Story by Brittany Maynard

Photos by Jaclyn Locke


Those fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your viewpoint) enough to live up North can undoubtedly understand the need to have warm clothing at their disposal at any given time. No stranger to life in Northern Ontario, Lauren Waters created Valentine K, a line of cashmere sweaters that not only keep the wearer cozy but allow them to remain fashionable at the same time. Inspired by her childhood, she’s crafted the art of making sweaters that tie together our desire to be in something practical, comfortable and stylish. One look at her sweaters and you’ll want to grab one, head out of the city and spend the weekend at the cottage!

Plaid had the chance to catch up with Lauren to learn more about her designs.

Your line of cashmere sweaters is quite unique. Can you describe some of the things that inspired you to create this line?

While growing up and spending all my summers and holidays at the cottage, I have a love for that rustic, comfortable, worn-in look. Whether for a cool summer night or Thanksgiving weekend, I always wanted to find a cozy sweater to bring up north with me. When I found the brown leather check pattern that I use on a few of my designs, it reminded me of an old cardigan that [would] belong to your grandfather at the cottage. Living in the city, I wanted to create comfortable, easy sweaters to wear, but also have style. For my Spring collection, I have paired really bright colours with vintage-looking leathers. My personal favourite is the neon lime punch “Hunter” cardigan with the brown “Grandpa Check” suede patches.

Can you tell us why you decided to create a line solely of sweaters?

I have a love of sweaters, and feel very passionately about them. I thought it would be best to focus on just one thing, and give it all my attention. I admire the Smythe designers because when they started, Andrea and Christie did just jackets… it is what they are known for, and they have totally mastered it.

Where did the name Valentine K come from?

The name Valentine K is a mix of my two grandmothers. Valentine is my grandmother Marge’s middle name (she was born on Valentine’s Day) and the “K” stands for my late grandmother, Nanny Kay. They are the most beautiful women, and always have looked so put together and classy. They inspire me everyday!

When designing, how do you choose what types of fabrics to use?

I chose cashmere because it is a high quality fabric and so very soft. I am big on texture and feel. The softer, the better. I chose leather, suede and even sequins because I love that by adding an accent, you take a simple sweater and turn it into something special.

What motivated you to focus on the use of leather and suede along with cashmere?

I like the two together. Two high-end fabrics meeting makes for a special piece.

I have to admit, the second I saw your sweaters, I envisioned them in my own wardrobe. When you started this line, who did you imagine your customer would be?

Working in retail, I was able to get to know the customer and what they want. I envisioned them on women ranging from sixteen-years-old all the way to ninety. There is something so easy about them, so I find that woman of every age group [are] buying them, which is exactly what I wanted. I also envisioned them being worn on women who appreciate fine quality clothing, and who love to always be on trend.

Could you give our readers an idea of what type of outfit you might put together with one of your pieces?

My easiest outfit is the “Best Friend” slouchy pullover… [with] that, a tank top, leggings or jeans and you look effortlessly put together. Lately though, I have been obsessed with wearing skinny jeans, a printed or bright-coloured Equipment blouse (worn untucked), and then the pullover over top. It looks fab!

Your bio mentions you studied fashion; did this experience shape who you are now as a designer?

I certainly helped, but I think what shaped me as a designer was working in retail. I got so much one-on-one time with customers, and got to know exactly what they wanted. I used to love when we would get new product, because I knew exactly what my clients would love and what they wouldn’t. Being so fortunate as to have a hand in buying as well, it gave me an opportunity to really see what was out there, and how that whole side of the business worked. I felt that the fashion market was missing a line like Valentine K, so that’s why I created it. [Editor's note: She left retail and started Valentine K almost a year ago].

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience while interning at Moschino and working for Fashion Television?

I interned at AEFFE in New York which is an amazing fashion house, and I worked for Moschino. It was so amazing to be in a showroom filled with pieces of art! I interned and then worked at Fashion Television, and it was the best job I ever had! The building, the people, every last thing about it. I loved it.

Right now, what might a typical day for you involve?

Everyday is a new learning experience for me. I am new at it all, and still have a lot to figure out, but the reaction from my first collection has made it all worth it.

Where would you like to see your line in the next few years?

I was just picked up in the States, so I would like to see it expand into more and more stores across the US and Canada, of course.  A great store in Vancouver now carries the line, so I am looking forward to finding more boutiques out West for Valentine K. I also would love to do men’s sweaters. I have a brother, dad and husband who all LOVE fashion, and always look amazing. I would love to see them in a handsome cashmere sweater with leather accents made by me.

Often designers will take to social networking to promote their brands using Twitter, blogs, Facebook…etc. Are there any social networking sites that you use for business purposes?

Yes, Valentine K has a Facebook page, as well as a Twitter account. Follow @Valentine__K!

I personally have a few style icons that I admire. Are there any famous figures whose style you love and perhaps are inspired by?

Rachel Bilson is the first person to pop into my head. Her style is vintage meets modern meets fabulous!!!

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