. Within a year and half we outgrew [our first] space in NE Minneapolis, which put us on the hunt for the perfect studio. A perfect studio is difficult and very time consuming to find. We moved the studio to Chaska until find we find our perfect new space.
Where do you find inspirations for your collections?
Inspiration for my collections comes from nature landscapes, as well as my family—you’ll see a bit of both in each collection. Recently I’ve been greatly inspired by the artwork of a young artist in Australia that does remarkable pencil drawings full of juxtaposition and romanticism.
Who are some of your influences?
Huge influences to me include the late genius Alexander McQueen. But I am overjoyed with Sarah Burton and what she has done with the label since his loss. Other current labels I love are Rodarte, Givenchy and Nina Ricci. I have a bit a love affair with great designers of the past that have changed the fashion climate like Charles James, Christian Dior and Coco Chanel.
How do you describe it your design philosophy?
I’d call it modern romanticism. I love the idea of the modern, although modern has different definitions—for me, it’s something that challenges current perceptions and pushes into what’s next. I often mix that ideology with romantic elements like soft petals, raw edged layers and intricate detailing.
Can you share some of the challenges that you face?
I face the same challenges as many small business owners. I find a large challenge in keeping collection progressive while to keeping it accessible to the average woman. This is far more challenging that one might think.
What is the most important thing you want readers to know about you and your work?
I think everyone is surprised when they meet me. I am not your typical high-end bridal designer. I am pretty much a total goof. We don't have a lot of formalities in the studio. My life philosophy, which falls into how we operate the office, is ‘work hard play hard.’ We have a blast, but we also work extremely hard.
Tara LaTour Spring Collection
The spring collection embodies the idea of juxtaposition. LaTour is loathe to give too much away about the forthcoming dresses but she promises that they will be unexpected from both traditional and progressive-design aspects. “It is a collection that will make you think and hopefully expand perception,” LaTour says. “I can’t wait!”
Tara LaTour dresses can be found nationwide. To find a location, visit taralatour.com. LaTour’s showroom is currently located in downtown Minneapolis at L’Atelier Couture Bridal, 19 N. Second St., #404, Minneapolis.