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Monday, Oct. 26, 2009

Lora Ellingson’s One-of-a-Kind Fashion

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In the notoriously fickle realm of fashion, looking “last year” can be your worst nightmare. Supported by a sales model able to meet the swift demands of today’s fashion-conscious consumers, a new breed of multifaceted apparel designers is calling upon the power of “add to cart” to put that fear to rest. At RIPT (Rest in Peace Tees) Apparel, a new online T-shirt retailer out of Chicago where one-of-a kind T-shirt designs literally go to die, time is always running out. For Milwaukee’s Lora Ellingson, RIPT’s featured designer on Aug. 10, the brief life span of her “Asami” T-shirt invigorated her enthusiasm for design.

How does RIPT work?

RIPT chooses a graphic design artist from a list of submissions from all over the world. Every day there’s a new T-shirt available for only 24 hours before it goes to the graveyard (archive). I didn’t realize that there was such a huge underground T-shirt community, but the sales and positive feedback I received from T-shirt bloggers were an epiphany. 

What inspired you to design your own T-shirt?

I like the idea of wearing a piece of art that also looks good on your body. I am influenced by Japanese art, such as woodcuts. 

What do you think is the appeal of one-of-a-kind?

It’s hard to claim originality when you’re all wearing the same top that was bought from Kohl’s or Target. My friends prefer to purchase something unique. Your fashion choices make a statement about how you think and what kind of community you want to live in. The “in” thing today is supporting local artisans, whether that’s clothing or food.

Do you have any previous experience as a T-shirt designer?

I was a lead designer for Apparel Design Group (Milwaukee) that specializes in volume apparel printing. I was spending 10-12 hours a day at the computer and that burned me out. My current day job (as a product stylist for a corporate in-house photography studio) allows me to move around. It makes working on a computer after hours more tolerable.

In what direction is your career moving?

Fashion is a recurring ambition that can never be put down. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m becoming more involved in the fashion and arts community and plan to launch my own line of shirts for Sparrow Collective and Luv Unlimited. I recently produced a T-shirt for the Bay View Bash 2009 through my independent design group, Design Fidelity.

What if a retail “giant” wants to take on your T-shirt line?

That would be selling out! (Laughs) But of course, the goal is to make a living being creative.

Ellingson will be premiering her new collection at Made in Milwaukee on Oct. 31 at Turner Hall. For more information, visit www.madeinmilwaukee.com.